Your Guide to an Epic Bachelorette Weekend in Honolulu, Hawaii

With temperatures still well below freezing, a summer wedding can feel like it’s a million years away. And in these conditions—polar vortexes, black ice, unbelievable wind chill—no one can blame you for spending more time planning a tropical escape than your actual wedding. Luckily, brides-to-be have the perfect excuse for a warm weather getaway: the bachelorette party!

Sure, there are the obvious warm weather destinations: Las Vegas, Palm Springs, and Miami. But if you’re going to escape, why not go the extra mile? This winter, the hottest place to be is Hawaii’s trendy capital city, Honolulu.

I get it—Hawaii is a long way to travel for a party. So if you’re going to fly to the middle of the Pacific Ocean for a bachelorette, it better be epic.  Thankfully, Honolulu is the destination where you can have it all—lazy days at the beach, nights out on the town, and just about everything in between. (And if the saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” is true, just imagine what they say about the most remote chain of islands in the world…)

Here’s what you need to know for an epic bachelorette weekend in Honolulu, Hawaii:

WHERE TO STAY:

The Royal Hawaiian Resort

You can’t go wrong with a stay at the Royal Hawaiian. The historic luxury hotel has an ideal location, right on Hawaii’s iconic Waikiki Beach and across from Kalakaua Avenue, the store-lined street known as Luxury Row. This is the type of place that’ll make you and your girl gang feel like a million dollars. Just make sure to ask for a room in the original building (versus the newly constructed towers) for maximum glamour. With the resort’s signature pink walls and striped beach umbrellas, you’re guaranteed to snap more than a few insta-worthy pictures over the course of your stay.

The Laylow

More casual brides may prefer The Laylow one block over on Kuhio Avenue. What this hotel lacks in ocean views, it makes up in pure and simple charm. You’ll notice it from the moment you check-in: a collection of hula girls at the front desk, a ukulele in your room, and more mid-century modern touches than an episode of Mad Men. While you can always book a traditional suite, you might prefer a series of cabana rooms with easy access to the hotel pool. When you’re all settled in, head downstairs to the Hideaway, the hotel’s trendy take on the tiki bar, for pre-dinner drinks before hitting the town.

WHERE TO EAT:

House Without A Key

Ease into your first night on the island with a sunset dinner at House Without A Key (there will be plenty of time for carousing later, promise). The restaurant, memorialized in the 1925 Charlie Chan novel of the same name, offers a taste of Old Hawaii—a time before mega-resorts, commercialized luaus, and other touristy clichés that too often plague the islands these days. Here you’ll eat dinner under a century-old Kiawe tree while former Miss Hawaii winners perform hula to live music.

As an added bonus, the restaurant shares its famous mai tai recipe online. You may have to go home eventually, but one sip of this incredible mai tai will be enough to instantly take you back.

Herringbone Waikiki

Herringbone recently opened its newest restaurant in Waikiki’s International Market Place. Like all Herringbone restaurants, the open air venue is beautifully decorated with a coastal theme, making it the perfect backdrop for party pictures. Plus, the new spot not only serves up a decadent brunch, it also offers bottomless rosé and mimosas—complete with tropical juice options—from 1030 AM to 2PM. Need we say more?

Moku Kitchen

If Hawaii had culinary royalty, Peter Merriman would be king. He is, after all, the force behind several wildly successful restaurants on multiple islands. But when it comes to lunch, there’s no better place than his most casual endeavor Moku Kitchen. Moku, located in the mural lined neighborhood of Kaka’ako, serves modern American fare created with locally sourced ingredients. You’ll want to order truffle fries for the table, but keep the haupia (coconut) pie to yourself.

Buho Cocina Y Cantina

For a town with remarkably good weather, Honolulu has surprisingly few rooftop bars and restaurants. Luckily, you only need one: Buho Cocina Y Cantina. The open air bar offers a modern take on Mexican cuisine with a fully stocked (and potentially lethal) bar. Since the restaurant is always busy in the evening make sure to snag a reservation for a larger party, preferably ocean-side.

WHERE TO DRINK:

Chinatown

All of your drinking, besides guava mimosas at brunch, should really be done in Honolulu’s historic Chinatown. You’ll find the majority of the best bars on N. Hotel Street, including crowd favorites Bar 35 and Manifest. If you’re looking for something a little quieter, The Tchin Tchin! wine bar is a literal hidden gem (Pro tip: take the unmarked staircase next to Bar 35). If you’re looking for something a little louder, walk a few blocks over to Scarlet, a club with a giant dance floor (a rarity in Honolulu) and the best drag show you’ll ever see.

HOMA (the Honolulu Museum of Art)

There is one hard exception to the Chinatown drinking rule: if you’re in Honolulu on the last Friday of the month, start your night at the Honolulu Museum of Art for its Art After Dark celebration, otherwise known as Honolulu’s biggest pre-game. From six to nine the art museum transforms into the trendiest bar in town, complete with live music and a cash bar.

WHAT TO DO:

Catamaran Sail

No Hawaiian hen party is complete without a catamaran sail around Waikiki. If your tribe is more than a handful of ladies, skip the public booze cruises in favor of a private charter with a BYOC (C for champagne) option. While the latter is more expensive, you’ll love the ability to jump in the water or lounge on the deck uninterrupted.

Spa Treatments 

For the ultimate indulgence, look no further than Sea Spa Hawaii, Honolulu’s first floating spa. Once aboard the luxury vessel, guests receive robe service, two premium spa services, bottle service, and a selection of pupus (appetizers) to nibble on over the course of two and half hours. Groups that opt for the additional cruise sail along the coast of Oahu’s southern shore, taking in gorgeous views of famous landmarks like Diamond Head Crater.

Surf Lessons:

Is there anything more iconic than surfing on Waikiki Beach? With a plethora of surf instructors and discounted group packages, there really isn’t a better location to learn the ancient Hawaiian art. And as one of the easiest surf breaks in Oahu, there’s a good chance you’ll be riding some waves even if it’s your first lesson.

Sky Dive:

Remember that bit about Honolulu being a destinations for all types of brides? Well that includes the adventurous types too! If you’re looking to get your heart pumping—and for the BEST view of the island—you’ve got to Sky Dive Hawaii. While technically located outside the city limits, the company offers a free shuttle ride from Waikiki to Oahu’s North Shore with any reservation. 

While you’re up there, you and your bridesmaids can also bond over other adrenaline racing activities like zip-lining, swimming with sharks, and hiking waterfalls. Like we said—something for everyone!

The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

 
Four Seasons Hualalai for Hawaii Girl's Trip

I’m not necessarily a hotel loyalist, but there are certain companies that never let me down. On the top of that list: the Four Seasons. So when my best friend Natalie and I were looking for a property to stay at during our long weekend, we quickly decided on the Four Seasons Hualalai on the Big Island of Hawaii.

I had stayed at the Four Seasons Ko Olina property on Oahu before, but everyone—including the event coordinator there—kept telling me some variation of “it’s a total different property; you’re going to love it.”

They weren’t wrong. The Hualalai is more resort than hotel, sprawling over several acres which include four restaurants, four pools, a golf course, two shops, tennis clubs, and a spa. It’s the perfect destination for a weekend of doing absolutely nothing…which is exactly what we did. While we had flirted with the idea of a rental car or even a simple cab ride down to Kona, our plans ended up being much more simple: a three day pool bender. As it turns out, the Four Seasons Hualalai is the perfect place for such a thing.

WHAT'S TO LOVE

You know that saying, “the devil is in the details?” Well, the Hualalai (like any Four Seasons) does not have that problem. In fact, what makes the Four Seasons so enjoyable is that every detail, down to the littlest thing, is already thought of AND taken care of for you.

My favorite detail? Being presented with a lei upon check-in. It’s a simple thing that truly turns the switch from normal life to vacation life for me. Some other honorable mentions include: the AC automatically turning off when our room’s lanai doors open (assuredly a cost saving measure for the hotel, but still pure magic to me), sunscreen stations in every pool/beach area, and the continual greeting of “Aloha, Mrs. Bean” from every member of the staff.

TAKE NOTE

While it probably goes without saying, the Four Seasons isn’t cheap. But it’s worth. every. dang. penny. Hawaii residents are able to book at a special rate though, so ask for the Kama’aina rate when making a reservation. You’ll need to present a state ID at check-in, but it’s worth the trip to the DMV if you don’t already have one.

ROOM SERVICE 

A few things about our room—

First, even for a double, it was incredibly spacious. We had both beds, a sitting a area, a private-ish (read: it was attached to our room, but we often spotted our neighbors rocking their birthday suits over breakfast…eek!), and a walk-in closet. And, despite spending all weekend together, the room gave us enough space to hang out without feeling like we were constantly in each other’s space.

Second, the room had so many thoughtful details: a place to hang to your leis, chromecast for binging Sex in the City reruns, and a complimentary beach bag for use during your stay.

Get out of bed For

As tempting as it might be to stay in bed all day, I can’t recommend signing up through the hotel for an additional “experience” enough if you don’t live in or frequently visit Hawaii. The resort offers a variety of excursions around the island that range from cliff jumping to stargazing to triathlon training.

Since I a) am scared of heights and b) have a strict light exercise only when on vacation rule, we originally planned on doing a coffee farm tour + tasting. When that fell through (our last minute booking meant the trip only had room for us at the tasting), we defaulted to doing nothing. For us, it was just what the doctor ordered. But let’s get real—lounging poolside can be done from almost anywhere in the continental United States. If you’re on the Big Island and you have the time, get out of the resort!

Would I go back? In a heart beat. In fact, I miggghttt be headed there next weekend to celebrate a certain husband’s birthday. Care to join?

P.S. Here’s everything I packed for a my weekend on the Big Island (spoiler: the jeans never made it).

Honolulu In a Weekend

A Guide to Honolulu Hawaii

Last month, I had the pleasure of writing a weekend guide to Honolulu for The Spot Journal, one of my favorite online destinations for travel tips. It’s a lush one: filled with luxury hotels, custard filled doughnuts, and many, many mai tais! You can read all my recommendations here—in fact, it would make my day! Give it a read, chickadees. xo.

P.S. What to pack for a weekend in Waikiki.

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 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).

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.  

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

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. 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.