As you walk past rows and rows of sailboats and yachts, you’ll forget you’re in Honolulu and think you’ve been transported to a remote sailing town in Maine or someplace similar. But one look across the street at the high-rise hotel will remind you that you’re in Hawaii’s hub. An interesting location for a lively hotel like The Modern Honolulu, the yacht harbor takes you away from the gritty and tourist-ridden side of Waikiki without taking you too far.
The Modern Honolulu’s crisp white façade is representative of what waits inside.
As you go through a wood-covered walkway and enter the lobby, your eyes will be drawn to its one piece of art: a mosaic made up of broken pieces of surfboard hanging behind the reception desk. The surfboards were snapped in action and signed by their famous riders, reminding you of the hotel’s badassery, which is only complimented by the bookshelf across the lobby—it’s cooler than it sounds, more on that later. The rest of the lobby is mostly white (aside from the hardwood floors), including the columns that hold up the low ceiling and orchids that sit atop the reception desk. Stylishly separated from the lobby by black partitions, the elevators wait to take you to your own private oasis.
These are the types of rooms that can inspire you to be neat. Like what you’ve seen of the property so far, white awaits behind the door—from the crisp linens to the off-white leather headboards to the cream wood dresser. Pops of color can be found on a little shelf adorning the wall, which presents the only semblance of art you’ll find in the room. A bright ukulele sits summoning your fingers and colorful Hawaiian-style towels hang free for use, leaving the bare white walls surprisingly refreshing. Floor to ceiling wood shutters slide to the side to reveal a view of the city or the beach, depending on the room type.
No matter what room you choose, the windows are massive, but the more you pay, the bigger they get. The wraparound terraces of the corner suites with views of the harbor and beach are worth the splurge, if you’re into that sort of thing (who isn’t?).
Back to the random bookshelf that spans the width of the lobby. Like in the secret rooms of the mansions you have fantasized about and seen in movies, this bookshelf is actually a door. However, instead of hidden family heirlooms or a secret hallway, it leads to the lobby’s aptly named bar, The Study. By day, the structure remains in tact, filled with books and tablets. At 6 p.m. every night, it rotates to reveal a neutral palette and clean lines. The surprisingly large lounge is bathed in—you guessed it—white. A big gray carpet extends from your feet to the cream bar where white stools with yellow cushions beckon your behinds. If those aren’t comfy enough for you, plop onto the endless sleek couches that line the walls, where it’s almost guaranteed a stranger will nestle up next to you. Other than the seating pushed off to the sides, They Study is an open space, welcoming anything but studying. While the bar space is typical, the entrance is anything but. Waiting for the wall to rotate open, you’ll feel like you’re in a game of Clue or entering a special passageway in Buckingham Palace.
The Modern Honolulu has a beachfront pool and multiple dining options—including a Morimoto outpost. However, if you want some sand or crave a local dining experience, Waikiki beach is within walking distance and plenty of hole-in-the-wall gems can be found along the way.
Address: 1775 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu, Oahu
Website: The Modern Honolulu
Room Rates: $284 – $415
Maggie Parker is Paste Magazine’s assistant travel editor.