Honolulu has a great mix of tropical vibes with a bit of city thrown in. For an island that has more than 5 climate zones it makes the perfect scenery for hit TV Shows like Hawaii – Five O and Magnum P.I., Lost and the Jurassic Park movies. To say that the city gives you “island vibes” is a pure understatement. It’s the friendly people, the food and the warm weather that makes mainlanders from all around the world flock to Honolulu for more than just the MaiTai’s.
Stay: The Laylow Hotel
Spend a few minutes in the open air of the lobby of The Laylow and you will begin to see its Tropicana at its best. During the day, the secluded saltwater pool between lounge chairs, pune`e (dreamy daybeds) and private cabanas offers guests a private oasis to take in some Vitamin D while hydrating with some shaved ice. At night, lounge at Hideout, the hotel’s signature restaurant. Listen to island musicians while sipping artisan cocktails or craft beer from Hawaii breweries. When on Island time, you will certainly find it easy to retire early. The custom-created monstera leaf wallpaper that line the walls; bring the tropical vibe to your room, helping to soothe you to a peaceful slumber. Wake up feeling refreshed and grab a Stumptown coffee to go and browse the hotel shop filled with Hawaiian made goodies.
Just a quick 45 minute drive from Downtown Honolulu, KōHana Distillery is home to the finest Agricole rum, made on site from sugar cane planted from thousand-year old strains brought over in canoes by Polynesian explorers. Learn about the three elements which make up KōHana: Kō (sugar cane), Hana (craft and work) and Hana Aloha (love magic). While enjoying three single-varietal rums, they will guide you through the step-by-step process for making both white and dark rum. My favourite is the Kokoleka, made with cacao and honey. It makes the perfect gift for those abroad.
Whether you are a guest of the hotel, or staying in the area, Queen Kapi’olani Hotel offers several activities to help pass your island time. Try one of the many fitness classes, like a cardio twist on Hawaiian Hula (Hot Hula Fitness) or traditional Hula dancing. Surfers of all levels can join an end-of-the week surf lesson with the Pau Hana Surf Club. Foodies can indulge in Hawaiian Coffee Tasting 101 or learn from the master mixologists how to concoct one of the hotel’s signature cocktails. Learn the craft of lei making with master lei maker Meleana Estes or create homemade wellness beauty products with help from Aloha Apothecary. Come for the activities, and stay for a hearty brunch poolside at DECK.
Nothing beats a birds-eye view of Paradise. Operating from all of the islands, (from the Kalaeloa Airport or the Turtle Bay Resort on O’hau) take one of the 25 tours offered to see the Hawaiian Islands in a different light. First-time flyer? Safety is first with two former Marine One (Presidential) pilots and eight Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course (The Marine “Top Gun”) graduates who know how to navigate turbulence and other elements. The Kapolei O’ahu Sunset experience is a must with a full circle tour of the island with the addition of catching the sunset. Tour Pearl Harbor, the beaches of Waikiki, Diamond Head Crater. See Ka‘a‘awa Valley“Jurassic Park” and the thousand-foot cascade of Kaliuwa‘a (Sacred Falls), which is accessible only by air. Overlook the famed North Shore surf breaks at Sunset, Pipeline, & Waimea Bay. Words cannot fully describe the wonderful majestic views you will capture with your camera so don’t forget to charge your battery!
Eat: The Pig & The Lady
Head to Chinatown for this eclectic Vietnamese institution. What started as a pop up restaurant, then a farmer’s market stand, The Pig & The Lady brick and mortar serves famous banh mis and phos along with new favourites. Chef Andrew Le and his team cook up some must have twice fried LFC wings and the Ahi Tataki on tomato toast melts in your mouth. The Hanoi Style “Fish & Poi” with the local i’a of the day is cooked to perfection. My biggest regret – not saving room for P&L soft serve.
Eat: Mahina and Sun’s
Tucked away behind in the lobby of the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club you will find Mahina and Sun’s. Chef Ed Kenney uses local and seasonal ingredients to create his home-style dishes, all the while adhering to the Monterey Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program. Listen to live music as you dine overlooking the pool. The Eggs Sammie with bacon is the perfect brunch meal.
Shop: Fighting Eel
With four locations to serve you, shop locally produced clothing by designers Rona Bennett and Lan Chung. Versatile pieces that can work day or night with flip flops or heels. The sister line, Ava Sky Hawaii, designed by the same duo has fun colorful prints in wearable stylish shapes.
By Elena Murzello