Pure fantasy, of course, but . . . if I were a Persian potentate or the queen of England, an arms dealer or a junk-bond expert, a Rockefeller or a Rothschild, Jackie O. or Mike Tyson, Trump or Krupp; if I had a Hollywood box-office smash or a face cream that keeps one young; if I owned Seibu or CBS, I would know how to enjoy myself, because I am the doyenne of daydreams--and I read Vanity Fair. My life would be an endless holiday anchored only by meetings with bankers, lawyers and decorators. If money were of no object . . . you’d find me in Hawaii. Often. I’d wing across the Pacific in a private jet, a luxurious Gulfstream III chartered from Martin Aviation at $4,050 an hour. Figuring a 10-hour round trip (LAX-Honolulu), that’s $40,500, plus $800 per night for layover, $75 per bottle for Dom Perignon and $200 for a nice little in-flight snack. (Telephone Anna Butler: 714-852-8300 or 800-547-4300.) At its exclusive facility in Honolulu, Hemmeter Aviation will, literally, roll out a red carpet; greet me with orchid or fragrant ginger leis; arrange for musicians to be strumming my favorite Hawaiian song, “Hiilawe,” on their ukuleles, and have a limousine standing by to whisk me to my hotel--all for about $700, including servicing the jet. (Contact: 808-834-7666.) In Waikiki, I’d stay perhaps at the gracious old Moana Hotel (don’t ask me to call it the Sheraton Moana Surfrider, because I won’t) and I’d insist on Room 224, which is sort of like camping out in beaux arts elegance right on the sand, with a view of Diamond Head and the ocean, and all the little people slurping cola in paper cups, just inches away from my ice bucket cradling more Dom Perignon. Room 224 goes for a mere $240 a night. (Telephone: 800-325-3535.) If I had to impress anyone, I’d probably spring for $2,400 a night and move into the Royal Suite on the third floor of the Halekulani Hotel, complete with grand piano and a drop-dead view. I’d have executive chef George Mavrothalassitis prepare his “menu gourmand,” a $1,500 dinner for two. It begins with Amuse Bouche and Petrossian Beluga caviar and includes a $1,200 bottle of Pauillac Chateau Latour 1955. I’d reserve a table over the ocean at the hotel’s exquisite La Mer restaurant, which is reminiscent of a mansion in Mandalay. (You can almost hear men in rumpled white-linen suits sitting around and talking about rubber plantations and servants being swallowed by cobras.) On another evening, I’d dine more simply, ordering from La Mer’s standard “premier menu,” price fixed at $90 a person, which includes some rather nice wines. (Contact: 800-367-2343.)
The Hilton Hawaiian Village was recently upgraded to the tune of $100 million, making it my kind of place. I’d demand the same digs as Barron Hilton himself--the Alii Suite, at $2,550 a night. After soaking in the marble bathroom, I’d send out for Chinese food, because the Hilton has the finest Chinese restaurant in town right under its roof: the Golden Dragon. I’d have master chef Dai Hoy Chang prepare Imperial Beggar’s Chicken, wrapped in lotus leaves and encased in clay. I’d also order Imperial Peking duck with plum sauce and Mandarin pancakes; and the chef’s specialty: stir-fried lobster in curry sauce with raisins and haupia (coconut pudding). Add in some appetizers and soup, perhaps some grilled Sichuan beef and the chef’s own litchi ice cream, and the bill would be a tad under $150 for two. (Hilton Hawaiian Village: 800-445-8667.)
As for shopping, there was a time when Waikiki was so tacky that no one with a platinum card would bother opening her alligator purse. It was all plastic leis and loud shirts. But everything has changed. Kalakaua Avenue is looking more like Rodeo Drive by the day. You’ll find Chanel, Celine, Hermes, Tiffany and Gucci, to drop a few “glitteratti” names. Hermes even offers a $600 beach towel--economy sized, to wrap two bathers in terry as thick as a politician’s promises.
If you’re looking for something a little more Hawaiian--but definitely not one of those dreadful hula girls for your BMW dashboard--stop in at the Honolulu showroom of Martin and MacArthur. They specialize in custom koa furniture. Koa is a magnificent native hardwood that grows no place else. Due to environmental factors, the koa forests are dying faster than they can be milled, and experts say the wood will one day be marketed in the manner of dia monds. You may order a souvenir dining table and six chairs for $7,760. (Contact: 841 Bishop St.; 808-524-4434.)
Nearly everyone who comes to the Islands sooner, rather than later, gets into costume--"Oh no,” you gasp, “here come the loud shirts.” The rage in Hawaiian shirts (for those who can afford them) are the old “silkies,” vintage 1940s with coconut buttons. They go for $1,000 each at Bailey’s Antiques and Clothing. (764 Kapalulu Ave., 808-734-7628.) For ladies, the au courrant aloha wear is a muumuu by Mamo Howell. A custom muumuu by Mamo will run $350 to $500. (Telephone: 808-522-0611.) Rushed? Pick up a ready-to-wear Mamo muumuu at any Liberty House location for $125 to $285.
If a holiday is to be more than merely an aspirin temporarily keeping the headaches of corporate life at bay, it has to have an element of change, new experiences, new perspectives, new adventures--like windsurfing lessons. World champion Robby Naish has a school with a staff of instructors in Kailua, Oahu. Private lessons with use of equipment are $35 an hour. To learn from the champ himself will cost a breezy $3,000 for a private all-day clinic. Both the King of Malaysia and former President Jimmy Carter requested private lessons from Naish, but at the time he was too busy with races. (Naish Hawaii, 155-A Hamakua Drive, Kailua 96734; 808-263-6068.)
If I were a golfer, my goal would be a game at Ohau’s Waialae Country Club, setting for the annual Hawaiian Open. Of course, I’d have to join to get on the greens. Initiation fee: $22,000, plus another $6,000 for a stock-type certificate. You also need member sponsors, who will vouch for your character and your portfolio. (Telephone: 808-734- 2151.)
laying tourist for a day, I’d opt for the VIP treatment at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Its Ambassador Passport, at $65 per person, includes a shell lei and welcome ceremony, a personal guide to take you around the 40 lagoon-laced acres, a luau, and front-and-center seating at the evening show with fire dancers, love songs and war dances.
One of the most magnificent views of Waikiki and all of Honolulu is from the park atop Mt. Tantalus. It’s the perfect place for a serenade by the Royal Hawaiian Band, a bit of a splurge at $1,200. (Contact: 808-922-5331.) To get there, telephone Silver Cloud Limousine Service (808-524-7999) for a ride. They’ll send a Rolls-Royce virtually identical to Queen Elizabeth’s, along with a driver, for $60 an hour. On the way, have the chauffeur dash into Shirokiya’s department store in Ala Moana Center and pick up a bento , a Japanese boxed lunch. They’re under $5 each and so very local.
To continue our opulent odyssey, I offer some not-so-humble suggestions for fun on the neighboring islands.
Movie stars make a habit out of hiding out in Hana on Maui. Some, like George Harrison and Richard Pryor, have homes there. I, though, prefer a simple room-and-wheels arrangement at the Hotel Hana Maui where the Plantation Guest House with private 4-acre garden goes for $3,000 a night, and they throw in the use of a Jeep Wrangler.
I’d also have to spend a few days on the dry sunny side of Maui at Makena because my favorite beach, Oneloa, is there. From the Maui airport at Kahului, I’d arrange a helicopter transfer ($275) and land on the lawn of the Maui Prince Hotel so I wouldn’t have to bother with the tangle of condominiums at Kihei. I’d check into Suite 229 ($700 a night), the Prince’s biggest suite, a slick model of Tokyo-tech decor softened by Oriental rugs. The lanais are deep and look out onto Makena Beach and sunsets that steal away softly in shades of magenta and royal purple.
This is the wild end of Maui. After the Prince, the paved road turns to dirt and goes snarling off into the kiawe thickets. It is here that Oneloa, (long sands) waits. Its waters are as clear and pure as fine crystal. I’d stay all day until the shadows grew long and the volcanic cinder-cone of Puu Olai turned to 24-karat gold in the late sunlight.
Chef Roger Dikon of the Prince would assemble a command-performance picnic of fresh Kona crab steamed in Maui lager, grilled ahi with ginger marmalade, and sauteed abalone on a bed of ocean greens with ginger-crab rice cakes. Dessert would be a thermos of icy mountain apple sorbet . Cost: $100 a person.
Aside from its proximity to Oneloa, the hotel’s other big draw for me is the Hakone Restaurant, serving the classical kaiseki cuisine of imperial Kyoto. Complete dinner for two, with an infinite procession of tasty and unknowable little dishes (and an occasional familiar shrimp tempura) will run $96. (Contact: 800-321-MAUI.)
Later this year, the most expensive hotel accommodation in Hawaii will make its debut just down the road at Wailea, when the Four Seasons Resort opens its doors on the Maile Suite at $5,000 a night. To get going, the hotel is offering some fascinating little introductory room-and-car packages. The room in question is an oceanfront suite (not the Maile), and the car is a Lincoln Town Car--all part of a three-day Romance for All Seasons program. The package includes breakfast in your room, served by a butler, or at a pool-side cabana; airport limousine transfers with chilled champagne along the way; two keepsake monogrammed terry bathrobes, and a candlelight dinner either on your oceanfront lanai or in the resort’s prime restaurant. They’ll also toss in your choice of a private-boat charter, helicopter tour with landing at a secluded site for lunch, or a private limousine tour of Maui--gourmet picnic provided in all cases. Cost: $3,600 per couple.
On the Big Island, with an abundance of luxury accommodations strung along the Kohala Coast, it’s difficult to choose from among them. The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel started it all and still wins all the top honors, coming out at the head of the class in polls of the nation’s chief executive officers. Checking into the best suite is one of the bargains in this rarefied milieu, at $825 a day, double occupancy, with breakfasts and dinners. Laurance Rockefeller, who developed the Mauna Kea resort and knows a thing or two about getting the most for a dollar, always reserves this suite.
Down the road, the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel is upping the ante, with its new bungalows going for $2,000 to $2,500 a night. Opening in November, these very private, very exclusive oceanfront residences, surrounded by lagoons and moats, will each have its own swimming pool and spa. There will be Irish linens and French toiletries. Arriving guests will be greeted at the airport by their own butler and escorted by limousine to their luxurious retreat. Both butler and chauffeur will be on 24-hour call for the duration of the holiday. A maid will unpack and later repack. Personalized spa programs can be arranged, and room service includes both dinner and masseur. We are assured by Charles Park, the hotel’s manager, that, as VIPs, our activity demands--from scenic helicopter rides to golf tee times--will receive “top and immediate priority.” If, as sometimes happens in high-finance circles, we are forced to bring some work on holiday or stay in touch with Wall Street, Park will have necessary office equipment installed and make a bilingual secretary available. For a nice homey touch, each bungalow has a barbecue grill on the lanai. We can have our very own hands-on experience with charcoal and burned steak--or we can let the butler do it.
The rather new Hyatt Regency Waikoloa has six presidential suites at $2,500 a night each. They come with Jacuzzi, grand piano and rooms that look as though they had been pulled out of the pages of Architectural Digest, with just the right mixture of to-the-trade-only furniture, antiques and Asian objets . The only trouble with the Hyatt is that there is so much faux art, so many marble prancing horses on the lawn and Chinese deities standing around the pool that you become overluxed. With the bullet trains, the Venetian launches and simply the imperial scale of everything, all guests, even those in the garden-view $195-rooms, begin to think of themselves as sultans or barons. Taking fantasies to the max, Hyatt has orchestrated a series of dreams for the fabulously wealthy by arranging for flightseeing tours on a private six-passenger jet that seems absolutely fueled on champagne. Indeed, the in-flight service includes the bubbly and hors d’oeuvres. You’ll have an eagle’s eye view of Kilauea Volcano, Molokai’s dramatic North Shore, the lunaresque summit of Mt. Haleakala on Maui, Kauai’s Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea--even the pineapple isle of Lanai and poor Kahoolawe, still used as a bombing target by the U. S. Navy. You’ll land for lunch on Kauai and dine at Gaylord’s in the old Wilcox plantation mansion. Cost, which includes lunch and limo service: $3,900 for up to six people.
Probably the most beautiful place on the Big Island is Waipio, Hawaii’s Valley of the Kings. Mike Olival keeps a string of horses there and will take you riding through jungle dripping with ripe fruit and perfumed by ginger. You’ll see towering Hiilawe Falls and ride along a black-sand beach. Cost for a private ride: $390 for up to six people. (Contact: 808-885-7484.)
For lunch, it would be a picnic on Waipio’s ebony sands beside a turquoise sea. I’d pick up a prearranged picnic from Peter Merriman, the Pied Piper of Hawaiian regional cuisine. Peter has suggested a menu of Waipio Valley escargot poisson cru ; breadfruit vichysoisse, chilled huli-huli chicken (grilled on a spit) with pineapple salsa; pate of kalua pig with mango, litchi and star fruit; and for dessert, a light lilikoi mousse. Picnic cost: $45 a person. (Merriman’s, Opelo Plaza on Route 19 in Waimea; telephone 808-885-6822.)
Historic Hulihee Palace, royal residence of Hawaiian kings and queens at Kailua Kona, can be yours for an evening. There will be Hawaiian songs and chants, and the hula will once again be danced on the lanai beside Kailua Bay. A state dinner will be served by waiters in monarchy-era garb. Cost: $1,995 for up to four people. Special--and more expensive--arrangements may be made for larger parties.
One honeymooning couple from Orange County stayed in a presidential suite, played king and queen at the palace, had a sunset dinner sail aboard a private yacht, had a helicopter tour of the volcano with a lunch stop on an oceanside cliff, and swam with the resort’s dolphins. The tab: $20,000.
Then there are Bob and Carol Hogan, who, if you contact them, will personally take you sailing aboard their sloop Discovery. They’re an interesting couple who have dared to live out their dreams. They built their original boat in the backyard of their home in Manhattan Beach and sailed off to the South Pacific with their two children. They’ve been in Hawaii for 20 years, with time out for cruises to Asia and Australia and a bike ride across the United States. One of the nice things about sailing with the Hogans is the confidence they inspire in their passengers. Says Carol Hogan: “We show people there are possibilities. You can do with your life what you want.” The Hogans have done so--and they’ve done it without the bankroll the more insecure would require. A day aboard Discovery will run $550 for up to six people, plus catering at $30 a person. You’ll cruise the calm waters of the Kona Coast and anchor in a secluded cove for swimming and snorkeling.
Special requests are a certified challenge for the Hogans. They’ve arranged sailing parties with a Rolls-Royce pick-up, caviar and rack of lamb, crystal, silver, china. Romantics at heart, they love weddings at sea and will bring aboard a minister and make all the arrangements for cake, flowers and photos. All you have to do is find a fiance. Wedding arrangements run $1,400 to $2,000. (Contact: 75-293 Aloha Kona Drive, Kailua-Kona 96740; 808-329-4666.)
Kauai’s Westin Kauai, which looks a bit like Versailles and actually has some artwork from the Louvre, can be faulted for the same opulence-for-everyone philosophy as the Hyatt Waikoloa. It’s as though Louis XIV invited Roseanne Barr for dinner. Not everyone, however, can afford the hotel’s prime suites at $1,500 a night.
Getting around the 580-acre resort is part of the experience. The proletariat in dusty espadrilles can walk, but for the rest of us, the Westin has assembled a fleet of 22 presidential limousines, an armada of 40 mahogany launches to cruise the network of canals and lagoons, the largest herd of draft horses in the world pulling guests about in landau carriages, and the only escalator on Kauai--three stories high. The pure-white royal coach, which looks as though it had been created with the whisk of a magic wand, complete with gold leather interior and golden spokes on the wheels, is pulled by a team of matched dapple grey Percherons. Presidents, petty (but wealthy) dictators, brides--anyone, in fact, willing to spend $200 an hour can ride about like Catherine the Great. Launch tours with live Hawaiian music, bartender and drinks will run $555 an hour. The escalator is free. (Contact: 800-228-3000.)
To retreat from such profligate privilege and commune with Kauai au naturelle , I’d rent a beachhouse on Hanalei Bay amid some of the most splendid scenery on earth. Raymond Blouin, manager of Waimea Plantation Cottages, through whom rentals must be arranged, will take care of it all, complete with maid service, for a mere $2,100 a week. If you travel with your own attendants, you can have the adjacent cottage for an additional $75 a night. (Contact: 9600 Kaumualii Highway, No. 367, Waimea 96796; telephone 800-9-WAIMEA.)
If I planned to take only one helicopter ride, it would be on Kauai, and it would be the Papillon Odyssey. For 50 fantastic minutes, I’d soar above forests and waterfalls, dip into Waimea Canyon, fly along the majestic seacliffs of the Na Pali Coast and wing along the waterfalls of Waialeale crater. I’d land at a secluded mountain pool, rimmed with ferns, where the water is so pure it’s a natural conditioner. I’d swim and picnic on game hens and champagne. Two hours later my helicopter would retrieve me from my jungle idyll. Cost: $235 a person. (Contact: 800-652-6550.)
To wrap up my Hawaiian break-the-bank holiday, I’d turn myself in to the spa at either the Hyatt Regency Waikoloa or the Westin Kauai. Their programs are very similar--a variety of massages, personal-fitness analysis, facials, herbal body wrap, stress-management classes, tai chi and salons offering makeovers, manicures, pedicures, leg waxing and all those things we do to make ourselves more presentable. A full day at the Hyatt’s ANARA spa costs $225, including massage, facial, body masque, hair cut, makeup or pedicure, manicure, use of all facilities, fitness class and spa luncheon.
In 1972, I had a dream assignment similar to this one. That was in the hey-day of the “Europe on $5 a Day” guide books, and I was asked to conjure an itinerary based on “Hawaii on $500 a Day.” It seemed the ultimate extravagance. The fact is, it was nearly impossible to spend $500 a day on Kauai, where the best room at the island’s finest hotel figured out to $92. And even then it was necessary to bathe in champagne in order to run up the tab. The label, as I recall, was Dom Perignon. And I’ll let you in on a secret: I still get a trifle tipsy, remembering that heavenly afternoon.
PARTICULARS OF THE $1,500 DINNER AT LA MER Amuse Bouche
Petrossian Beluga Caviar
R oasted lobster a la Provencale with Arrugula
Champagne Bollinger Zieilles
Vignes Blanc de Noirs 1979
Consomme of Duck with Truffle En Croute
Papillote of Kumu (a delicate local fish) with basil seaweed and shiitake mushrooms Baked foie gras in a brioche with Madeira Sauce
Pauillac Chateau Latour 1955 Assorted French Cheese Symphony of Miniature Desserts: Chocolate Mille Feuille Island Fruit in Tulipe Macadamia Nut Baklava Banana Charlotte Chateau D’Yquem Sauternes 1983 Mignardise (after-dessert desserts) Cognac Heritage Madame Gaston Briand Finally, please don’t forget a gratuity of about $300.