After time spent beside the sea or amid rolling hills, we invariably pass a few days in Honolulu to begin our return to reality. I have always liked Waikiki and have watched with interest as it has evolved from seedy to stylish. This transition is particularly evident on Kalakaua Avenue, which is now landscaped and lined with top retailers to cater to the influx of free-spending tourists from Japan and, increasingly, China.
Having had satisfactory experiences at Trump hotels in cities as far-flung as Chicago and Panama City, I checked into the Trump Waikiki, a 38-story tower with 305 rooms, plus condominium residences. The sixth-floor reception area is pleasingly low-key. Our exceptionally generous one-bedroom suite came with an open layout that encompassed a full kitchen (with a dedicated wine fridge), a living/dining area, a small den, a good-size bedroom, a large master bath with a shuttered opening onto the bedroom, a smaller bath with a shower, a walk-in dressing area with washer and dryer, and two oceanview lanais, one off the living room and the other off the bedroom. The décor relied on a palette of neutral earth tones, enlivened by art employing Hawaiian motifs.
Amenities at the hotel include a small infinity pool; Wai’olu Ocean View Lounge, which serves an eclectic menu augmented by an extensive selection of tapas; and a full spa. The Trump Waikiki is highly suitable for families, with a suite such as ours easily accommodating parents and two or three children in comfort.
AT A GLANCE
LIKE: Great location; congenial staff; suitability for families.
DISLIKE: The small pool; the beach is a short walk from the hotel.
GOOD TO KNOW: The concierge desk can provide tote bags and sunblock for those headed out for a day of sightseeing.
Trump Waikiki 89 One bedroom Ocean View Suite, $759; One Bedroom Plus Den Ocean View Suite, $1,109; Two bedroom suite, $1,349-$1,699. 223 Saratoga Road, Honolulu. Tel. (808) 683-7777.
Right on Waikiki Beach, Halekulani has long been one of my favorite hotels, and I always find an excuse to return. On this occasion, I was also interested to see the results of a $52 million refurbishment of the 453 rooms and suites, completed in 2012. Despite the considerable outlay, the changes have not been dramatic. Instead, the hotel seems revitalized. The moment we arrived at the porte-cochère, a cadre of bellmen swept up our luggage and we were escorted to the breezy, open reception area with a stunning floral arrangement at its center.
I've always found Halekulani’s rooms to be tranquil and calming, and their low-key aesthetic allows the eye to be drawn outside to the view of the ocean.
Our room proved refined, with the hotel’s noted interplay of “seven shades of white” in its décor; louvered doors closed off the interior from the spacious lanai when the sunshine became too intrusive. I have always found Halekulani’s rooms to be tranquil and calming, and their low-key aesthetic allows the eye to be drawn outside to the view of the ocean. Although right on the beach, the pool is hard to resist, and I invariably find myself transfixed by its cattleya orchid mosaic made up of more than 1.2 million glass tiles. The lovely SpaHalekulani offers a full range of treatments, including Polynesian therapies, and the truly exceptional concierges can arrange a wide variety of activities throughout Oahu. (As the hotel is a major sponsor of the Bishop Museum, your room card grants you free admission.) We like Orchids for lunch, with its views of Diamond Head, while upstairs, overlooking the floodlit ocean at night, the more formal La Mer (jackets are preferred) is arguably the best restaurant in Hawaii. One evening, I enjoyed an artfully composed plate of leek-wrapped smoked salmon with asparagus, baby leeks, sea urchin roe and tangy lemon olive oil. For the main course, I opted for onaga, my favorite Hawaiian fish, pan-fried with baby vegetables in a rich clam-anchovy broth.
I was delighted to find that the general manager of Halekulani is now the genial Ulrich Krauer, whom we met on our last visit to Kona Village (still closed after being extensively damaged by the 2011 tsunami). Under his direction, this wonderful hotel is better than ever.
AT A GLANCE
GOOD TO KNOW: I can return.
Halekulani 97 Ocean View Room, $720-$775; Ocean-front Room, $775-$835; Diamond Head Oceanfront Room, $830-900; Junior Ocean Suite, $1,055-$1,140. 2199 Kalia Road, Honolulu. Tel. (808) 923-2311.