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I’m sitting at the O Bar, my vision ever so slightly skewed from the Bacardi Ocho in my third Mai Tai.
My bar stool overlooks the show-stopping double-story 280,000-gallon fish tank where the pig-nosed Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, Moorish Idol and Four Spot Butterflyfish swim languid.
House DJ Keala Kennelly, who is also a surfing world champion, plays her Friday night set, the cute crowd moving shoulders and hips in time to her deeply sexy lounge beats.
The enormity of the space in lobby is something rarely seen in Waikiki. It’s an international style that feels luxurious and releases you into the escape of a vacation.
By nine, I’ve spent an hour side eying a gorgeous young woman, twenty perhaps, fiddle and twist an older statesman’s buttons. As Bob Marley might remark were he not forty years dead, Is this love?
I’m alone. My room calls.
But, now, three Mai Tai’s deep I’ve got the claw for another.
After two botched elevator choices, I arrive at the candlelit rooftop pool deck called Swell Bar. I walk in, past open buttoned Marc Jacobs shirts and Zimmerman shifts. A hip crowd. Think: The Cosmo in Vegas. Maybe The Hollywood Standard on a Thursday night, back when it owned LA.
I gawk at the innate architectural details. It’s a combo of Hawaiian timber, Hamptons oceanside and California modern. I arrive at the teal tiled bar underneath barefoot lanterns.
The bartender passes a menu.
“No menu. I’ll have a Ka Huna Kai. Please…”
The next morning the curtains are drawn and a ray of sun bores through a small gap. The king bed is a speck in the oversized room.
This isn’t a luxury that you would have found a decade ago in Waikiki. This is new Waikiki. A defined style of tropical luxury. Light timbers, white sheets, sandy carpet and carefully curated furnishings and trimmings.
The shades are flung open and the main attraction is revealed. A morning panoramic view of the sand and sheer reef through crystal waters from Diamond Head to the point where the Sheraton Waikiki stands. A hustle of colourful catamarans, outriggers and the largest gathering of VALs the world has ever seen.
Hawaii’s great gift lies out here, one hundred and fifty metres directly offshore. It’s where you lay with the sun on your back and gaze back towards Diamond Head and the skyline of Waikiki towers.
You let the salt tongue your skin and wash away the Mai Tai’s.
I look back at the shore.
After three decades of travelling here the buildings look familiar.
But there’s been a renaissance in Waikiki, a tidy up, whatever you may call it.
And one of the most spectacular risings from this is the ‘Alohilani.