Hawaii is beautiful and Honolulu is an amazing starting point for exploring the rest of the Hawaiian islands. However, choosing a hotel in Honolulu is insanely difficult, whether it’s for a night while passing through Waikiki for amazing food and entertainment or as a base in which to explore the city and other islands. There is nearly every big brand hotel present in Honolulu/Waikiki and nearly 200 smaller boutique hotels to choose from, and that’s not even taking into account all of the private rentals in condo buildings. So after years of travel to Honolulu we share our favorite pick of The Modern Honolulu and why it is simply the best choice right now for accommodation in Honolulu/Waikiki.
The hotel was formed from the termination of Marriotts management agreement with the former Waikiki Edition Hotel and rebranded “The Modern” in 2011. With nearly no brand recognition of the former property (for which it suffered for) The Modern has now picked up the pieces and made an incredible place for short or longer term visits.
Considering Waikiki and much of downtown Honolulu are very walkable and parking is difficult, hotel location in the city deserves to be the most important criteria during the selection. The Modern sits on the edge of Waikiki next to the Hilton Hawaiian Village and within walking distance to downtown Honolulu and all of the cultural activities that exist there. While you can’t walk out of the front door on to a sandy beach, the best beach by the Hilton Hawaiian Village is only a few minute walk from the pool level of the Modern. The raised pedestrian walkway will take you straight to the Hilton Lagoon and the adjacent beach which is large and generally quiet. To explore the rest of Waikiki, just follow the beach boardwalk all the way down and enjoy the amazing views and people watching.
If shopping is what you’re up for, the Modern is a short walk to the Ala Moana shopping center with world class food and shopping. Going past Ala Moana, you end up in downtown Honolulu where walking by the beautiful government buildings or touring the only Palace in the United States, The Iolani Palace. It can make for a long walk (nearly 45 minutes) but you can see almost every sight there is in the entire downtown area during the walk from the Hotel.
The Rooms & Hotel Decor:
The real problem with Hawaiian hotels is every single brand from small to large thinks that wicker furniture and palm leaf prints should be on everything in the hotel including the wallpaper, beds, lamp shades, tile, etc. What is someone to do if they like a cleaner more contemporary vibe to call home while you’re on vacation? The options are limited. This is where The Modern Honolulu shines! Much thought went into making the rooms clean and contemporary but with just a hint of Hawaiiana. For example, the designers have kept with white linens and light or white furniture but thrown in the occasional painted ukulele as an art piece just to remind you that you ARE in Hawaii, yet not leaving you to suffer from sensory overload due to abundant tacky palm leaves. The sa
me effort has been made through the hotel common areas – bringing bold colors and a contemporary vibe with just enough wood and live plants to feel like you’re in a luxury tropical resort.
Shockingly, many hotels including the well known Grand Hyatt Waikiki have disappointing pool and lounge areas. I can only assume this comes from the misguided fact that people would rather be on the beach than by a pool. Fortunately the Modern has addressed this two fold. They have a lovely pool area with a small restaurant and bar with plenty of seating for most times of the year. The pool never seemed crowded in various times of year. However as with any hotel, there are occasionally children doing what they do in pools. The Modern has addressed this by making an all adult pool overlooking the rest of the grounds. A nice sanctuary in case there is an invasion of families (which is not normally the case at the Modern). The pools are well done with pool side service and the adult pool is strictly monitored for the occasional child that tries to sneak by the rope.
The Bars & Restaurants:
As with everything in Hawaii, food and drink is expensive. It’s no exception at The Modern. However the quality is exceptional in every respect. Even the simplest of foods like a flat bread pizza by the pool was far superior to most other poolside hotel nibbles you’d get at a resort in the area. The most unfortunate situation is the closure of Morimoto, the Iron Chef restaurant on the hotel property. While Morimoto restaurants are hit or miss in general service and quality, the one at the Modern was always exceptional. This has been replaced but a yet unproven concept called “Ravish”
The most interesting hideout within the hotel is called the “Study” lounge – hidden behind book cases in the lobby. In the evenings at 6pm, book cases in the lobby open to expose a hidden bar and lounge with comfortable seating and a chill atmosphere. It’s quite the find in bustling Waikiki!
Something we didn’t get (or more accurately CHOOSE) to experience is the highly rated Addiction Night Club. After a day in the sun and sipping endless cocktails, dealing with a mind numbing club experience while in Hawaii didn’t seem like a good way to pass the time. It does, however, receive decent reviews.
Finally, The Service:
With Hawaii and especially Waikiki being comprised of almost all service industry type jobs, you’d expect that top notch hotels could find the best of the best. I found that most of the service was overall average at The Modern. Nothing that was amazing but thankfully nothing was off-putting. The checkin process is professional but the bell service and door services were largely dismissive. Pool service was polite but slow and the food service was generally efficient but again, without much personality. It’s sad to say considering this was the only downside, albeit small, of our multiple test stays at The Modern.