Honolulu Three Ways: A Hotel For Every Budget And Style
Hawaii regularly inspires day-dreamers imbued with wanderlust to snag the first great airfare deal picked up by a flight alert. Graceful palm trees, technicolor sunsets, and shallow teal waters have long lured beach lovers, water babies, honeymooners and stars alike. All this beauty, however, comes at a price. Hotel rates along Waikiki Beach on Oahu outpace many favored destinations within the U.S. simply due to demand. Fortunately, whatever your style or budget, there’s a property to suit your needs.
Design-Forward Mid-Century Boutique: The Laylow, Autograph Collection
A block away from the main drag and famous beach, it’s hard to believe the Laylow is often half the price of beachfront competitors. Ascend the escalator and enter a mid-century tropical oasis that transports both in time and place.
Located on busy Kuhio Avenue, the hotel is in striking distance to the expensive shops of Kalakaua Avenue and a five-minute walk to Waikiki’s hustle and bustle. Though the Autograph Collection property boasts 251 guest rooms, the Laylow feels like a boutique hotel. Rooms are condensed in a high-rise floorplan, making the footprint feel small and intimate. Common areas include a second-floor patio rife with plants and lounge chairs scattered across various nooks; a coffee bar by day and cocktail bar by night; plus, a small but sweet pool adjacent to a gift shop stocked with hip beach clothes and home goods.
Though services are light, the restaurant boasts good food and even better cocktails for drinking away the prior night’s residuals or starting fresh for those arriving anew. The concierge books all manner of island activities plus free bikes for exploring the strip.
The best part of the hotel, however, is its cohesive design. Décor in rooms feels studied and selective. Book a balcony-equipped suite facing the emerald green mountains of Honolulu’s outskirts; inside, find mid-century touches from peach-hued wallpaper covered in teal palms to modern replicas of 1950s furniture and textiles.
In summary, the Laylow offers a hip and lively departure from the staid, oversized dinosaur properties littering Waikiki.
Just right for: Mid-century design-lovers, hipsters, well-heeled surfers, young couples, the style-conscious, and proximity to Waikiki on a budget.
Not quite right for: those who want a sprawling property and traditional resort services – you’ll have to forego baggage handling, a business center, lavish pools, fancy gyms, etc.
Breezy Elegance on Waikiki Beach: Halekulani
Once your Uber or Lyft driver registers your destination on Kalia Road, expect him or her to wax on about the myriad celebrities they’ve dropped at its doorstep. Though subdued in its clean lines, neutral tones and quiet vibe, décor which some define as “understated elegance,” the Halekulani has long been the hotel of choice smack on Waikiki for the rich and famous.
Across five buildings, five acres and 450 rooms, style echoes the common areas. Simple in design and palette but for a colorful throw or pillow and the aqua blue stitching on cozy robes and slippers, the real scene-stealer is the vibrant, rippling blue ocean view from your balcony.
Though the hulking Sheraton (who allowed such a behemoth to hem in the Halekulani?) blocks beach access and views of fabled Diamond Head from most guest rooms, all is not lost. Head for sunset Mai Tais and the soothing strains of traditional ukulele music at sunset for glimpses of the extinct volcano from the patio of Orchids. The open-air restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and casual dinner, also housing the hotel’s newest drinking option, Cattleya Wine Bar.
Cattleya’s, arrayed around a communal table set in the center of the dining room, features a roster of fine and esoteric global wines. Two times a month, Cattleya hosts WineView, a tasting run by visiting wine makers, resident wine professionals, and notable industry experts.
For evening cocktails and a romantic dinner with striking views, lovers head to the sunken candlelit L’Aperitif bar then move to dinner in La Mer. Belle Epoche objets d’art acquired in Paris by Halekulani, liven the setting.
In summary, the Halekulani provides a serene refuge from the frenzy of Waikiki without sacrificing proximity, luxury or space.
Just right for: Celebs, Waikiki Beach action-seekers, low-key glamour, affluent honeymooners and wedding parties.
Not quite right for: the budget-conscious, design fanatics, scene-seekers, beach services. (The hotel has zero beach. Guests must walk to the street and around the Sheraton through a construction site to access the public beach.)
Destination Dining in a Luxury Enclave: Four Seasons Ko Olina
Nestled along a lagoon west of Honolulu, the Four Seasons rises behind a crescent sand beach and ancient lava strewn coast. The area known as Ko Olina features a string of hotels and golf courses set to a backdrop of dramatic west coast beauty, and the Four Seasons is the polished pearl of the necklace.
Though sporting fewer rooms than the Halekulani at 371, the Four Seasons feels bigger due to four pools, five restaurants and a sprawling landscape replete with a wedding chapel. An airy lobby sets the tone for grandeur though the common areas never feel crowded nor lack intimacy. An adults-only infinity pool provides further seclusion for couples.
For wellness seekers, the fitness club, rooftop tennis courts, and Naupaka Spa are highlights. Book a traditional lomi lomi massage in a cabana affronting the ocean and let a talented masseuse put you to sleep, accompanied by the lull of crashing waves.
Given the hotel is 45 minutes west of Honolulu, it’s fortunate that the restaurants on-premise are destination-worthy. In beautiful places where guests are captive, it’s not unusual for hotel dining to underwhelm – because it can.
At waterfront Michael Mina’s Fish House, the kitchen delivers exciting dishes, spins on Hawaiian flavors, using pristine, raw ingredients. At Italian restaurant Noe, the chef helming the kitchen, Ryo Takatsuka, spent years fine-tuning the art of pasta in Italy. Noe also boasts an excellent wine list, one of the best on the island featuring everything from blue chip producers in Tuscany to natural wines from Umbria.
In summary, the Four Seasons brings exciting dining, wine, wellness and luxury accommodation to a coastal retreat far from the traffic of the city.
Just right for: Four Seasons enthusiasts, honeymooners seeking privacy and serenity, health and wellness travelers, food lovers, families.
Not quite right for: Young singles seeking proximity to bars and nightlife, beach lovers, the budget-conscious.