After a dreamy week in Hawaii, I have a slew of food and drink recommendations to share. Part one of these covered farmers market and street food in Honolulu and snacks from the North Shore of Oahu. This time, we sleep and drink in Honolulu. In part three, we’ll talk Honolulu restaurants.
Though I arrived islandside with a head full of romantic, slightly improbable Blue Hawaii dreams -- me wearing a vintage bathing suit, lei, and a mai tai being serenaded by Elvis -- my vacation reality was no letdown. No doubt the touristy scourge of chain shops, restaurants, and photo-snapping throngs do indeed exist in Waikiki, but contrary to what some told me, Hawaii's largest city can be clean and relaxed. Though you truly find "island time" on Kauai and quieter locales, Honolulu is by no means hectic (if you ignore the traffic). It is that island city where you can while away hours at the beach, explore hole-in-the-wall eats, or listen to live music as the sun sets.
Hotel Renew, Waikiki Beach:
With Asian-modern, Zen-like decor, clean lines and big city chic, these rooms are a welcome respite from the all-day party of Waikiki surfers and sunbathers. No pool or beachfront property here, though upper rooms on the south side have views of the beach. After long walks and lots of sun, I was grateful to enter the heavy front doors of Renew and be welcomed by the tinkle of the lobby’s water fountain. I'd grab a glass of water laced with fresh oranges and head up to my room with ultra-comfy bed and an ocean view.
The winning points of Hotel Renew, which is located on the eastern end of Waikiki, is affordability and peace. Plus, you can always take their complimentary boogie boards and towels a block away to the beach. But the best part? As overpriced as Waikiki can be, here you can get a room on a busy weekend for $180 to $225 a night.
The cocktail renaissance is finally hitting Hawaii. Here’s a handful of places and bartenders forging the way.
Lobby Bar at The Waikiki Edition:
Although it is to be found by pushing aside a bookshelf in a hotel lobby, the Lobby Bar is no speakeasy -- it's a white, urban bar with muted lighting and long couches with a semi-exclusive, yet unpretentious air in The Edition, a hot hotel perfect for ultra-cool poolside lounging.
Bar manager Sam Treadway hails direct from Boston's best-known cocktail bar, Drink and he’s clearly loving the warm island breezes, playing off of the canon of island classics, like the deconstructed mai tai ($11). Treadway has toned down the drink's characteristic sweetness, amping up the rum (Pyrat XO) and orgeat (almond syrup) and topping it off with mai tai foam and a shiso leaf. He served me a lovely rum manhattan made with Montecristo 12 year rum, and he’s also handy with mezcal. The Agony and the Ecstasy ($11 – nice literary reference) is a winning mix of Del Maguey’s Mezcal Vida, St. Germain, and fresh grapefruit juice, topped with a house ginger beer. Spicy, smoky, gently sweet.
The cherry on top? Treadway combines Mezcal Vida, Campari, and soda to create, yes, a mezcal negroni. I long for the day when I can get one here, in my own negroni-obsessed city.