There’s no place in Hawaii quite like Honolulu to explore the state’s rich cultural heritage. With everything from art museums, to war memorials, unsurpassed natural beauty and historic landmarks, the capital has it all. The cultural experience extends to the city’s hotels as well: read our guide to the best places to stay.
It goes without saying that the Moana Surfrider, also known as ‘”The First Lady of Waikiki”, sits atop our list. This renowned property opened its doors in 1901 as the first hotel on the shores of Waikiki, the most famous and vibrant beach in all of Hawaii. Historic photos of the hotel grace the walls in the lobby and there is a tour of the property every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, during which guests can learn about the Moana’s interesting Waikiki story.
Another hotel so entrenched in Honolulu’s culture that it has a nickname, The Royal Hawaiian is often called the “Pink Palace of the Pacific“. The building’s flamingo pink exterior is hard to miss and is sure to leave an impression. The hotel was established in 1927 and today it continues to pay tribute to the island’s cultural history through a weekly celebration called an ‘Aha’aina. The nighttime event includes traditional food, song, dance (the hula) and storytelling.
The Lotus Honolulu at Diamond Head is for visitors looking to get away from it all in a Zen-like atmosphere. Situated next to Kapiolani Park and at the foot of the towering Diamond Head volcanic crater, the hotel is a bit outside the hustle and bustle of Waikiki. The Lotus is a great option for those looking to explore and enjoy Hawaiian culture – the resort price includes admission for two to the Honolulu Museum of Art.
Named after Hawaiian royalty, Queen Kapiolani Hotel has adopted the motto the queen herself lived by: “Strive to reach the highest”. Queen Kapi’olani stayed faithful to her Hawaiian culture while learning popular European dances of the time. In the hotel’s lobby, guests can view a painting of the queen wearing her famous peacock dress, which she debuted during a visit to London in 1887.
A recent renovation to this 70s tropical-modernist structure has given it an updated feel. Completed by the award-winning architect and desginer Anthony Laurino, the Shoreline Hotel’s rooms feature chic touches, such as Wegner wingback chairs. The artwork on the walls is appropriately beach inspired and private balconies are perfect for taking in one of those stunning Hawaiian sunsets.
A beachfront hotel with a storied history, Halekulani has built quite the legacy in Honolulu. The hotel is located on the site of a house that was built by Robert Lewers in 1883. Back then, the local fishermen would use the beach out front as a relaxing respite from their hard days of work at sea. The plantation style of the main building was designed by renowned architect C.W. Dickey and has a high-pitched roof to catch the trade winds.
The Ilikai Hotel & Luxury Suites soars high into the Honolulu sky – 30 storeys, in fact. At the very top, guests will discover Sarento’s, an Italian restaurant featuring handmade fettuccine, creamy risottos, local fish dishes and a lot more. The panoramic views of the southern coastline of Oahu are breathtaking. This is one of the best places in town to enjoy the Waikiki fireworks show held every Tuesday and Friday. First opened in 1964, the Ilikai holds the distinction of being Honolulu’s first luxury high rise.
Pagoda Hotel offers travelers a laid back, tropical-inspired accommodation option smack dab in the center of downtown Honolulu. The hotel overlooks a Japanese garden and there is a pond with daily koi feedings. Dining at the hotel’s eatery, called Pagoda Floating restaurant, is an experience that combines Asian, Hawaiian and Western flavors. It even features three semi-private teahouses with views of the koi ponds.
Located just a block from Ala Moana Beach Park, this high-rise hotel boasts Japanese and Chinese restaurants, rooms with private balconies that offer mountain and ocean views, an outdoor pool with a spacious sundeck, and sauna and steam rooms. Each room has been meticulously appointed with a blend of modern design and Hawaiian style. Ala Moana Hotel puts the onus on pleasing its guests – you can even request a private massage in the comfort of your own room!
It’s not often that you hear about a horse-themed hotel, but that’s precisely what The Equus is known for. This boutique hotel is the home of the Hawaii Polo Club, meaning guests have the opportunity to watch a polo match, take a polo lesson or go on a trail ride. The Equus is Waikiki’s only North Shore connection, as the ownership also manages a beautiful 100-acre stretch of property on Oahu’s northern shorefront, also available for guests to explore on horseback.