Last week, I was in Hawaii! My boyfriend had done the Transpac Race (LA to Waikiki!!!) and I flew out to meet him. Before all this, one of my girlfriends who grew up in Hawaii had said, “Grace: if you end up going out there to meet him, you MUST stay at Halekulani. It will be your new favorite hotel.” I filed that away for later and did my own research. She wasn’t wrong: besides her endorsement it is also rated the number one hotel in Waikiki by TripAdvisor, and every detail of the space looked perfect. I was sold.
This hotel is a remarkably special place. I felt like a broken record. The whole time we were there, I kept saying, “I just really like it here, I don’t want to leave.” The property itself is gorgeous but the vibe is what makes it feel really special: you step into the lobby and immediately feel more relaxed. The whole space just has a really relaxing energy.
Halekulani is the second oldest property in Waikiki, though it just underwent a major renovation during the pandemic. In some ways, it reminded me of a Hawaiian Shutters on the Beach (another absolute favorite). Luxurious, but with a casual, family sort of feeling. My friend was right: I do indeed have a new favorite hotel and am already trying to think of a reason to go back.
Halekulani Hotel: Waikiki Beach
I loved our room so much. Loved. We had an ocean view room on the 17th floor. If you stay here, definitely request a room on a higher floor as the views of the ocean and Diamond Head (a volcanic cone) are incredible. The hotel boasts 453 rooms and suites and with the way that it is designed, 90% of the rooms have an ocean view. I thought that was really really cool! Another fun fact: 453 rooms and 700 employees. What a ratio.
This was just heaven to wake up to. In the morning we would open the door to the balcony, make coffee, sit outside, luxuriate in the breeze, and just enjoy the view. The bathroom was pretty great too. Plenty of space and a nice big tub. (You know I am a sucker for a tub). Even when it’s warm, I love a bath. I took one every night.
The pool and surrounding area is stunning. The most relaxing. I wish I took a better photo of the pool from above (here’s one!), as it’s a really unique shape and features an orchid mosaic at the bottom of the pool. The mosaic is made up of 1.25 million glass tiles! I loved how quiet it was. The strip along Waikiki beach can be a little bit chaotic… this felt like a sanctuary. We spent one of the days just reading under an umbrella. So ideal.
You know that I am a travel to eat kind of girl… I wanted to try everything! Halekulani boasts four restaurants. There is the pool bar area, Earl’s and the outdoor bar/restaurant House Without A Key. And then they have two more formal restaurants: Orchids and La Mer. It was important to me to try them all (I know, someone has to do it) to be able to write this piece and each spot was impressive (but so different from the others!). If I had to choose a favorite I think it would be House Without A Key. We only went for drinks (and several snacks) but the vibe was amazing, as were the performances.
Earl’s is the restaurant by the pool, named for Earl Derr Biggers (the 20th century novelist and author of House Without A Key – he wrote it while on vacation in Hawaii). Great drinks, fresh salads, yummy poke bowls. Because it isn’t a true pool day if french fries and at least one frozen cocktail are not consumed! (I told my boyfriend, who rarely sits still this, and he laughed. I think the pool day was a bit of struggle for him but I personally loved every minute!!).
House Without A Key
This ended up being my favorite. We met up with the hotel’s PR director here before dinner on our last night and LOVED every sip and every bite! First of all, their cocktails are spectacular. One of the best Mai Tais either of us have ever tried (the Mai Tai is their signature and their recipe dates back to the reopening of the hotel more than 30 years ago!) but I was particularly smitten with the Yellow Umbrella which had coconut, mezcal, and passionfruit.
And don’t get me started on the food. It was insanely good. We had the ribs, the tuna tataki, an amazing sushi roll.. but the highlight for me was their famous Kapakahi fries (yes: that is teriyaki sauce on french fries and wow: it was so good!)
Orchids is the hotel’s Italian restaurant. We had a fun little double date with my boyfriend’s parents. Everything was delicious. The highlights for me were the hamachi, the coconut cake (it’s famous — so light and fluffy) and oddly, the mushroom risotto. When we told the hotel’s PR director that we would be going after our drinks for dinner, she said the risotto was a MUST — but best shared by the table. It didn’t take much convincing (I love risotto!) and I will confirm: it is indeed a must but absolutely better shared as it’s so rich!
We went here for a romantic date; just the two of us. If you are in Hawaii and want to go somewhere really luxe; this is going to be your spot. It’s Hawaii’s only AAA Five Diamond and Forbes 5 Star restaurant! It was one of those really special, fancy dinners that you think about for weeks afterward (I am still thinking about the lobster with vanilla beurre blanc!). We split a bunch of different things and each bite was more delicious than the next (but especially the lobster entree and foie gras appetizer).
Disclosure: The property gave us a media rate (discounted stay). All meals, spa treatments, etc. were paid for in full by us with the exception of drinks + snacks at House Without A Key.