The shores of Honolulu are lined with hotels. There’s no lack of options … but the question is: Which one do you choose? From luxury properties to family-friendly resorts and boutique hotels, there’s something to suit every type of traveler.
The Modern Honolulu is a chic, boutique property in, where else, Honolulu, and my love affair with this hotel crept up on me slowly. I liked what I saw when I first set foot in the lobby but by the end of my stay, I was passionately enamoured with everything about it. In just four days, I fell in love and I fell fast and hard.
The Modern Honolulu is cool, calm and collected … and a whole lot of chic.
The Modern Honolulu bills itself as a destination for both business and leisure travelers but for me, it’s got luxury vacation written all over it. It’s cool, calm and collected and a whole lot of chic. It all starts with the art installation above the check-in desk. A collage of broken surfboards come together to create a unique focal point in the lobby. Designed by local surfer Herbie Fletcher, this piece of art features surfboards that were ‘broken-in-action’ and are all signed by the riders. It’s an interesting and imaginative welcome for guests. Just off the lobby, you’ll find The Study – a speak-easy inspired bar, hidden behind a bookcase. Classy and a bit retro, the bar comes alive in the early evenings and the live music is fantastic. As you walk through the hotel’s common areas, you’ll notice the most delightful fragrance … and you’ll grow increasingly more accustomed to and enamoured with it. The aroma is plumeria and the scent, specially manufactured for the Modern Honolulu, wafts through the outdoors, lingering pleasantly in the air. Make your way up to your room and on your way, you’re sure to appreciate the exceptionally wide hallways, done up in an easy and effortless white palette.
I didn’t get a chance to see a city-view room but I think it’s safe to say you’ll definitely want to book a room with an ocean and harbour view. What a spot from which to see the sun set. The rooms are an exquisite example of modern minimalism. But despite the all-white palette, clean lines and unfussy decor that’s seen throughout the hotel, there’s nothing stark or unwelcoming about the rooms. They’re soothing and serene. I was lucky enough to be staying in a suite, which boasts separate living room and bedroom areas. The bathroom is lovely, large and modern and the shower has incredible shower pressure. The only thing it was missing was a deep soaking tub! The suites feel like a mini apartment, minus a kitchen, and before you know it, it starts to feel like home.
No luxury vacation is complete without a visit to the spa so don’t forget to book some relaxation time at the spa at the Modern Honolulu. The full spa menu features all the typical treatments you’d expect but try one of the signature treatments: The Lomi Lomi Massage or the Oxygen Facial.
You’ll love the dining options at the Modern. First and foremost: Morimoto Waikiki. Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto dishes up divine dishes featuring a Hawaiian/Japanese flair. The fresh seafood is incredible – try the rock shrimp and any of the sushi rolls from the full sushi bar. I’m ready to get back on a plane right now, just to eat there. And as if the food isn’t amazing enough, the setting amplifies everything. I didn’t love the restaurant’s interior – white and lime green and air-conditioned. Definitely choose a table outside, where the air is warm and you’ll dine overlooking the harbour. And when the sun sets, it’s exquisite.
For more casual dining, visit the Grove and Passageway, two outdoor dining options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Great food (standard fare: pizzas, sandwiches and tacos as well as must-try eggs benedict for breakfast) and a beautiful atmosphere make this a great place to dine. Or, if a day lazing by the pool or swimming in the ocean has left you feeling drained, order room service and eat in the quiet comfort of your room. Since the rooms really do feel like home, it’s nice to stay in some nights and eat on your balcony.
The Modern is in Waikiki but it’s not the Waikiki you might be thinking of. Just far enough away from the bustling beaches that you find the closer you get to Diamond Head, the Modern is a comfortable distance away, providing a quieter, more upscale atmosphere – but it’s only a 30-minute walk along the beach to get to the heart of Waikiki if you start to miss the buzz. While The Modern isn’t situated on an actual beach, staff at the hotel are quick to tell guests that it’s just 90 seconds til your toes are in the sand. Just a short jaunt and you’ll first reach the lagoon, a shallow and family-friendly spot to swim, paddle board and sunbathe. Just on the other side of the lagoon is the ocean. It’s great to have the two options so close to the hotel.
The hotel’s got a great location for shopping as well. The Ala Moana Centre is a 10-minute walk away and is a shopper’s paradise, featuring mostly high-end designer shops in a breezy open-air concept shopping complex. There’s a food court and other restaurants like Goma Tei, a ramen noodle shop that we discovered and loved, providing a few more off-property dining options. And the shops and restaurants at the Hilton Hawaiian Village are just 10 minutes away in the other direction.
Why you should stay there
The Modern Honolulu was an absolute gem of a find. I fell in love with my room first – so calm and comfortable. The view, the dining, the pools (there’s a family pool and an adults-only pool) and the food were beyond reproach. But the impossibly chic look, the brilliant work of the luxury design architect firm Yabu Pushelberg, who also designed the new Four Seasons Toronto, the St. Regis San Francisco and the W New York Times Square, really captured the essence of a carefree Hawaiian escape. And if it’s good enough for Reese Witherspoon, who I spotted dining at Morimoto and who stayed in a corner suite just a few floors above mine, then it’s good enough for me!