Ritz-Carlton coming to Oahu’s North Shore, Southwest hikes fees and Hyatt to launch ryokan brand (Saturday Selection)

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Ritz Carlton has taking over an enviable property on Oahu’s North Shore, Southwest is raising rates for EarlyBird check-in and Hyatt announces that it’s launching a new Japanese brand. All that and more in this week’s Saturday Selection, our weekly round-up of interesting tidbits from around the interwebs (links to each article are embedded in the titles).

Oahu’s Turtle Bay Resort will become a Ritz-Carlton

Image courtesy of Turtle Bay Resort

My wife’s family is from Hawai’i so we’ve spent a fair dinkum bit of time there over the years. I have a great deal of affection for each island’s unique character, but my favorite is probably Oahu – in fact, I’m there as I write this. Oahu combines incredible food, terrific beaches, chiseled mountains and rich culture in a singular melting pot that I find irresistible. Unfortunately, when most people think of Honolulu or Oahu, they think of Waikiki (or as my wife calls it, “WaiVegas”)…understandable given that the vast majority of the lodging on the island exists there. The problem is, while the best parts of the island are outside of Waikiki, there’s not a lot of ways to use points and miles to stay there. There will soon be a very intriguing one, however, as it’s been announced that the newly-renovated Turtle Bay Resort will soon become a Ritz-Carlton. Turtle Bay has an enviable location, occupying its own mini-peninsula on Oahu’s North Shore, one of my favorite places in the islands to watch a sunset. I imagine that, when bookings open, both the cash and points rates will make our eyes water – but having more points options outside of Waikiki will always be a win in my book.

Southwest significantly raising early check-in and boarding fees 

This year, every airline seems to getting in on the fun of raising fees, and Southwest joined the party last week. The airline is mired in a period of subpar financial results and has been exploring ways to generate more revenue. It’s already announced that premium seating may be on the way, and now it’s increased the fees that it charges for Early Bird Check-in and for early boarding. Passengers can now expect to pay between $15-$99 each for Early Bird check-in and $30-$149 for early boarding per flight segment; not so long ago they were priced at $15 and $50 respectively. Time Out covers the details of the change and also shares a hilarious Southwest subreddit filled with colorfully derisive takes on the new fee structure and the entitlement of the so-called “pre-boarders.”

Got a layover? Some airports offer guided tours…of the airport

a man standing in front of a window

I’ve spent a lot of time in airports around the world, but I have to admit, this was a new one for me. I’ve always known that several international airports provide surprisingly cool, complimentary city tours for travelers on layovers (two of the best being Singapore and Tokyo). Turns out, there’s also several places that offer a different kind of tour for folks on layovers: the airport itself. “Did you always want to know how the luggage finds its way into the cargo hold?” is the teaser that Munich uses to sell you on its €12, 50 minute tour. Innsbruck, Austria has another, more quotidian description for its €35, one hour offering: “Our airport tours can be summarised (sp) in one simple sentence: A day in the life of an airport passenger” (an odd one given that most passengers are actually currently experiencing a day in the life of an airport passenger). Interestingly, while the city tours on offer by airports are often free, the tours of the airports themselves seem to be fairly pricey. A 2.5 hour guided tour of Singapore city won’t cost you a dime, but getting a 1.5 hour tour of Singapore Changi Airport will run you a cool $400 for a group of up to 30. I’m sure that some of you AvGeeks out there are already drooling at the thought of following a piece of luggage all the way to the cargo hold; luckily Your Mileage May Vary has you covered with a comprehensive list of where you can make the dream happen.

Hyatt to launch ATONA, a new Japanese ryokan brand

Japan could very well be my favorite country in the world to visit. I’ve been there almost yearly over the last 10-12 years (excluding the pandemic), and each time I go I find myself surprised again by the magic that’s seemingly hidden around each corner. One unique facet of Japan is the opportunity to stay in a ryokan. These are traditional Japanese Inns that are sort of a more-involved, intensely hospitality-driven version of a bed and breakfast. The rooms usually feature tatami mats/futons and there is quite a bit of emphasis put on the aesthetic experience as well as the food (both dinner and breakfast)…which is sometimes served to you in your room. Best of all, many are built around hot springs that allow you to soak at will on site. They can be splendid places to spend a night or two. This week, Hyatt announced that it was partnering with the Japanese company Kiraku and launching a new ryokan brand called “ATONA.” Outside of having an oddly all-caps name, the initial properties will be located in three sublime hot spring areas and are slated to open for bookings in 2026. I’m excited to see what the final product will be like; the combo of Japan, Hyatt and ryokan has the potential to be delightful.

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Grant

I stayed at a Vacasa property that was walking distance to the Turtle Bay Resort and swam in the ocean next to the resort. The resort looked beautiful from the outside, so I can only imagine how many Marriott points it will cost per night, probably in the 70k-90k range.

Grant

It was in a good location and had access to the community pools. The Vacasa had a loft bed, up 10-12 steps, with a 3-4 foot ceiling above the bed. It was an interesting layout but we liked the community and proximity to the Turtle Bay Resort.

Daniel A

Hoping it works for the 85K certs too! Seems like it should be as rates are often well below $1000/night (yes?). I’ve been on the fence about upgrading to the Ritz card but that would definitely push me over. I also stayed at a Vacasa place just out of the resort. That place has been removed from Vacasa now and looks like the unit Grant mentioned is the only one left. When we stayed it was just under $500/night and worked for 13.5k/night. If the rates held it would still be a decent deal at the new 27k rate. Since Vacasa’s massive devaluation I haven’t been putting much thought into it, but good to remember there are still ok deals there. But I’d be way more excited about staying at the resort with a FNC.

Last edited 22 days ago by Daniel A