How to Spend a Weekend in Waikiki

Waikiki has a reputation for being touristy, kitschy, and overdone. But in recent years, a flood of boutique hotels, insta-worthy coffee shops, world class restaurants, and hip bars have breathed new life into Honolulu's south shore. Gone are the days of mega-resorts, over done luaus, and (for the most part) blatant cultural appropriation. Instead, the new Waikiki pays homage to the neighborhood's trademark vintage vibes while developing a new, decidedly modern scene. Whether a local or a tourist, a trip to Waikiki should be in your future. 

To make things easy, below are my recommendations for a perfect weekend in Waikiki.

FRIDAY

Arrive in Waikiki and check into The Laylow Hotel. A luxury boutique hotel with mid-century modern charm, The Laylow boasts playful rooms, a fresh take on the tiki bar, and easy access to all Waikiki has to offer. What the hotel lacks in views, it makes up in character. (For example: all 251 rooms are equipped with a ukulele.)

Grab a towel from the gift shop and take a short walk to the world famous Waikiki Beach for a quick swim before heading to Duke's Waikiki for lunch. Order a Mai Tai (the first of many) and nibble from the assorted offerings of Duke's lunch buffet while taking in the iconic views of Diamond Head and the Waikiki surf.  

Then its back to the room for a quick change of clothes and a trip downstairs to the hotel bar, The Hideout, for pre-dinner drinks. Choose from a selection of craft cocktails, but make sure to start with the No. 115-- the perfect combination of Pau Maui Vodka, fruit juice, mango, and boba. The Hideout hosts live music and DJ's each Friday night from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., so expect the bar to get more and more crowded as the evening progresses. 

Cross the street (literally!) for dinner at Marukame Udon, a Japanese artisanal noodle shop. Don't be discouraged by the long line out front; it's the natural consequence of a restaurant which freshly rolls, cuts, and boils the noodles in the traditional Sanuki style. Once your stomach is satisfied, retire back to the room or explore the neighborhood bars--you'll find plenty!

SATURDAY

Wake up before the sun rises!  Saturday morning is dedicated to Waikiki's number one pastime: surf. With beginner friendly breaks like Pops and a plethora of shops offering both rentals and lessons, there's no excuse not to try your hand at the ancient sport. 

Of course, for locals or more experienced surfers, Waikiki's crowded waters may prove more frustrating than exhilarating. If that's the case, or if surfing is simply not your thing, take an early morning stroll down to the Duke Kahanamoku statue to pay your respects to the father of modern surfing.

When it's time to eat, hit up Bill's for an Aussie style breakfast, or "brekkie".  Start with the sourdough toast and homemade Vegemite before choosing between the ricotta hotcakes and the kahuka sweet corn fritters (although, you can't go wrong with anything on the menu).

On your way back, indulge in some serious retail therapy on Waikiki's famed Luxury Row on Kalakaua Avenue. Looking for something a little more local? Pop into the legendary Newt's at the Royal for a custom fitted Panama hat. Other local favorites include: Kai Luxe for swimwear featuring several Hawaiian designers and Bailey's Antiques and Aloha Shirts for the world's largest collection of aloha shirts (and the most unique souvenirs!)

Wear something you just bought (which you should naturally refer to as "this old thing" if anyone asks) for pre-dinner drinks on the Holokai catamaran. The sunset sail shoves off at 5 p.m. and ends just in time for dinner at the House With Out a Key.  Pro tip: A popular spot for tourists and locals alike, call ahead for a reservation and request a table near the front for the best view of the century old Kiawe tree and hula performances. 

Saturday nights in Waikiki are a bit of a "choose your own adventure".  In the mood to do it big? Head to Sky, a top notch nightclub which overlooks all of Waikiki. Wanna lay low? Go bar hopping throughout the many beach side hotels. Don't miss The Beach Bar or The Reef Bar and Market Grill. 

SUNDAY

Sleep off last night's escapades until it's time for your brunch reservation at the "Pink Palace of the Pacific"--the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Upon arrival, order a guava mimosa and take a few insta-worthy snaps featuring the sea of pink umbrellas. When its time to order, go with the Royal Loco Moco for yourself and split the Pink Palace Pancakes with a friend. 

Take a detour on the way back to walk along the beach. Soak in the views one final time before packing up, checking out, and heading home.

 Until next time, Waikiki.  

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

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

Passport to Luxury with Tory Sport

Last Friday I was kindly invited by Tory Sport Hawaii to attend Passport to Luxury, a private shopping event at the Ala Moana Center. We're incredibly lucky in Honolulu to even have a Tory Sport (there's only six in the United States!) and I felt even more fortunate that I was invited to spend time with such a select group of clients.

The event, hosted annually by Modern Luxury Hawai'i', featured several luxury boutiques, each with their own in-store presentations.

Naturally, I spent the majority of my time at Tory Sport. I loved getting to know some of the women who work there, shopping the spring arrivals (give me all the green stripes!), and participating in the store's fun raffles. The boutique also served delicious bites from one of Honolulu's best restaurants, Yauatcha--which I'm craving now just thinking about!

 

While I love just about everything Tory Sport creates, the 2018 Spring Collection is my favorite to date! I'm naturally drawn to blues and greens, so I appreciate that the collection offers a spectrum of color and pattern options for both. And as always, the collection celebrates women embracing ambition; so the clothes are as functional as they are stylish.

I walked away with this anorak jacket and this adorable tennis themed key fob. I had originally planned on picking up a pair of these leggings too, but the store was sold out of my size by the time I arrived. Luckily, they're still available online! Side note: I already owned this performance cashmere sweater, but I can't suggest it enough. It's the most comfortable sweater plus it has a nice relaxed fit--perfect for on and off the court!

Ultimately, the evening was fun with a purpose as a portion of all sales were donated to this year's charity the Hawaii Community Foundation.

I can't thank Tory Sport Hawaii enough for the invitation, especially my girl Christine! (If you need anything from Tory Sport, I can't recommend working with Christine enough--she's absolutely fantastic. Just tell her I sent you!)

Thank you to Tory Sport Hawaii, Ala Moana Center, and Modern Luxury Hawai'i Magazine for graciously hosted the event. 

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 (an 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