As I checked into the super-chic Waikiki Edition hotel, I was welcomed with a chilled towel and lemonade spiked with cilantro, but no flower lei, traditional at upscale Hawaiian hotels. Indeed, this could have been Los Angeles.
The 353-room Edition is the first of a new brand that's a collaboration between hotelier Ian Schrager and Marriott International. It's at the western end of Waikiki, next door to the venerable 46-year-old Ilikai, but these neighbors couldn't be less alike.
The Edition, which opened Sept. 28, occupies a 16-story tower that once was part of the Ilikai, sold off by a financially strapped former owner. Like the Ilikai, it is not a beachfront property; guests at both hotels use the same pathway to the beach, about a 10-minute walk.
Edition did a $40-million makeover, leaving only the basic structure intact. Every room has an ocean view, sort of — a very small slice of the ocean — as well as a Day-Glo ukulele and a trio of colorful sarongs for guests' use. And that's about as Hawaiian as it gets.
To compensate for not being on the beach, the Edition has created its own Sunset Beach, with an infinity-edge lagoon surrounded by sand imported from neighbor islands. For $100 a day, a couple can book preferred seating, with champagne and hors d'oeuvres.
Waikiki Edition, 1775 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu; (808) 943-5800, http://www.editionhotels.com. Doubles from $345.
Ilikai Hotel & Suites
The "Hawaii Five-O" TV show is back, and so is the Ilikai Hotel & Suites. The iconic setting for the opening shots of the original TV series is working to regain its luster as it recovers from financial woes that closed it for two weeks in 2009.
On a recent morning I stood on a lanai, taking in the view of Ala Wai Yacht Harbor and the ocean, just as actor Jack Lord famously did in those aerial shots. I'd asked to see that very lanai, but, alas, it belongs to Unit 2610, now a privately owned condo. So manager Terry Dowsett took me to the unit directly below, telling me, "They're shot right above us" for promotional stills for the new series.
One floor below is close enough that management has plans for this 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom oceanfront suite, No. 2544. "We're going to play that up more, call it the Jack Lord Suite," maybe decorate with stills from the old series, Dowsett said.
The Ilikai, the first oceanfront high-rise luxury hotel in Hawaii when it opened in 1964, originally was a behemoth of more than 1,300 rooms; it now has 1,007 units, of which 203 are hotel rooms. The rest are time shares and condos.
Depending on your viewpoint, the location is a plus or a minus. At the quieter western edge of Waikiki, it's not the best for those who want action. But the hotel's neighbor to the east is the Hilton Hawaiian Village, with its shops and restaurants, and it's a short walk to Ala Moana Shopping Center and the Honolulu Convention Center. The Ilikai pool is a walled-in space with too much concrete and too little greenery, and I found it less than inviting.
My king ocean-view room was 500 square feet, not including a large lanai. The somewhat dowdy rooms are to be renovated next year, and although the trend is to dark woods, I hope they keep the handsome blond bamboo furniture inset with mother of pearl.
Ilikai Hotel & Suites, 1777 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu; (808) 949-3811, http://www.ilikaihotel.com. Doubles from $129.
All is not what it seems at the Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk, which opened a year ago. Although it describes itself as "just steps" from the beach, it's actually a long, long block. And even though it has Trump in its name, it's not a Trump-owned or -developed property.
That said, there's a lot to like.