Honolulu’s hotel scene is jumping

Sheraton Waikiki’s Sunset Beach
A new infinity-edge pool at the Sheraton Waikiki’s Sunset Beach is part of a major renovation designed to give the hotel “heart and soul.” The pool seems to flow into the ocean.
(Beverly Beyette)
Special to the Los Angeles Times

The hotel scene in Honolulu never seems to sleep these days. You’ll find new players, old favorites and lots of change. Here is a recap of what’s happening on the Oahu scene. We’ll leave it up to you whether you want to book one, Danno.

Waikiki Edition

As I checked into the super-chic Waikiki Edition hotel, I was welcomed with a chilled towel and lemonade spiked with cilantro, but no flower lei, traditional at upscale Hawaiian hotels. Indeed, this could have been Los Angeles.

The 353-room Edition is the first of a new brand that’s a collaboration between hotelier Ian Schrager and Marriott International. It’s at the western end of Waikiki, next door to the venerable 46-year-old Ilikai, but these neighbors couldn’t be less alike.


The Edition, which opened Sept. 28, occupies a 16-story tower that once was part of the Ilikai, sold off by a financially strapped former owner. Like the Ilikai, it is not a beachfront property; guests at both hotels use the same pathway to the beach, about a 10-minute walk.

Edition did a $40-million makeover, leaving only the basic structure intact. Every room has an ocean view, sort of — a very small slice of the ocean — as well as a Day-Glo ukulele and a trio of colorful sarongs for guests’ use. And that’s about as Hawaiian as it gets.

To compensate for not being on the beach, the Edition has created its own Sunset Beach, with an infinity-edge lagoon surrounded by sand imported from neighbor islands. For $100 a day, a couple can book preferred seating, with champagne and hors d’oeuvres.

Waikiki Edition, 1775 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu; (808) 943-5800, Doubles from $345.


Ilikai Hotel & Suites

The “Hawaii Five-O” TV show is back, and so is the Ilikai Hotel & Suites. The iconic setting for the opening shots of the original TV series is working to regain its luster as it recovers from financial woes that closed it for two weeks in 2009.

On a recent morning I stood on a lanai, taking in the view of Ala Wai Yacht Harbor and the ocean, just as actor Jack Lord famously did in those aerial shots. I’d asked to see that very lanai, but, alas, it belongs to Unit 2610, now a privately owned condo. So manager Terry Dowsett took me to the unit directly below, telling me, “They’re shot right above us” for promotional stills for the new series.

One floor below is close enough that management has plans for this 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom oceanfront suite, No. 2544. “We’re going to play that up more, call it the Jack Lord Suite,” maybe decorate with stills from the old series, Dowsett said.

The Ilikai, the first oceanfront high-rise luxury hotel in Hawaii when it opened in 1964, originally was a behemoth of more than 1,300 rooms; it now has 1,007 units, of which 203 are hotel rooms. The rest are time shares and condos.

Depending on your viewpoint, the location is a plus or a minus. At the quieter western edge of Waikiki, it’s not the best for those who want action. But the hotel’s neighbor to the east is the Hilton Hawaiian Village, with its shops and restaurants, and it’s a short walk to Ala Moana Shopping Center and the Honolulu Convention Center. The Ilikai pool is a walled-in space with too much concrete and too little greenery, and I found it less than inviting.

My king ocean-view room was 500 square feet, not including a large lanai. The somewhat dowdy rooms are to be renovated next year, and although the trend is to dark woods, I hope they keep the handsome blond bamboo furniture inset with mother of pearl.

Ilikai Hotel & Suites, 1777 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu; (808) 949-3811, Doubles from $129.


Trump International

All is not what it seems at the Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk, which opened a year ago. Although it describes itself as “just steps” from the beach, it’s actually a long, long block. And even though it has Trump in its name, it’s not a Trump-owned or -developed property.

That said, there’s a lot to like.

The 38-story development is a hybrid, a condo building in which about 200 of the 462 condos are in a hotel rental pool. There are studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom units — about a dozen layouts — but essentially they are much the same: generic but comfortable.

My studio room, like all units, was basically beige, with dark wood and touches of burgundy. There was a king platform bed with white duvet, a plump armchair with ottoman and a small dining table for two. The lighting was good, and the pillow-top Serta mattress and down pillows were sublime.

Bath amenities were replaced before they were used up, and complimentary bottles of water appeared at night when the housekeeper turned down the bed.

The Trump prides itself on its attaché services, which include fully stocked refrigerators on request before check-in. Guests heading for the beach may pick up, free of charge, a black tote with cold water and fresh fruit. Nice touch: Four bite-size macaroons on a plate, centered with a tiny orchid, were set out on my dining table.

Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk, 223 Saratoga Road, Honolulu; (808) 683-7777, Studios from $329.


More rooms

Last month the Ohana Waikiki Beachcomber hung out a shingle announcing that it is now the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber Resort, the first Holiday Inn in Hawaii. With rates as low as $145 off-season to $240 in high season, the hotel is a bargain. The 496 rooms are identical (325 square feet), except for the views, and have been tastefully redone in blues and greens.

The Outrigger Reef on the Beach has a new look after a $110-million renovation that reduced the room inventory from 800 to 639, reconfiguring the spaces so that all now have full baths. Rooms have been updated, with darker wood replacing blond and tapa-inspired brown and ivory bedcovers in place of the old pastels. Rooms, which are generous in size (more than 450 square feet), are priced by view. Some have separate sitting areas.

About 10 minutes east of Waikiki, the secluded Kahala Hotel completed a $52-million renovation last year. The 338 rooms and suites have been updated in what marketing director June Cappiello calls “Kahala chic.” In standard guest rooms, dark wood floors have been carpeted in a pale green hibiscus print, white walls painted pale yellow and shutters replaced by pale gold striped draperies.

Sheraton, with four properties in Waikiki — Sheraton Waikiki, Moana Surfrider, Princess Kaiulani and the Royal Hawaiian — embarked five years ago on an ambitious renewal plan for its properties.

The landmark Royal Hawaiian, which dates to 1927, reopened last year after major renovation, and the 1,636-room Sheraton, which opened in 1971, has emerged with a fresh look after its three-year makeover. I saw two ocean-view rooms, both with white duvets, green carpets and dark wood accents. Gone are the floral-print spreads and the minibars, which guests weren’t using.

Already permitted is the plan to raze two towers at the Princess Kaiulani and build the 33-story Pikake Tower, which will be a mix of time shares and condos. The 660-room Ainahau Tower will be renovated.

Plans for razing the blocky 1950s Diamond Head Tower annex at the beachfront 110-year-old Moana are on hold awaiting a zoning variance for height and setback. If approved, the project will start in mid-2012.