Overwhelmed by the choices of where to stay in Waikiki? Me too. With so many options, price points, and locations available, it can be difficult to decide. On my last trip to Oahu, I had a chance to take peek in a variety of hotels and scope out where I might want to stay on a return visit. Whether you're looking for a high-rise efficiency, relaxed comfort, a slice of history, or a total retreat, Waikiki (and nearby) holds that for you. Keep reading to take a peek into four diverse hotels in Honolulu.
The Ilikai is a vintage high-rise that provides sweeping ocean views and apartment options. Many rooms have a kitchen or two bedrooms, so you feel more like you're living in Waikiki rather than staying there. If you admire 60s architecture like I do, the building screams iconic Oahu and was used in the opening scene of the original Hawaii Five-0. And while it's not on the beach proper, the Ilikai still has an incredible view of the ocean and the harbor. Even if you opt for a more affordable city view room, you will still be able take in the view from the Italian restaurant, Sarento's, at the top of the Ilikai perched above Waikiki. Just because it seems like home, it doesn't mean the Ilikai won't have the Hawaiian hotel feel you may be searching for. Every evening at dusk, I spotted a man, in Hawaiian garb, lighting torches and blowing a conch shell.
Kahala Hotel and Resort
The Kahala Hotel and Resort is a bit outside of Waikiki, about a 15-20 minutes drive east in a residential area. But that drive means that you've entered into a retreat and a beachfront escape. Kahala is a luxury hotel, one where celebrities and presidents come to stay, and therefore it has luxury prices. You wont find a bargain, but if you want a hotel where small touches matter, your every whim catered to and a resort-style Hawaiian vacation, this is your slice of heaven. Whether you spend your day in a spa treatment, yoga, a standup paddle board lesson, or swimming in the pool, I can imagine every day is a perfect one. Top off that day with a relaxed dinner at Hoku's, and you'll no-doubtedly have a memorable vacation. (One bite that is a must try is the Chef's Ahi Musubi, a fried ball of rice filled with ahi poke. Two of my favorite Hawaiian treats rolled into one.)
The Outrigger Reef is a centrally located and relaxed hotel, that sits on a quiet spot of Waikiki Beach. I noticed that its location allowed for easy access to the restaurants, shops, bars and the general hubub of Waikiki, but the Reef's spot of the beach seemed less frequented than its neighbors. The best of both worlds. I spent an evening at the Kani Ka Pila Grille, a poolside bar and restaurant that features a weekly lineup of noted local musicians. With some Hawaiian music in the air, a strong Mai Tai and a tray of pupus, it's hard to dream up a more relaxing evening.
Probably the most iconic hotel in Waikiki is the Royal Hawaiian with its pink facade that has been around since the 1920s earning it the title of the "Pink Palace of the Pacific." Situated right on the beach, you can go from your room to a Mai Tai at the bar, to the pool or straight to the beach. In Waikiki, being able to actually sit on the beach is a luxury that you have to pay for and staying at the Royal Hawaiian allows you to grab a spot under a pink umbrella and a front row seat to the ocean. Off the beach, I love taking the time to wander the grounds, noting the architectural details from the tiles or the arcaded hallways. It's a beautiful building, and worth a visit even if you're not staying, to walk through at sunset and have a drink at the bar. Or if you are hungry, linger a little bit longer for a dinner prepared by Chef Jon Matsubara at Azure Restaurant. I had a sampling of some of his best dishes and the Seared Hawaiian Yellow Fin Ahi and Diver Scallops with prosciutto wrapped enoki mushrooms are well worth a try.