Hotel Review: Outrigger Reef on the Beach
By Kathy Chin Leong
I always thought of the Outrigger chain as essential to the Hawaiian landscape as Diamond Head crater and Pearl Harbor. The Outriggers have always seemed to be marketed as affordable, clean, and utilitarian pads to sack out. However, my recent stay at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach now bumps up the prestige points so that this hotel fits comfortably into in the affordable, luxury category for a myriad of reasons.
With rates starting at $199 for a city view, the rooms are voluminous at 340 to 405 square feet. This summer the hotel unveiled a spanking new remodel that cost a whopping $110 million. New furnishings, knocked down walls, new entryway layout, swanky new black bottom pool – the works.
Outrigger originally owned and built the property in 1955, so that tells you that the property is pretty historic, being one of the first hotels in Waikiki. Like Ala Moana shopping center and shave ice, Outriggers are essential to the traditional Hawaiian tourism scene.
The hotel had 883 rooms before the remodel, but now there are 639 larger rooms, and a total of 37 suites. What a relief to be able to spread out in a standard room instead of feeling cramped.
The outdoor oasis swimming pool and hot tubs have been completely restyled with lovely tiles, and the cement surfaces and plantings are fresh. In the lobby, instead of a traditional high counter for check-in, there are comfy chairs and a lineup of attractive desks where you can come in to register. You can get out of your car, drop your luggage, and simply plop down in a chair, literally taking a huge load off your feet. What a lovely way to welcome guests like this. Instead of standing and leaning, visitors get to sit down and have a nice conversation with the check-in attendants who quickly go through the keyboard gymnastics to check you in a speedy manner.
Our room was indeed spacious with a view of the ocean and a short lanai on the eighth floor. We loved the subtle old world, Hawaiian appeal. We weren’t assaulted with loud colors, but zenlike earth tones and tasteful leafy and bamboo textures and prints that sent out the subliminal message: rest, relax, stay awhile…
The king bed was deliriously decadent with crisp white sheets and a mattress so comfortable I wanted to steal it. And the amenities were terrific. Flat screen tv? Check. Mini-fridge? Check.
Complimentary Internet connectivity? Check. Free, unlimited U.S. and Canadian calls? Yep. Pretty awesome, eh?
The hotel features all the conveniences you would expect from a traditional five-star hotel, and then some, and you don’t get nickel-and-dimed to death. A small convenience store is located on the lobby level in case you want to pick up a bag of chips or cookies at a reasonable price. There is also on-site laundry facilities-perfect for young families.
On-site are two restaurants in the back of the hotel: the casual Shore Bird with daily buffets and nightly karaoke, and the higher-end Ocean House restaurant, both right on the beach. We indulged in breakfast at Ocean House and were blessed by azure views, and the sand was steps away from our table.
The Kani Ka Pila Grille near the pool features a third dining option. You can order breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What we loved here was the small stage where daily Hawaiian live music is performed by local talent. Each night we made sure to be back from a day of activity to be able to listen to the musicians who were crooning and strumming with all their hearts from 6-9 p.m. I did wish that they would play until 10 p.m.
New this year is the intimate and well-appointed Serenity Spa on site, run by an independent company. I had enjoyed a massage, lomi-lomi style, and hoped it would never end.
The Outrigger has done a fabulous job in this physical remodel and in crafting conveniences and amenities that anticipate a guests every need and want.
In addition, the Outrigger’s reflection of authentic Hawaiian culture is greatly respected through products its art galleries and clothing stores. Free services such as the Tueday and Friday morning marriage vow-renewal ceremonies have lured in guests from all over the world. The hotel offers a weekly free walking tour of the area and also do-it-yourself craft sessions that include making Hawaiian name tags with guests’ names translated into Hawaiian.
To be at this place located in the heart of Waikiki gave me happy feet. We were walking distance to the other hotels, restaurants, and to my husband’s chagrin- lots of shops. And at the same time, the hotel is set back from the main street, so it was very quiet for us being up on the eighth floor as well.
BOTTOM LINE: Outrigger Reef on the Beach is an excellent choice for families and couples who want to stay in Waikiki and want to be close to all the action, but away from unnecessary noise. With every convenience at your fingertips such as doorstep access to the beach, food, and shopping, you will be spoiled. But that's okay. You're on vacation!
Outrigger Reef on the Beach
2169 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, Hawaii 96815-1989
See link for list of weekly activities:
Rates: $199 nightly and up.
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