Here’s the general criteria to consider; If you were magically transported to a hotel lobby on Oahu, without being informed that you were on the island, would you immediately figure out that you were in Hawaii? If not, the property doesn’t pass the test. The following Oahu hotels however, are unmistakably Hawaiian, and therefore offer the authentic experience you’re looking for.
5 Hotels on Oahu That Provide for an Authentic Hawaiian Experience
Royal Hawaiian Hotel
You know you’re truly in Hawaii from the moment you step into the lobby
There’s no denying the iconic Pink Palace’s place on this list. Established in 1929, the luxury hotel once served as a playground for Hawaiian royalty. Marriott, who acquired the resort, has honored the legacy of the hotel, adorning the walls and common areas with masterworks from Hawaiian artisans, vintage alaia surfboards, and a great collection of framed photos, ads, and wares from the mid-twentieth century that transport guests to the golden age when cruise ships and Pan American Airways dropped visitors off on the island.
Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort
Adorning the upper lobby with Hawaiian Ti leaves
Outrigger has four branded properties on Oahu, including the Reef, Malia, Beachcomber, and the Waikiki Beach Resort. All four could have made this list, but the latter takes the honors. For one, it’s home to Duke’s Restaurant and Barefoot Bar, the most Hawaiian of all dining establishments in Waikiki. in addition to the Hula Grill. The resort is also decorated from top to bottom in all sorts of Hawaiian ornamentation, including koa wood paddles, ti-leaves, and a beautiful outrigger canoe on the second floor. Resort activities include ukulele lessons and crafts, and if you want to surprise your spouse with a splash of romance you can partake in a Hawaiian vow renewal ceremony that occurs each week.
Queen Kapiolani Hotel
Lei-making workshops in the lobby
The best overall hotel in Waikiki Beach earns its distinction for a number of reasons, and honoring Hawaiian culture is one of them. The property is named after Kapiʻolani Napelakapuokakaʻe, who was the consort of Mōʻī Kalākaua who reigned over the Hawaiian Kingdom from 1874 to 1891. After this death Kapiʻolani became known as the Dowager Queen Kapiʻolani. On the second floor you’ll find the Royal Art Gallery featuring an expansive wall that exhibits stunning portraits of Kapiʻolani along with other royals. You get a hotel and museum when booking a stay at this property. On the first level, you’ll find a more contemporary take on the culture, with surfboards and murals depicting a more playful side of island life. The lower lobby also hosts the GreenRoom Gallery where you can buy vibrant works from local artists, in addition to Hans Hedemann Surf School where you can book a lesson and learn the true Sport of Kings. There are also lei-making classes in the lobby each week. A favorite highlight of the property for most however, is the Deck on the 3rd floor, which is a large poolside bar and eatery that stares out towards Diamond Head crater. The Deck features live music performances from some of Hawaii’s up and coming musicians.
Princess Kaiulani Hotel
Tikis guard the outdoor common areas at Princess Kaiulani
The minute you step foot onto the property you’ll note the hand carved tikis that guard the expansive swimming pool and guest lounge area. This is just the beginning of your journey within this distinctly Hawaiian resort. The hotel is named after Victoria Kawēkiu Kaʻiulani Lunalilo Kalaninuiahilapalapa Cleghorn, or more succinctly, Princess Kaʻiulani, who played a major role in the fight for sovereignty after the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. While her campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, her legacy is most certainly felt throughout the halls.
Ongoing exhibits throughout the property honor Hawaiian surf culture
Constructed in the late 19th century as the first hotel in Waikiki, the Moana Surfrider opened its doors to the world in 1901. On the surface the romanesque columns outside may throw you for a loop, but once you step inside you’ll witness how the resort pays homage to Hawaiian culture. The first and second floor common areas play the role of museum, exhibiting photographs, paintings, and artifacts complete with literature to remind guests exactly where they are and how wave riding is such and integral part of what makes Waikiki what it is today. Moana Surfrider is one of the most expensive properties on the island, but you get what you pay for when it comes to enjoying an authentic experience.
~ ALOHA ~