Experiencing the Energy of Waikiki Beach at Alohilani Resort

If you’re looking to soak up the fun atmosphere at the iconic Waikiki Beach in Oahu, Alohilani Resort is a great choice. It has the pleasant, buzzing energy of a city hotel, but with all the great amenities you’d expect from a resort. In this article I’ll cover the accommodations, the pools, the dining, the environmental initiatives and the signature cultural activities that make staying here a unique experience. And of course, I’ll cover the Covid-19 safety protocols at the resort. Many thanks to Alohilani Resort for hosting us!

Travel Requirements for Hawaii

Hawaii has some very specific requirements when it comes to Covid testing for travelers. If you want all the details on that, plus what the policies are for travelers who are fully vaccinated, I go over that in this video:

The Location

Alohilani Resort is located right across the street from the iconic Waikiki Beach.
Unlike the quiet and serene Ko’Olina, where the last resort we reviewed was located, Waikiki is a really energetic, vibrant neighborhood. It reminds me a little bit of Santa Monica or South Beach, but of course, with a distinctly Hawaiian flavor. If you want to soak up the vibes here, it’s hard to beat Alohilani’s location!

The lobby at Alohilani is absolutely gorgeous, with soaring ceilings and tall wooden pillars. The design is dominated by natural materials like wood, stone and straw, which gives it a very warm feel. The showstopper though, is definitely the enormous, two-story, 280,000-gallon oceanarium. It holds 550 native Hawaiian reef fishes, from 44 different species. If your kids love marine life, they’ll really enjoy watching the fish here.

The building that houses Alohilani used to be a totally different hotel called Pacific Beach Hotel. While that hotel wasn’t super-impressive, it did have an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet that was really popular with locals. Our friends Amanda and Felix, who are Oahu locals and YouTubers, told us they have fond childhood memories from this place. When it was your birthday, there would be a scuba diver inside the oceanarium who would unfurl a “happy birthday” banner for you. Alas, the seafood buffet is no more, but the oceanarium is still here and going strong.

Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

The Accommodations

We stayed in rooms 3364 and 3366, both of which are ocean view rooms. The views from the balcony were absolutely stunning. To the right we looked over the iconic Waikiki Beach and its gorgeous blue waters. And straight ahead was the beautiful Diamond Head State Monument.

Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

The Pools

There are two pools at Alohilani: the main infinity pool and the smaller family pool. In non-pandemic times, kids are relegated to the family pool. But right now, to encourage social distancing, all guests are allowed access to both pools, that way neither one gets too crowded.

Though the pool area is located on the 5th floor, it has the feel of a rooftop pool and offers fantastic views of the ocean and the surrounding buildings. In Style magazine called Alohilani’s pool one of the “10 Most Instagram-Worthy Pools in America,” and it’s not hard to see why.

I highly recommend reserving a cabana at least one day during your stay. They’re beautifully designed, with comfortable sofas and chairs inside the cabana, and two in-pool loungers on the outside. The curtains offer total privacy, which is handy if your family needs to change clothes, for instance.

As you can imagine, the pool is very popular with guests and does get busy. So if you don’t have a cabana booked, you should definitely get here as early in the day as possible to grab some lounge chairs, because it does fill up fast.

Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

The Cultural Experiences

One thing that makes Alohilani special is that they offer a whole breadth of experiences that allow guests to gain a much deeper understanding of Hawaii’s history and traditional cultural practices.

Our family had the honor of participating in a traditional Hawaiian ceremonial saltwater cleansing, or ocean blessing with Andria Valenzona, Activities and Cultural Ambassador at Alohilani. It was a really moving experience for all of us and I’m so grateful to Andria for sharing this part of her culture with us.

Many of the other activities Alohilani offers take place on-site. There are lei-making and hula dance lessons, there’s a Queen’s Legacy Tour where you can learn all about Queen Lili’uokalani, the last monarch of Hawaii. There’s also the opportunity to watch the twice-daily fish feedings at the oceanarium, where you can talk to the aquarists to learn all about Hawaii’s marine life.

Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

The Reforestation Initiative

If you stay at Alohilani, you’ll notice that the resort adds a $5 “tree fee” to your bill. That’s because the property⁠ has pledged to plant 100,000 trees with the non-profit Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative, helping to revive Hawaii’s endangered hardwood species and rehabilitate a native ecosystem. And that $5 “tree fee” you pay goes straight to this reforestation program.

Alohilani even offers guests the opportunity to take part in their own tree-planting ceremony at Gunstock Ranch! This was one of our favorite experiences during our time in Oahu. ⁠⁠We rode on horseback to the “Alohilani forest,” where Sean and Ella each got to plant their own tree.

It was a beautiful ceremony. Our guides poured water on the newly planted tree from traditional Hawaiian ipus, or gourd vessels, while the girls cupped the leaves in their hands and imparted their good wishes and positive energy for the baby tree. ⁠⁠

Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

The Dining

Momosan Ramen & Sake

This is a casual Japanese dining concept from Chef Masaharu Morimoto, of Iron Chef fame. The restaurant has a beautiful outdoor patio. It’s open for lunch and dinner, but we actually came here for breakfast. You can order typical breakfast fare like acai bowls, or eggs and hash browns But we particularly enjoyed the Hawaiian and Japanese dishes.
I developed a slight obsession with spam musubi on this trip, and the one at Momosan was excellent. Sean and Ella really enjoyed the niku udon. And I ordered the wa cho-shoku, a traditional Japanese breakfast that consists of grilled fish, white rice, greens and pickles, and it was really good.

Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Swell Restaurant and Pool Bar

This is located at the pool, and it’s open from 10 am to 10 pm everyday. We got to try them out when we had a cabana for the day. The pupus, or appetizers, were great. We really enjoyed the Crispy Coconut Shrimp and the Hawaiian Chili Pepper Chicken Wings. We also tried the fish tacos, and the Buddha Bowl, which we liked a lot. Swell also has a full cocktail menu, and of course their signature mai tai was excellent!

Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Piccola Onda

One other dining option we didn’t get a chance to try is the food truck that’s located right by the “Greetings From Hawaii” ground mural. Called Piccola Onda, it serves casual Italian fare like pasta and sandwiches.

Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Covid-19 Safety Protocols

Masks are required in all public areas, indoors and outdoors. Of course, as long as you’re socially distanced, you don’t have to wear a mask at the pool. There are hand sanitizer stations and social distancing decals throughout the property. Every room comes with a sanitation kit that includes masks, hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes. Hand sanitizer is available at every restaurant, and you can opt to read the menu on your phone using a QR code. Momosan will also ask you to write down your contact information for contact tracing purposes.

What’s Open, and What’s Not

There are a few things at Alohilani that are temporarily unavailable. Morimoto Asia is the property’s signature restaurant, and it hasn’t reopened yet. Longboard Club is the club-level lounge, and it was closed while we were there. As of this recording, it’s tentatively scheduled to re-open in May.

If you’ve stayed at Alohilani before, a few of the amenities you may have enjoyed last time will unfortunately not be reopening. The spaces occupied by the restaurant Lychee and the O Bar will be reimagined and repurposed. There used to be a kids club on-site too, but since it was always under-utilized, the resort will be repurposing that space in the future as well.

About Carmen Sognonvi

Carmen Sognonvi is a luxury family travel content creator at Top Flight Family, named a top 10 family travel Instagram account by Time Out New York and Brit + Co. Her insights on travel have been featured in The Washington Post, INSIDER, Huffington Post, Wanderlust Travel Magazine, TravelPulse, HOTELS Magazine, and more. Carmen firmly believes that you can (and should) travel with your kids from a young age. She offers families practical solutions for travel, as well as tips on how to travel in luxury for less. She lives in New York City with her multiracial and multicultural family of four. Follow her on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

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