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. 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