Wednesday, May 6, 2015

HONOLULU: The Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort

Although it had been years since my last stay at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, I recalled it being an excellent experience, so my expectations for my recent return visit were high. I was not disappointed.

During my first visit, I was struck by the property’s location. Located right on Waikiki Beach and next door to the famous Pink Palace, the views of and from the beach are unparalleled: the sand, the surf, Diamond Head to the east, amazing sunsets to the west. In fact, I took my favorite picture of Diamond Head from the balcony of my room during my previous visit.

Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head
In addition to its proximity to the action, the property itself is quite nice. The lobby is welcoming with island-themed d├ęcor and an outrigger canoe near the registration desk, at which guests sit to check in rather than stand. The adjacent Voyager Lounge provides a place to sit and relax. Guest rooms, refreshed approximately two years ago, remain contemporary and vibrant. Two on-site restaurants – Duke’s and Hula Grill – a spa and several shops off the lower lobby make it a destination in and of itself. But what really sets it apart is the service.

Properties in a popular location like Waikiki could be lulled into resting on their laurels. After all, when you’re on prime property, there area people who will want to stay with you almost regardless of any other factor. But Outrigger sets a higher standard for its properties and the service at the Waikiki Beach Resort is excellent.

On my recent visit, to cover the 13th annual Spam Jam, I arrived before the appointed 3 p.m. check-in time and learned my room was still to be cleaned. The desk clerk offered me an alternate room but, when I decided to wait, offered to store my luggage and alert me when my room was ready.

After a quick glass of wine overlooking the beach and the ocean, I was advised that my room had been prepared and that my suitcase would be sent up; no need to retrieve it from the bell stand. I opened the door to my room to see that it had actually arrived before I did. High marks there.

Guest room 916
Surveying the room, I saw the usual amenities we’ve come to expect today: flat screen TV, iron and ironing board, coffee pot, safe, and a work station with Wi-Fi (which actually covers most of the restaurants and common areas as well). The speed of the Internet connection, as measured by SpeakEasy.net/speedtest, was typical of most hotels at which I’ve stayed: about 1 Mbps.

A balcony with a small table and two chairs provided some outside space and, in the case of room 916, a nice view of the water.

I did not see a bathrobe in the room – one on my favorite creature comforts while traveling – but a phone call to housekeeping brought one to my door within minutes.

Two minor caveats about the guest room. First, the desk chair is not an office task chair, which makes it a bit less comfortable than it could be if working at the desk for long periods. However, the business center downstairs can be used if you absolutely have to work for long stretches (it IS Hawaii, after all!).

Salmon and bagel at the Hula Grill
The second is the size of the bath tub. A fair bit of space is devoted to a very generous closet off the outer room of the bathroom (in which the safe, ironing board, and stands for one’s luggage reside). The outer room itself includes a single sink on a double vanity that provides plenty of room for two (or more) people to get ready at the same time. The small inner room has a toilet and a tub/shower combination, though the tub is a mini-tub only about 42 inches long. That’s large enough to sit while taking a bath but not large enough to recline and luxuriate. But then, neither the pool nor the ocean is that far away.

No matter how nice a physical property is, service can make or break a guest’s experience. In the case of the Waikiki Beach Resort, service was consistently excellent. Without exception, every staff member I passed in the hall, lobby, or elevator smiled and said either “Hello” or, more usually, “Aloha”, which is as it should be in an upmarket property. Further, the servers at the Hula Grill were quite knowledgeable about the restaurant’s offerings, making suggestions and offering to explain the difference between their “loco moco” and the version served by the island’s famous Rainbow Drive-In. (The drive-in’s dish, they said, was more traditional while the Hula Grill “had some fun with it” and gave it a contemporary twist.)

Hotel from the beach
When it came time to get the car, whether to run around the island or because I was checking out, the valets were quick, courteous and observant. One pointed out that a tire on my rental car seemed low and directed me to a nearby gas station where I could inflate it before driving back to the airport. Again, high marks for service.

Located directly on Waikiki, the Waikiki Beach Resort is definitely in the thick of things. Kalakaua Ave., with its collection of high-end shops, stores, and upscale restaurants, is practically the Rodeo Drive of Honolulu, and the side street are just as popular (read: busy). That means guests needn’t rent a car unless intent on venturing beyond Waikiki, but it also means the action is right outside the front door, and it starts fairly early and goes late. If that aligns with your particular travel style, I highly recommend the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.



Photos by Carl Dombek
Click photos to view larger images

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