There’s never been a better time to jet off to Hawaii. From the shiny new International Market Place shopping precinct in Waikiki, to the best place to feast on a poke bowl, Hawaiian art and architecture, here are five great reasons to get lei’d now.
Hawaiian hotels have traditionally veered more towards the mega and the mighty, with many hundreds of rooms facing the ocean. For those with a taste for smaller boutique hotels, there’s now reason to rejoice in Waikiki, albeit a couple of blocks back from the sand. The Laylow, Autograph Collection is a chic hotel with a mid-century modern Hawaiian vibe that permeates everything from the reception area to the tropical saltwater pool with inbuilt reclining chairs. Books about Hawaii style, decor and history line the shelves, while bright retro wallpaper lines the walls. Look out for the collection of vintage hula dolls behind the front desk (most are more than 50 years old), pick up a colourful ‘shave ice’ by the pool every afternoon and relax on designer furniture from half a century ago. Don Draper would have stayed here.
Asset acquisition has always been a favourite pastime in Hawaii, and the shopping opportunities continue to grow. If it’s bargains you seek, hop on the trolley out to Waikele Premium Outlets or browse the racks at Ross Dress for Less where deep discounts of up to 80 per cent off retail prices can be found.
If you’re looking for luxe labels, there’s no need to leave Waikiki. Opened a year ago, International Market Place is located in the heart of Waikiki and offers more than 80 high-end restaurants and shops (including Saks Fifth Avenue). Celebrity chef Michael Mina’s new food hall concept, THE STREET, is the first in the United States.
More than just a place to shop and eat, International Market Place also offers a cultural experience of the Hawaiian islands. There are talks and historical re-enactments of Hawaii’s early days, lei-making demonstrations and open-air movies.
High, low, traditional or fusion - whatever you’re hungry for, Hawaii has it in spades. For a Sunday sunset session like no other, head to Duke’s Waikiki. Located directly on the beach as part of Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, Duke’s attracts the best of island talent for Sunday concerts, ukulele displays and mai-tai drinking celebrations. Expect to meet world-famous surfers, fashionista bloggers, locals and visitors from around the world. Feast on traditional ‘apps’ like panko fried calamari and hot wings.
One of the most exciting restaurants of the moment is Hideout at The Laylow. Featuring Hawaii Regional Cuisine in an open-terrace, torchlit space, the menu is inventive and delicious. Who knew sticky pork belly and flash-fried Brussels sprouts could taste so good? Ahi tuna poke bowls, Kalua pork and wagyu beef burgers also hit all the right notes. Expect to queue on Saturday nights, unless you're a hotel guest.
If you can drag yourself away from the beach and the shops to do one cultural thing in Hawaii, consider a visit to Shangri la. Heiress Doris Duke’s fabled mega mansion at the water’s edge near Diamond Head is now a museum displaying the priceless Islamic art she collected in her lifetime. Architecture enthusiasts will go gaga for the stunning details of the house, pool and grounds, the scene of many legendary parties while Duke was alive.
Tickets for the guided tour are strictly limited and almost always sell out, so be sure to plan and book in advance at the Honolulu Museum of Art. Tours leave from and return to the museum, where there is also an excellent gift store where you can buy books about Shangri la.
For information on the latest Hawaii specials, see our deals online, visit your local Escape Travel store or call 1300 273 482.