‘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)…
364 S. King St., Honolulu
The opulent Iolani Palanace was the royal residence of the Hawaiian monarchy until Queen Liliuokalani was forced to abdicate her throne in 1893. The palace has since been restored, including furniture and decorations that were there during the monarchic rule, and a significant collection of artifacts representing different periods in Hawaiian history. It’s a fascinating tour, and a welcome break when you’ve spent too many hours in the sun.
1039 Kekaulike St., Honolulu
Chinatown’s Kekaulike market can be a bit grimy, but don’t let that deter you from seeking out Maguro Brothers, a sparkling clean stall in the back row that serves some of the city’s freshest fish. Brothers Junichiro and Ryojiro Tsuchiya were fishmongers in Japan, and here on Oahu, they’re at the market every morning picking out the best catches. Their stall serves poké, sashimi, and surprisingly great ramen, plus lots of fresh fish for home-cooked dishes. The must-orders are the spicy ahi tuna bowl and the maguro donburi, auction fish laid over nori, ginger, and rice.
933 Kapahulu Ave., Honolulu
Hawaii native Leonard Rego is the son of Portuguese immigrants that first came to Oahu to work in the sugar cane fields. His namesake bakery is famous for malasadas, a Portuguese donut that’s a bit like a sugar donut without the hole. Look out for their food truck, which travels around the city.
1538 Kapi‘olani Blvd, Honolulu
MW is run by a husband-wife team with a serious pedigree: between the two of them, they’ve built up a roster of experience at Alan Wong’s, Per Se, and the French Laundry (though husband Wade credits Zippy’s, where he got his first job as a fry cook, for much of his inspiration). The dishes here are inventive, contemporary interpretations of traditional Hawaiian specialties, like Ahi nachos, Kona lobster carbonara, and a mochi-crusted opakapaka-short-tail pink snapper. Don’t miss the cocktails, either.
762 Kapiolani Blvd, Honolulu
Hawaii is one of few places outside Japan where you can find good quality sushi that’s still reasonably priced. Yanagi isn’t exactly white tablecloth (the walls are crammed with hundreds of photos of regulars and celebrities that have come in over the years), but the sushi is excellent. All the credit goes to chef Haruo Nakamaya, who trained in Tokyo and founded Yanagi back in the ‘70s.
The Pig & the Lady
83 N. King St., Honolulu
This cool Vietnamese spot is in the heart of Chinatown, which is a big upgrade from where Chef Andrew Le first got started: in his parents' garage. Today, the Pig & the Lady is on the forefront of Hawaii’s culinary scene, showcasing Pacific influences from Asia and the United States. The fusion results in dishes like the pho French dip with Manila clams, a spicy, Asian-inflected take on cacio e pepe, and an appetizer that blends burrata cheese with a kimchi puttanesca. The Pig & the Lady is still a family affair; Le’s brother Alex is the General Manager, and his mother (who inspired the entire operation) works with him in the kitchen; meanwhile, his other siblings can be seen in and out of the restaurant at all hours. Their amazing takeout can be a god-send after long days on the beach, but we like to visit in person, taking the time to explore Chinatown’s quirky shops and lei stores along the way.
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.
1857 S. King St., Honolulu
For an upscale take on traditional Hawaiian cuisine, make a reservation at Alan Wong’s. The famous Hawaiian chef now has a restaurant in Shanghai, too, where he serves his sophisticated takes on local specialties, like coconut lamb chops with Macadamia nuts, salmon and rice Ochazuke, and some excellent sashimi and poké options. Part of their claim to fame: This is one of President Obama’s favorite places to eat in his hometown.
The Modern Honolulu
1775 Ala Moana Blvd., Waikiki
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.
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