2199 Kalia Rd., Honolulu
Halekulani may be one of the oldest hotels in Honolulu, and it’s one of the best. A bit more buttoned up than what you’d expect in the land of aloha—but it’s the five-star property’s proximity to all of the best big-name shopping, surfing, eating, and anything else you could possibly want to do in Waikiki that really steps up its game. Plus, the hotel itself is quite lavish—all two oceanfront towers of it—with its unbeatable Diamond Head views and the kind of precisely manicured lawns that attract a fair share of weddings. Days are spent pool-ing, spa-ing, or paddling out in the rolling waves that make up Halekulani’s backyard. And when you’re all activitied-out, kick off your flip-flops and head to the swanky Lewers Lounge—where the lychee martinis are as strong as the dress code is strict. And don’t skip the impressive Sunday brunch (we swoon for the poha berry popovers at Orchids).
‘Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach
2490 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu
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)…
The Surfjack Hotel
412 Lewers St., Honolulu
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.
The Modern Honolulu
1775 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu
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.