The launchpad for many a Hawaiian island adventure, Honolulu doesn’t immediately spring to mind as a chic-beach destination. Yet there’s more to Hawaii’s capital than wannabe surfers and spring-break shenanigans – as long as you know where to look.
Tucked between the blah high rises and chain diners are a spate of design-savvy hotels, a lively food scene and stylish shopportunity, not to mention a buzzy, cosmopolitan atmos. Jessica Kozuka, LUXE’s Tokyo resident curator makes the most of a Honolulu stopover
With its Hawaiian mid-century modern design that’s more Don Draper than Don Ho, The Laylow stands out amid the tower blocks. Located on revitalised Kuhio Avenue, it’s ideal for beach bums and shopaholics, but with the sleek pool deck, 24-hour gym, 3rd Wave espresso bar, and Indie Film Project streaming in your room, you might just want to, well, lay low. Unsigned Lanai resto Hideout floats above the street-level hubbub, serving reimagined Pacific Rim cuisine and craft cocktails to guests and savvy locals at sandy fire-pit tables.
Across the street is Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach, which has transformed a drab office building into swish, tropi-luxe digs replete with sprawling rooms and floor-to-ceiling views. The lobby floor deftly combines front desk, bar, restaurant and pool into one relaxed space you actually want to hang out in – especially when nursing a craft cocktail at sundown.
EAT & DRINK
Once you’ve hit foodie must-try Senia and oldie-but-goodie Alan Wong’s, beeline to atmospheric Chinatown to find Honolulu’s latest ‘it’ restaurants. We loved mezcal bar Encore Saloon for the hidden brick courtyard, Cali-style fish tacos and signature cocktail — The Chris Kattan — made with habanero reposado, mango, triple sec and chamoy.
When you’ve had your fill of sandy beach bars, seek out Pint + Jigger for expertly crafted ‘tails or one of a changing roster of 21 beers on tap amid underground speakeasy vibes.
For spesh occasions, Honolulu’s stylish residents flock to contempo Italian Arancino’s alfresco terrace at at the historic The Kahala resort. Modern takes on classics rule: handmade pastas, wood-fired pizzas and grills are reinterpreted with modish ingredients, such as the pappardelle alla Bolognese with wagyu. An award-winning wine list features vinos from Italy and the Pacific Rim.
Design divas flock to concept shop fishcake, which shelves a neat and now range of artisan-made interior design and lifestyle bits as well as hosting pop-ups, workshops, exhibitions and performances. Get there before 3pm for a fierce cup of joe at Morning Glass Coffee.
For souvies you actually want to keep, keep a wide berth of the ubiquitous ABC Stores and sail on to Owens & Co, which has a curated stash of fashion and eclecetera by independent local designers. From Atelier Delphine’s simple peasant dresses and pastel jumpsuits to handmade soaps, leather pineapple-embossed coasters or colourful Jana Lam zip pouches; the array of goodies make excellent take homes and gifts.
Forget the day-glo horrors seen on sun-roasted tourists, Roberta Oaks’ Aloha shirts riff a cool 50s look with their sharp fits and vintage-modern patterns. The pet range of bandanas is also worthy of a gander for aspiring Fido fashionistas.