Honolulu Travel Guide
Exactly what you want to see after a long flight to Hawaii.
In today's extremely competitive luxury hotel market, high-thread counts, personal assistants, and in-room dining menus from Michelin-starred chefs simply won't cut it anymore. Airport Lounges, however, will set you apart from the other five-stars out there. And that's just what the Four Seasons Resorts Lania (which includes Manele Bay and The Lodge at Koele) has done at the Honolulu International Airport.
Located in the commuter terminal, the 1,000-sq.ft. luxury lounge allows guests special treats and amenities while waiting for their quick flight to Lanai (it's about 25 minutes.) That includes food, beverages, iPads, Wi-Fi access, charging stations, luggage holding areas, magazines, newspapers, and HDTVs. There will also be a lounge concierge on hand to assist with check-in, activity arrangements and restaurant reservations.
And since guests will be arriving at various terminals in the Honolulu airport, the Four Season Lounge can arrange a "Concierge Transfer" from Island Air which will pick guests up at their arriving terminal and either walk or drive them over to the Four Seasons Lounge.
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A few months ago we dished on a few Oahu properties for those traveling to Hawaii on a budget, featuring hotels we thought were a value with rates under $200. It looks like we have another promising one to add to the list, as the new 125-room boutique Vive Hotel Waikiki recently opened its doors last month with rates starting at $189.
And from the looks of the photos and the list of amenities, it seems like it's going to fit right in with its location two blocks from Waikiki Beach. The rooms either have a view of the ocean, the mountains or Diamond Head, and the hotel provides complimentary daily continental breakfast as well as complimentary WiFi.
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We labeled it one of ten hotel openings we were psyched about and voila, the previously unnamed JDV Hotel in Hawaii is now open.
The Shoreline Hotel Waikiki opened its doors on April Fool's Day but it is serious about welcoming new guests. The 70s-inspired boutique hotel sits in the middle of some of Diamond Head's best shopping and restaurants. (The actual ocean shoreline is just under a mile away.)
While the vibe may be 70s inspired, the 135 rooms are outfitted with some of today's best modern amenities like flat-screen TVs and free WiFi. Rounding out the amenities are a Cha Cha Cha Mexican restaurant and bar, 24-hour front desk hosts and a Welcome Lei upon arrival.
And rates are totally affordable too. The hotel is celebrating its opening with a special room rate of $159 a night. Regular room rates won't be that much more starting at $195 a night. Go here to book.
London Olympics 2012 seems so last year but Kerri Walsh brought back the buzz in Waikiki. Along with US Olympian Kevin Wong, she hosted the Hilton HHonors Beach Volleyball Challenge at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa. The free event pitted Team USA vs Team China, with familiar Olympic-volleyball-medal-winning faces like Todd Rogers, Phil Dalhausser, Jen Kessy and April Ross.
While it was super hot with the Hawaiian sun glinting off plenty of glistening eight-packs (and those wrap-around, polarized sunglasses athletes seem to love), Kerri signed autographs, waved Miss America-style to hundreds of fans and got behind the camera at a VIP tent with that big personality she's known for. You would think with all the gold medals the 6'3" preggers diva has racked up she would bounce quickly out of the 2,800-room Hilton. But, it turns out Kerri Walsh loved it! "I've never stayed at this property before and it's so beautiful. I love the village aspect of it: it's kind of a one-stop shop. It's basically my dream come true that Hilton would do something with beach volleyball."
Due to her busy schedule, short three-day stay and the fact she's in-the-family way, Walsh didn't get to try out many of the hotel's amenities. But she told us she'd eaten several times at the hotel's signature Tropic restaurant and was weak for thier coconut-crusted shrimp, ya'll!
When I was a little boy, I used to stay with my parents at the famous Kahala Hotel in Waikiki. I was really excited when my partner Colton and I went to Hawaii to go back to the hotel and see if it was still as glamorous as it was when I was a child. And the former Mandarin Oriental property is just that!
It kind of reminds me of what Waikiki was in the 1950s (not that I was around to see it) but one can imagine. The mid-century building is totally refreshed and redone yet still has a very cool 1950s vibe.
What the property offers which I have never seen anywhere else is a natural lagoon full of dolphins that you can swim with! This is what I used to do when I was little and I wanted to see if the Dolphin Quest program was still going on. Boy is it ever!
Even the poshest of properties need to refresh every so often which is why it didn't surprise us that one of the most genteel dames of Hawaiian hospitality in Waikiki, The Halekulani, has had a facelift.
For the past year, the hotel has carefully been refreshing all of its guestrooms and suites as well as refining the guest experiences, services and amenities. They've also added a new swanky French bar, L’Aperitif at La Mer, and a newly-styled Afternoon Tea experience.
Although most of the existing Halekulani building dates back to 1984, it has always been a place of relaxation and a fond aloha most welcoming to travelers. Allow us to divulge a little of its history:
We're big fans of Hyatt Place hotels mainly because of their free WiFi, spacious rooms, geeky tech panels and wallet-friendly room rates but now Hyatt Place is even more appealing thanks to the opening of their first hotel in Hawaii.
Formerly the Ocean Resort Hotel, the Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach in Honolulu is comprised of two towers, the first of which, the Pali Tower, is now open. This tower has 191 rooms, all with balconies and views of the Waikiki Beach neighborhood.
Waikiki beach is a "three-minute walk" away, according to Hyatt Place, and the Hawaii Convention Center is just two miles away, making it a good spot for either business or pleasure guests, or both.
The other day we saw that the hotel formerly known as the Waikiki Edition but currently known as The Modern Honolulu was offering some amazing rates for next month--starting at just $195 a night. Then we saw rates of $155 on Jetsetter.com.
This was a steep drop from Edition's high of $375 making us extremely excited about a possible trip to Honolulu, especially since it seemed like Aqua hadn't changed a thing. But again, nothing is as it seems here.
We've got a tip that the management has already started to take apart the crazy cool Wrecktangles surf board installation behind the front desk because "they keep bumping into it." Very sad. And a little sacrilegious no? Don't you just take it down instead of removing pieces?
It's been about a month since the Edition Waikiki was kicked out of their own hotel and The Modern Honolulu ushered in but the dust from the fracas has just about settled down. More importantly, the Modern Honolulu has a real deal website now.
The site is chock-full of gorgeous photos, taken when the hotel was still an Edition, and while it lacks the sophistication of the old Edition site, the new site definitely feels more approachable with big easy to read fonts and exciting copy. (Ok, some of it does feel a little too cheerleader peppy.)
But perhaps the biggest improvement here is the room rate for the month of October. Rates at the Modern are just $195 a night all next month for city view rooms. Interestingly, that's how much the Edition offered as its special opening rate a year ago before jumping up to $375 a night. So, um...anyone up for a trip to Hawaii next month? If you are, just be prepared for some awkward employee interactions.
We mentioned last week that even though the Waikiki Edition has been unceremoniously replaced by The Modern Honolulu, employees were still holding out hope that Edition would one day rise again by creating a Facebook page.
And judging from this recent update, it looks like quite a few people are holding out hope that Edition will rise again. About 525 now to be exact. Compared to 59 for Modern Honolulu, an Aqua Hotels and Resorts property.
Sadly, we're not so sure when or even if this will ever happen. The hotel owners M Waikiki LLC filed for bankruptcy late last week which actually protected them from having to turn the hotel back over to Edition's parent company, Marriott, despite a New York judge's ruling to do so. Sigh. It could be a really long time before all this gets sorted out and we're just afraid the damage to Edition is probably already done.
Let's hope the upcoming Editions--Bangkok, London, Mexico City and South Beach--fare much better.
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We all had a three-day weekend thanks to the Labor Day holiday but down at the Waikiki Edition (or Edition Waikiki or Modern Honolulu, whatever team/side you're on), the employees were still working--both to serve guests and to fight against their new bosses, Aqua Hotels and Resorts.
As far as we know, Aqua is still running the hotel as the Modern Honolulu and Marriott is begrudgingly respecting the hotel owners, M Waikiki's recent bankruptcy filing. In the meantime, Marriott plans to sue M Waikiki up the wazoo, or for tens of millions of dollars in damages for breaking the management contract. As for the guests, Marriott is now urging them to call the Marriott reservations center and make reservations at other nearby Marriott hotels.
On the bright side, even though there are miserable employees on the property, the booze is free. The hotel is no longer selling alcoholic drinks because it needs to apply for a new liquor license in Aqua's name as the old one belonged to Marriott. That sounds crappy but reports say they are giving away the alcohol. Whee!!
Now onward with the next chapter in this story..
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It's not so peaceful here anymore.
All this week, we've been watching the drama of the Waikiki Edition Takeover unfold at a rapid pace. The hotel owners, M Waikiki LLC, fired the first shot by dumping the Edition brand and anyone affiliated with Marriott Hotels overnight on Saturday and installing a new brand, Aqua Hotels and Resorts to run the place with a new name, The Modern Honolulu.
Marriott struck back by winning an injunction from a New York court to reinstall their Edition brand. But so far no changes have been made. Except that M Waikiki filed for bankruptcy yesterday making it harder for Marriott to take any further legal action against them.
All week long we've been posting commentary from the hotel's Edition employees who were forced to sign with Aqua Hotels or else be fired. Needless to say it's not a happy place there. (The employee have also set up a Facebook Page called Save the Waikiki Edition. 347 likes and counting!
But today, we have a different perspective to share with you--that of a longterm guest at the hotel who has stayed nearly 110 nights at the hotel this year alone. They write: