The Oahu Guide
While best known for being home to Honolulu and nearby Pearl Harbor, Oahu has a lot more to offer than a cityscape and memorials. There are some stunning resorts, plenty of great beaches (though popular on the weekends), and accessibility to the Continental U.S., meaning for those who are traveling with kids in tow, you typically need not look any further. Not your cup of tea? We also have a guide to the lovely and low-key Kauai, a guide to the more luxurious Maui, and a guide to the family friendly Big Island, which is home to every climate zone.
The Modern Honolulu1775 Ala Moana Blvd., Waikiki | 877.574.7925
So, the first thing to know is that this is not on the beach but rather along the marina. We’d suggest taking advantage of the location by renting an open-top jeep and exploring the wilds of Hawaii on the North Shore. The hotel itself is more boutique-y than resort, and feels airy, clean and crisp, with lots of white. The vibe is young, cool, modern—less expensive Hawaii—with a spring break vibe for the upwardly mobile. There are four bars, a nightclub (which gets pretty crazy at night), and an ‘adult’ pool where people can be found drinking coconut mojitos in the shallow end at pretty much all hours.
The Surfjack Hotel412 Lewers St., Honolulu | 855.945.4082
Most of the hotels in Waikiki read a bit touristy and over-the-top for our tastes, so the understated Surfjack, with its laid-back, hipster vibe is a more than welcome addition. Expect to see bamboo, bright colors, and staff decked out in Hawaiian-print shirts, though all those classic décor motifs are cooly balanced by mid-century furniture and modern pieces of art. The hotel is also home to an excellent restaurant (helmed by local chef hero Ed Kenney) and Olive & Oliver, a smaller outpost of the Oliver boutique that’s outfitted with a sweet little coffee bar serving Café Vita espresso and cold brew.
‘Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach2490 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu | 808.922.1233
When ‘Alohilani opened last winter in Waikiki, it filled a much-needed void in Oahu’s packed hotel scene—a modern, super sophisticated property that feels fresh, light, and without a hint of stuffiness or formality (in other words, a place you’ll feel comfortable wearing shorts and flip-flops everywhere). Its 839 guest rooms are outfitted in a clean, calming palette of white, beige, and natural wood, with zero clutter that might distract from the epic Hawaiian views outside (including, in many cases, the iconic slopes of Diamond Head and the endless Pacific Ocean that’s directly across the street). We love the location, too: It’s in the heart of Waikiki, within walking distance to some of the island’s best restaurants, shopping, and sites. But it also feels removed from it all, positioned at the neighborhood’s southern end, near a large city park, so the feeling is much quieter here than at hotels further up the shore. Even if you aren’t staying here, though, it’s worth a visit for a meal at Morimoto Asia Waikiki, helmed by “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto. Grab a seat on the open-air terrace overlooking Kalakaua Avenue (Waikiki’s main strip) for some stellar people-watching and sunset views, and excellent Asian-inspired dishes (our favorites include the lobster with rice noodles and Thai red curry sauce, and the simple yet delicious house fried rice). And don’t miss a mai tai at the lobby bar, which is dominated by a 280,000-gallon oceanarium, full of colorful native Hawaiian reef fish.