Spotlight :: Modern Honolulu

[trip style = sun + beach + urban + weekend getaway]

Maybe you love crowds, duty-free shopping galleries, two-hour restaurant waits and garden-variety hotels, but I don't. It's not my idea of a tropical affair. So, this past weekend I custom-tailored a trip style = sun + beach + urban + weekend getaway with a modern mantra. You have to know what you're doing to enjoy Waikiki like you're the only guest at the luau.

First order of biz: find a cool hotel just off the strip with a sense of space---not an easy task in Honolulu until recently. In late 2010, a hotel opened that ruffled the feathers of traditional beachside resort cash cows and beckoned a forgotten breed: discerning travelers with an appetite for cool.

The Modern Honolulu is sleek, spacious and social, hanging between Waikiki and Ala Moana beaches. A massive surfboard installation hangs above reception and the rest follows this abstractly composed aesthetic: neutral rooms decorated with tropical accoutrements; a wood-deck pool surrounded by beach beds for two; an outdoor bar with picnic and yellow bistro tables shaded by overhanging trees and lit at night by strings of twinkly wine-bottle luminaries---the list goes on. {See my detailed Trip Advisor review here.}

Rethink Honolulu. Your curated, DIY luau is waiting {without the crowds and watery mai tais}.

  • Breakfast: Cream Pot {in the Hawaiian Monarch hotel}. I was a little skeptical about this breakfast factory with a cult following, but once I tasted the food, I was converted. Don't let the grandma's-kitchen-meets-French-countryside decor throw you. The service is slow, but with a smile, and the food is sinfully good. Dishes like the homemade vanilla custard cream-filled crepe with salted caramel sauce and the ahi carpaccio eggs benedict with a grilled rice cake, avocado and orange miso shoyu sauce are exactly the kind of meals you want to avoid before lounging poolside. But if you go for an early-morning surf, SUP or run, it's all good!
  • Dinner: Morimoto {in The Modern Honolulu hotel}. If celeb Iron Chef Morimoto's self-titled restaurant is good enough for Obama {who dined there over the holidays}, it's good enough for me. A stark white interior with splashes of green and purple accentuates the open kitchen. Those who want an al fresco experience while soaking in the warm climate can sit outside in the covered dining area. Make a reso in advance and try the tuna pizza. I don't like anchovies, olives or jalapenos, but I LOVED this inventive appetizer.
  • Drinks: La Mariana Sailing Club. Sandwiched between shipping yards and boat repair hangars in Honolulu's pier district, La Mariana is a museum-quality ode to all things tiki. The lush grounds facing the marina lead you into 1950s exotica with wooden carvings, preserved puffer fish lights, netted ceilings and multicoloured glass fishing floats in every corner. Go for umbrella drinks here and dinner elsewhere, and stay long enough to croon to the live piano music. Ron, the longtime {and blind} pianist plays songs like "I just called to say I love you..." {Thanks for the recommendation Steve & Kelly!}

Getting There Getting to Honolulu is easy with a multitude of nonstop flights and departure points. WestJet and AirCanada fly from Vancouver {approx $700 return}, Alaska flies from Bellingham {approx $400 return}, and Alaska, Hawaiian and Delta fly from Seattle {approx $500 return}.

Related A Tropical Experiment High/Low :: Booking A Vacation In Maui

[photos by @tripstyler]