The Laylow Hotel

 
Staycation at the Laylow Hotel in Honolulu, HI

If I were to make a list of all my favorite things about Hawaii, the Laylow Hotel would top that list. If you don't immediately recognize the name--I've mentioned it here and there on the blog before--you've probably seen the boutique hotel's signature wallpaper taking over your instagram. 

The Laylow Hotel Review_Town Honolulu

The husband and I like to think that we've been fans since the start, before the hotel rose to fame as Waikiki's trendiest hotel. We stumbled upon the hotel by complete chance last July--it opened in late April--while I was visiting from Korea. At the time, the husband lived on North Shore with several roommates, so we took the first of many staycations to the Laylow together the weekend I arrived. And then we came back the very next weekend. We were smitten.

Over the course of that entire year, the husband and I saw each other twice. With two out of those three weekends spent at the Laylow, the hotel holds a special place in both of hearts. It's our go-to place for getting away and well...laying low. 

When we cancelled our trip to Kona this past Memorial Day weekend, we opted instead for a staycation at our favorite hotel. Some highlights include: drinks at the Hideout, reading Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii (there's a copy in each room!), and cruffins for breakfast.

The Laylow Hotel

Here's what you need to know about a trip to the Laylow, an Autograph Collection Hotel:

WHAT'S TO LOVE

You'll be hard pressed to find a more charming hotel in all of Waikiki. Beyond the iconic walls, each room feels straight out of a Mad Men episode with it's mid-century modern touches and furniture. And, as if that weren't enough, each room includes a ukulele for your strumming pleasures! (Don't worry if you've never picked one up before; lessons are included in the hotel's resort fee). 

The Best Hotel in Waikiki: The Laylow Hotel

 

take note

The Laylow resides on Kuhio Avenue, meaning it isn't beach front if that's important to you. However, it's only a six minute walk from the world famous Waikiki Beach and a two minute walk from Kalakaua Avenue, otherwise known as Luxury Row for it's high end shopping opportunities. 

The Laylow Hotel

ROOM SERVICE

I've stayed in almost every type of room in the hotel...corner suite, junior suite, standard room...and can genuinely say that they are all equally great. No matter your budget or the hotel's availability, you're in for a good time. And don't let the mid-century aesthetic fool you; each room is equipped with device enabled flat screen televisions, speakers, and in-room wifi.

If you're able to choose, my favorite rooms for a weekend (or longer) are the deluxe corner suites which offer plenty of unique spaces to enjoy like a queen daybed, a sitting area, and a balcony. Just in for the night? Check into a pool side Cabana room. It's on the main floor, so you get easy access to the hotel's restaurant, bar, and gift shop as well.  

Town Honolulu Reviews the Laylow Hotel

 

We'll be back soon, I'm sure. Hope to see you there!

P.S. I'm wearing a J. Crew sweater + Tory Sport swim bottoms in these photos. Unfortunately, the Tory Sport bottoms I'm wearing are completely sold out on all the usual channels. But the top is on major sale (only small and large available though!) online if you're interested.

P.P.S. All photos were taken by Cait Schlabach. She's a fabulous photographer and an even better historian. She runs the non-profit Project Green Faces

THE BEST MAI TAIS IN HONOLULU

For most people, a trip to Hawaii conjures up visions of white sand beaches and fruity, tropical drinks being sipped out of whole pineapples. And that drink? Probably a mai tai. While originally invented in California, the more popular, fruity version we know today is 100% Hawaiian. 

Here are the five best places to drink up in Honolulu:

Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel: order just about anything here, but start with the White Wash. When you're done, try any of the other six variations on the menu (to include the original Trader Vic recipe: the Royal Mai Tai). 

La Mariana Sailing Club: order the house's Signature Mai Tai from the last remaining authentic tiki bar on the island.

The Moana Surfrider: order the Surfrider Tai before sitting back and watching the sun go down over Waikiki beach. 

Bar, Leather, Apron: order the E Hoo Pau Mai Tai which earned the title Best Mai Tai in the World in 2015.

House Without a Key: order the Signature Mai Tai--if you love it you can recreate it at home with Halekulani's recipe. Side note: in my humble opinion, this may be THE BEST mai tai on Oahu...

HOW TO THROW A BEACH PARTY

 
How to Throw a Beach Party_Town Honolulu

It's true what they say: despite the months (or years!) of planning, your wedding literally flies by. Sadly, it'll be a few weeks until we see our wedding photos, but I've been reliving every moment captured through the lens of family and friends' cameras. 

Thankfully, I just received the photos taken at our wedding welcome party at the Ala Moana Beach. And let's just say they are more than enough to hold me over. These shots were all taken by the talented Bailey Makaimoku, whom I can't recommend enough--she lives on the Big Island now, but travels!--for photos of any kind. 

In case you didn't know: instead of a formal rehearsal dinner, the husband and I opted for a "beer + pizza" style welcome party on our neighborhood beach. While the party took minimal planning (more on that later), it was a huge hit with all of our guests. 

How to throw a Beach Party

Here's how you can do it too:

THE INVITE

Given the nature of a beach party, it's best to keep the invites very casual. We used Paperless Post to send out invites to all of our guests, specifically choosing the The Paperless Post x Gray Malin invites. Things to highlight: the meet up location (remember that some beaches go on for miles...), the timeframe (we invited guests to come and go as they pleased), and what to bring v. what will be provided (for example: we'll bring the food, you bring the sunscreen).

Beach Party

THE LOCATION

The trickiest part, at least in Honolulu, about throwing a beach party is picking the right location. Your perfect beach party spot equals some combination of empty space + easy locatable + shade available. In addition to these factors, you'll need to consider if your beach requires permits, allows tents, sanctions alcohol, etc. 

We chose Ala Moana Beach due its close proximity to  where the majority of our guests were staying. If our audience would have been different, say local friends, we probably would have picked a much less crowded beach.

SETTING THE SCENE

I had this brilliant idea to informally mark off our piece of the beach by laying out several dozen blue and white striped beach towels. Since I can't yet afford so many of these beauties, I turned to Amazon for a cheaper alternative. I searched "striped beach towels", found an adorable six pack, and added several to my cart. ...you should have seen my face when I opened up a box filled with 13 inch x 13 inch blue and white striped wash clothes. Wedding brain is real my friends!

That being said, it's still a good idea to distinguish a "party space" if you're on a public beach (which, FYI, is all beaches in Hawaii). Beach towels are a great pick if you'll have guests coming in from out of town and who may not have access to towels. Another great idea: letter balloons! "ALOHA", "WELCOME", or even your initials will be easy to spot. Plus, how great will the pictures be?

How to Throw a Beach Party_Town Honolulu

FOOD + DRINKS

Like I mentioned earlier, we went straight pizza for our party. It's the easiest thing in the world to call ahead and relatively inexpensive. Whatever your bring, you'll want something that can get cold and won't spoil after being left out in the sun (as oxymoronic as that sounds). 

As for alcohol, I'd recommend you read up on your local beach park rules for the best information. In Hawaii, you simply can't drink on the beach. That's why we commandeered a little area away from the beach park to use as our pizza + beer station. It's also just best practice to nix the bottles and cans for cups. We went classic with red solo cups, but I love the look of monogrammed or customized cups too! 

THE EXTRAS

The only thing our party was missing: music! I'd recommend bringing a small portable speaker to play some tunes. It helps get set the tone of the party (say Jack Johnson vs. Lil John for example) and breaks up any awkward silence at the beginning. 

Most importantly: have lots of fun. 

How to Throw a Beach Party_Town Honolulu
Town Honolulu_How to Throw a Beach Party
How to Throw a Beach Party_Town Honolulu

See you soon. (We'll bring the sunscreen!)

P.S. WHAT TO PACK IN YOUR BEACH BAG

P.P.S.  All photos were taken by Bailey Makaimoku--who we love and can't recommend enough if you need a photographer on the Big Island, Oahu, or even the Bay Area!

 

Where to Go Out Every Night in Honolulu

If you're fortunate enough to be able to go out literally every day of the week, first off: I'm jealous. Secondly, you'll need to know where you're going. 

MONDAY

Head to Lulu's in downtown Waikiki. With happy hour from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and live entertainment from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., get there as early as you want and stay until closing. Pro tip: Capture your dance floor antics on Snapchat with a custom Lulu's filter. 

TUESDAY

It's #tacotuesday so naturally the place to be is Buho's Mexican Cantina. While it's true the restaurant offers $2 tacos, you're really here for the Buho's Margarita. Pro tip: Skip the tequila melon bowl...just trust me on this one. 

WEDNESDAY 

With maybe twelve seats in the whole place + the world's best Mai Tai on the menu, Wednesday nights are actually your best shot at getting a seat at the intimate cocktail bar, Bar Leather Apron. Pro tip: It's famous for it's cocktails, but BLA also has the most extensive selection of whiskey on the island.

THURSDAY

Trade Honolulu for Kyoto with a visit to the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk. The replica village features a Japanese beer garden complete with $1 beers. Need I say more? Pro tip: With a prime location near District,  the village can be your only stop of the night or just the first. 

FRIDAY

If you're going out on the first Friday of the month, you're headed to Hotel Street in Chinatown. If it's the last Friday of the month, you're on your way to the Honolulu Museum of Art for Art After Dark. Any other Friday? Consider your night out a warm up for the main event on Saturday. Start at The Study before circling the usual weekend spots like Rumfire or Sky. Pro tip: Purchase a museum membership; the one time contribution is only $5 more than the usual cover, but grants you free admission for an entire year and let's you skip the line to get in. And yes, you totally get to add "Patron of the Arts" to your LinkedIn bio.

SATURDAY

While Sky may have been optional on Friday night, it's an absolute must for any Saturday. If the dance floor gets too crowded, just head outside to take in one of the best views of Waikiki. Pro tip: Sky has one of the stricter dress codes in Honolulu, so it's better to be over dressed than undressed in this situation. 

SUNDAY

Spend the day recovering at Duke's. Pro tip: If you ask to sit outside, no one will question your oversized, very dark sunglasses...

Packing List No. 3 | Waikiki

With less than a month until my wedding (!!!), I've started getting emails and calls from friends about what to do, where to eat, and, of course, what to pack. Here are my recommendations for a perfectly packed trip: 

When you're headed to Waikiki for the weekend, your packing list has to be ready to do it all--from lounging on the beach to sampling a few (or more) mai tais to dancing the night away at some of Honolulu's dressier nightclubs. 

BY THE WATER

A trip to the beach usually means a mixture of swimming, light reading, and, of course, sunbathing. Catch a tan in this retro inspired bikini; then show it off the next day in this ultra flattering white suit.

If you're more adventurous than I am or even mildly more coordinated (i.e. in college you were captain of something other than the debate team), the beach might also mean surfing or paddle boarding. If that's the case, you'll want a suit that stays in place while offering maximum coverage.

No matter how you choose to pass the time, sunscreen is a non-negotiable. If you are planning on getting into the ocean though, choose a brand that's reef safe like COOLA. (Common sunscreen ingredients, such as oxybenzone, can damage coral reefs and/or kill coral).

APRÈS BEACH

You'll need to throw on a cover up and slides before heading to a late lunch at House Without a Key or, if you're interested in something more casual, walking down to Musubi Cafe IYASUME for the best musubi on island. 

Either way, skip the cut offs and tank top. Took a cue from the locale's retro vibe and opt for something glamorous, but relaxed like a caftan and statement sunglasses.

NIGHT ON THE TOWN

In a town where even slippers (the local word for flip flops) can be optional, nightclubs like Sky Waikiki are the hard exception. Use the strictly enforced dress codes as an excuse to pull out all the stops in an otherwise super casual locale. Plan to change into something a bit dressier like this little white dress, which is perfect for the modern vibe at Sky. Dress it up even more with these trendy sandals and a bright lip from Nars in the color Heat Wave

(THE) REST AND REPEAT

For the days when a t-shirt and laid back pair of denims shorts is preferable: this graphic tee (on sale!) and these shorts make a great pairing. Throw in a pair of sneakers and you're all set for a day of hiking, biking, or neighborhood walking tours. 

Also, how sweet is this dress? It's perfect "Sunday" dress: from mass, to brunch, to an afternoon at the museum. Even if that's not your idea of a typical Sunday, you'll never regret packing anything that can be dressed up or down so easily. 

Enjoy Waikiki!

P.S. HOW TO SPEND A WEEKEND IN WAIKIKI

Packing List No. 2 | The Beach

Hawaii has a plethora of great beaches to enjoy and, if you don't already, you'll be sure to find a favorite soon. For some people, it's the surf conditions that make the difference. For others, it's the potential for a great tan. But the real secret to a great beach day anywhere? It's all in what you pack!

THE BAG

For my first dozen or so trips to the beach here, I recycled my Tory Sport shopping bags to carry all my beach essentials. The bags are adorable (those preppy blue and green stripes!) and made out of a nylon-esque material that's relatively sand and water resistant. However, the bags are also shapeless and have zero pockets. The contents of my bag spilled out every time I set one down and I always brought home at least a few pounds of unwanted sand. 

That being said, an investment in a dedicated beach bag pays for itself. Look for a large bag with enough structure to stay upright, a few pockets for smaller items, and is made out of a material that can withstand the elements. 

SUN ESSENTIALS

Sunscreen is a non-negotiable in life, but especially when dealing with the strong Hawaiian sun. Besides the serious risk of melanoma, sun damage is also responsible for roughly 90% of signs of aging (you'll either thank yourself or hate yourself when you're fifty #choosesunscreen). 

Not all sunscreens are created equal though and the best protection usually includes incorporating multiple types into your routine. I recommend a rub-in (mousse or lotion type) sunscreen for your body. They tend to be thicker in nature than other types, but you'll know for certain if you missed a spot! 

Next, pack a sunscreen specifically designed for your face (to prevent clogged pores and irritations) and protection for your lips. Plenty of chapsticks have built in SPF already, but you can step it up a notch with this lip shine.

Lastly, tuck in an oil based spray to protect your lovely locks. Prolonged sun exposure and salty water can leave your hair dry and brittle. The right products won't only prevent damage, but add shine to your soon-to-be wind swept hair! This is a personal tried and true favorite, but this spray--created by celebrity hairstylist and Oahu native Jen Atkin-- has gotten nothing but great reviews. 

What not to pack? Tanning oil. If you're trying to build color, opt for a product that offers a guiltless glow + protection like this sunless tanner. 

TEXTILES

While fluffy towels are dreamy, but they take up a lot of space in your bag and hardly ever dry completely. Instead, opt for a couple of Turkish towels.

Thinner material means you'll get a neater fold in your beach bag, leaving more room for the fun stuff. Low volume + quick dry time = perfect beach companion.  Oh, and did I mention their signature stripes? It's a win-win-win situation.

Tech support

I'm a huge advocate of putting the phone away during beach hours (your brightness only goes up so high anyway!), but there's no reason to forgo technology completely. The right tech tools can turn a simple beach outing into a beach party.

In the mood to turn it up? Pack this retro inspired speaker from the Australian "summer lifestyle'" brand SunnyLife.  In addition to being sand and water resistant, this speaker literally plays your tunes anyway you like it--AM/FM, bluetooth, USB, aux cord, you name it. While you're there, pick up this underwater camera and this electric pump for all your adorable floats. (Real talk: you'll want pretty much everything SunnyLife offers...)

THE FUN STUFF

Remember that fun stuff I mentioned earlier? Here's where you pack your bag full to the brim with your favorite reading materials (I'm a novel girl, but you may be strictly magazines), beach games, and lots of snacks. 

Pro tip: Once you've gathered everything you need, pack your bag ahead of time. Keeping your beach bag fully stocked ensures you won't forget anything important (like sunscreen!) when headed out the door, making those impromptu trips with friends all that much easier. 

See you at the beach!

P.S. HOW TO SPEND A WEEKEND IN WAIKIKI

My Hawaii Uniform

As someone who rarely shops, I tend to wear the same things over and over (luckily for me, so do some of the greats: Steve Jobs, Karl Lagerfeld, Hillary Clinton...). So naturally, after several months of island living, I've already developed my Hawaii uniform. 

If you're in need of a casual, but polished look, this is it. Whether visiting the islands or just hanging out around town, this look can take you from brunch at Bill's to drinks at Bevy--and everywhere in between.

WHITE TANK

The warm weather version of the classic white tee, a crisp white tank provides maximum style with minimal effort. Plus, I'm into anything that let's me show off a hard earned tan. My personal favorites include this cotton tank and this, surprisingly versatile, knit version (you'll never guess who makes it!). If you're willing to splurge, I hear that this version is worth the investment.
 

(HIGH WAISTED) DEMIN CUTOFFS


 

After seeing aesthetics guru Amy Stone wear a pair of vintage LEVI 501's (seen here and here), I picked up my first pair of denim cutoffs since high school and have been wearing them non-stop. Because of my body type (hourglass), I gravitate towards high waisted pairs. The beauty of cutoffs? There's a perfect fit for every body. 

Side note: I'm seriously obsessed with RE/DONE which takes old Levi jeans and remakes them into modern, stylish denim cutoffs--a slow fashion lover's dream.
 

LEATHER SANDALS

When I first moved here, it took me a while to get used to the idea of wearing sandals all the time. Luckily a friend guided me in the direction of this seriously stylish leather pair. Admittedly, the timeless (and more formal) look of leather appealed to my east coast sensibilities--and I haven't looked back since. I've currently got my eye on this classic pair
 

SIGNATURE LOOK

I never the leave house without two pieces: my engagement ring (a stunning oval solitaire on a rose gold band) and a delicate, thin necklace. Since Hawaii has a generally laid back feel, I leave the bigger pieces for special occasions and fancy nights out.

The exception? Statement sunglasses. I tend to rotate between a cat eye pair (for instant retro-glamour) and a classic, mirrored pair. (UPDATE: I haven't taken off this super affordable pair since buying them a few weeks ago.)

I round out my look with an equally simple makeup routine: a thick layer of sunscreen, wind blown hair, and just a touch of face paint. Glossier has some of my favorite low key products--can't stop raving about this lip tint or this foundation--if you're looking for makeup that enhances natural beauty rather than covers it. 

While I've got my casual uniform down, I've come to realize that I'm in desperate need of a few other items: a rain coat for these drizzly winters, more than one bathing suit, a sweater for when the trade winds blow in, and--of course--an aloha shirt. 

Packing List No. 1 | In-flight Essentials


If you’re headed this way on holiday, there’s a good chance you’ll be spending the first day or so of your vacation on a plane. Fret not! While the flight probably--hopefully--won't be the highlight of your trip, there's no reason you shouldn't enjoy it.

To paraphrase an old adage: there's no such thing as a bad flight, just a poorly packed carry-on. 

Having taken nearly a dozen trans-pacific flights, I've perfected my in-flight packing list for surviving the long haul. The list is extensive, but trust me when I say there is nothing worse than feeling bored, hungry, hot/cold--you name it--on a 10+ hour flight (#beenthere). Tuck even just a few of these items into your bag for a flight that's guaranteed to feel first class, even from the back of economy (#beentheretoo). 

The Wash Kit

For a flight this long, a well stocked wash kit will be your best friend. For inevitably, there will come a time when you feel one or more of the following: dried out, puffy, and/or irritated (are you still reading or have you gone off to enjoy something that reads a little less like Web MD?).

While nothing can replace a solid day of pre-flight hydrating, the right skincare products and routines work wonders to combat the inevitable unpleasantness that comes with flying. This is what works for me:

After prepping my face with a cleansing cloth, I follow a basic in-flight routine: serum, sheet mask, moisturizer--a habit I developed during my time in Korea. Some of my favorites for traveling include this serum superpack (which offers a variety of serums based on skin need rather than skin type), these sheet masks (which are specifically designed for skin hydration), and this unbelievably expensive, but legendary moisturizer (I currently use the original, but I'm thinking of switching to this lighter gel version). Lastly, I apply a thick layer of vaseline to my lips, which always seem to dry out first. 

Beyond that, I always include a few wipes, a small deodorant, a toothbrush, and toothpaste for all the obvious reasons. And while I have strict no makeup while flying rule, I still tuck some basics--tinted sunscreen, a sheer, matte lipstick, mascara--and a solid perfume into my wash kit to be applied during that awkward time between landing and departing the plane. You never know who you'll run into...or who's waiting for you at the gate!

The Carry-ON

Any time I'm traveling over an ocean, I pack an entire outfit in my carry-on just in case my luggage is delayed or lost. Since I'm already wearing my trusty travel uniform (pants, top, oversized sweater, walkable flats), this secondary set tends to be composed of opposing pieces: a bathing suit instead of underwear, dressier (read: less comfortable) sandals, and a shift that can carry me from day to night. This way, I don't have to change any of the activities on my itinerary while I wait for luggage to be delivered. 

Other than that, I recommend leaving a good amount of empty space for souvenirs. The best souvenirs are unique and deserve to be handled with care--after all, you can't get them anywhere else in the world! Packing them in your carry-on eliminates any possible heart break at the baggage carousel. 

 

The Personal Item

As someone who immediately stows my carry-on in the overhead compartment and promptly forgets about it until the end of the flight, the personal item is my go-to bag for traveling. EVERYTHING that I hold near and dear goes into this bag (so yes, yes, mainly snacks...). A big, roomy bag is essential. 

I always pack my electronics (laptop + camera + headphones + chargers) here rather than my carry-on for easy access, security, and protection. While I'd love to own this bag one day, for now a combination of these cord organizers and these pouches ensure nothing gets lost, tangled or broken. 

You also can't go wrong with bringing at least two pens (as one will inevitably get lost or borrowed when it comes time to fill out the customs forms) and a notebook for planning itineraries, jotting down recommendations, and documenting any general observations. On the same note, trade the in-flight movies for a quality book; you won't regret it. Bonus points if it puts you in the island mindset. 

My favorite thing to pack on the return trip: postcards. Writing home about your adventures makes the vacation last just a littleeee longer while letting others share in the fun. You can get your typical postcards at the airport, but scout local hotels and coffee shops for some surprising finds. 

 

 

The Extras

Whether you wear them or pack them (in the personal item, of course), the extras are where you make your money. 

Before my first trip to Korea, my brother--an expert traveler for both business and pleasure--suggested I invest in a pair of compression socks (to prevent swollen ankles), a pair of thin slippers (so you can kick off your shoes and be done with it), and a sleeping mask (as planes are rarely ever dark when you want them to be). After several trips back and forth, I now suggest you do the same. There are a ton of options for all of the above; but for an added feel of luxury, pick up this velvet mask infused with the scent of lavender. Absolutely dreamy, in every way possible. 

Lastly, remember that thing I mentioned about planes having the uncanny ability to dry you out? Well all the Korean sheet masks in the world won't make you look--or feel--better after a long flight if you don't do your part: drinking water. (And, I hate to say it, easing off the free in-flight booze. Although, I'm also a believer in the one glass of champagne, two glasses of water method....because, well, champagne.) Stay hydrated with the help of this water bottle which you'll 100% need at the beach, on a hike, or anywhere else on island anyway.

Happy flying, xo.

 

Waimanu Street

When we began searching for our Hawaiian home, it was clear that my fiancé and I didn't see eye to eye on where exactly that would be.

My fiancé, who was living on North Shore at the time, wanted to live closer to the bars and restaurants downtown. I'd rather imagined he'd stay put, I'd join him, and together we'd restore a mid-century home with an ocean view. But, since marriage is compromise (and neither of us are millionaires...sigh), we've taken up residency in a condo in the Ala Moana neighborhood of Honolulu. 

It’s our first home together and the first piece of property either of us has ever purchased. While I doubt it will be our forever home, it feels nice to have planted solid roots in Hawaii. 

We love our building and our neighborhood--which is in walking distance to great bars/restaurants in Kaka'ako, the Ala Moana Center, and, of course, the beach. 

Most importantly, we love having a place of our own for friends and family to visit (I've said it before and I'll say it again: a visit to Hawaii will change your life). 

With limited square feet, designing a home that's stylish enough for entertaining and practical enough for real life is challenging to the say least. While we've managed to get the basics down--couch, bed, pots and pans--we're still on the hunt for the details.

We want our house to reflect our island life, but not feel too kitschy...it is, after all, a home and not a tiki bar.

It'll probably be months before everything finally comes together. Until then, here are some things for the apartment I'm currently coveting. 

 coffee table book | traychairs | pillow | stools