At first, it’s hard to imagine an odder hotel couple than Marriott and Ian Schrager. But that’s exactly who got hitched when the new Waikiki Edition hotel opened in September. It’s the first in a series of collaborations that will soon produce Editions in Istanbul, Mexico City, Bangkok, and Barcelona. And what could have been a shotgun wedding turns out to be a union that does, in fact, break new ground in the crowded Waikiki hotel scene.
Set in a thoroughly renovated, 353-room high rise next to the iconic Ilikai condo-hotel (that’s right—the Hawaii 5-0 star), the Edition manages to be both hipster cool and thoroughly grownup—a niche that it currently has all to itself in Honolulu. There are the requisite white walls, iPads on the lobby bookcase, and even a “hidden” bar behind said revolving bookshelves. It’s not quite on the beach (the wonderful Duke Kahanamoku swimming lagoon and a broad beach are just a two-minute stroll away) but does have a pair of small pools and views over the yacht harbor. Rooms are clean-lined, and feature work areas (with free wifi) and teak window shutters. Service everywhere is warm and informed.
What’s really drawing the crowds, though, is the hot new Morimoto restaurant, a sleek glass aquarium done up in white and sea-foam green. There’s a huge open kitchen, from which issues a slew of the Iron Chef’s clever spins on sushi and other new-wave Japanese specialties.
And what if you’ve got a lot of Marriott Rewards points piled up but the Edition is just too hip for your tastes? Consider one of my favorite Waikiki budget hotels, the Courtyard Marriott Waikiki Beach. It’s a ten-minute walk to the beach, and you’ll want a room facing mauka (that is, towards the mountains) instead of noisy Kuhio avenue, but overall it’s a very pleasant place. The pool’s shaded by palms, the Spada restaurant has very good pasta, and the lobby coffee shop, Kimo’s, makes excellent espresso. Rooms currently start around $129, as opposed to $345 at the Edition.
Tom Passavant is a former editor-in-chief of Diversion magazine. Now a freelance travel and food writer based in Colorado and Hawaii, his work has appeared in Aspen Magazine, Gourmet, Four Seasons Magazine, Town & Country Travel, ForbesTraveler.com, Ski, Powder, Luxury Living, and many other places. He is the co-author of “Playboy’s Guide to Ultimate Skiing.” A former president of the New York Travel Writers Association, Passavant has won a Lowell Thomas Award for his travel writing and has served as judge for the James Beard Journalism Awards. See more of Tom’s work at TomPassavant.com.