Firsthand report on Outrigger Hotel renovations in Waikiki, Hawaii


I just returned from a quick trip to Oahu to take a look at what Outrigger Hotels has been up to, and to meet with some of their executive team.

A quiet evolution has been going on– safe to say the original home-based Hawaii hotel brand is reborn. Begun in 1947 by the Kelley family to offer affordable lodging in Hawaii, the company is today the largest Hawaii-based lodging company, comprising three products: the Outrigger beachfront properties (on Oahu the Outrigger Reef and Outrigger Waikiki); the value brand Ohana properties, and condominium units.

The premier property is the Outrigger Waikiki, located on one of the best stretches of beach in the heart of the Waikiki Beach area, between the pink Royal Hawaiian and the Sheraton Waikiki. The pool area is also beachfront (unlike at the Outrigger Reef), and the views (from the oceanfront rooms), particularly from the Diamond Head side, are fabulous. (Oceanfront rooms at Outrigger Waikiki have larger lanais with gliding rocking chairs.)

The lobby is welcoming with fine Hawaiian ambience, and the beachfront restaurants on property include the ever-popular Dukes’s (featuring a terrific breakfast buffet at $14.95), Hula Grill, and Chuck’s Steak House. For spa-addicts, the rooftop Waikiki Plantation Spa, while not the most luxurious, is tastefully done and offers very reasonable pricing relative to those more uppity establishments, plus a great rooftop sitting area (save for the view of hotel rooftops directly below). Activities of note at the Outrigger Waikiki are the outrigger canoe rides or surfing lessons. (The Sheraton Waikiki next door has no sandy beach due to erosion, so those who want beachfront are best directed to the Outrigger.)

A slight notch down is the Outrigger Reef, located just this side of Fort DeRussy on the edge of the prime Waikiki Beach real estate area, and across the street from the Waikiki Beach Walk and the new Trump development. The hotel is in top shape following a $110 million renovation. Room decor is very tastefully done in green and beige tones. While the rooms at both properties are comparable, the pool area at the Reef is not beachfront but wedged between buildings and does not offer a beachfront view. The ocean in front has a nice beach, but has a mostly rocky (coral) bottom (vs. sandy).

Restaurants on property include the Shore Bird and the Ocean House, both beachfront, and the lovely outdoor Kani Ka Pila Grille located poolside with an entertainment stage. The Reef is also completing their Serenity Spa. One notable activity here is the twice weekly Hawaiian vow renewal ceremonies on the beach.

Both hotels have a small display of Hawaiiana in their lobby lounges. Rooms are attractively decorated, with great bathroom amenties, and coffeemakers. The Outrigger Hotels offer free internet and local and long distance dialing within the U.S. and Canada, and have no daily resort fee. The fitness centers at both include new Precor equipment, and are complimentary to guests.

In addition, guests currently receive coupons to restaurants and shops at the new Waikiki Beach Walk retail area, which is owned by the company. The two-level Beach Walk includes some fine restaurants, including Roy’s. The Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center lies between Oahu’s two Outrigger beachfront hotels.

For those who enjoy their Hawaii vacations lazing on Waikiki’s welcoming beach, umbrellas and chairs are provided by a concession at about $40 a day.