Like many kids born in Hawaii, I grew up with parents who worked in the hotel and tourism industry. Waikiki was the epicenter of luxury hotels, cultural events, and Oahu’s unique brand of island-style cosmopolitanism. I spent my childhood visiting all the top hotels in Waikiki, but there was always one that stood out from the rest – Halekulani. Once a month, my mom would dress me and my brothers up for Halekulani’s signature Sunday brunch (or “fancy lunch,” as I called it). Even as a toddler, I recall Sunday brunch at Halekulani being a special experience. There was always a warm and welcoming ambiance to the hotel; and when I checked in to Halekulani recently during a homecoming trip to Hawaii, I was greeted with that same, familiar feeling.

Luxury Accommodations in Waikiki

Halekulani excels at blending laid-back relaxation with moments of pure luxury. When I walked into my room on the 15th floor, soft Hawaiian music was playing from a TV screen with my name displayed across it. There was also a platter of fresh papaya and a bottle of wine, along with a welcome note. The cherry on top was opening the doors to the balcony and finding the most exquisite ocean view, overlooking Halekulani’s iconic restaurant, House Without A Key. This made for the perfect last night in Hawaii, when I lounged on the balcony with a glass of wine, listening to a live band perform with the sound of the surf behind them – all, from the privacy of my own room.

As if the room wasn’t luxurious enough, Halekulani has the most comfortable king-sized bed and pillows I’ve ever slept on. I’ve stayed at several 5-star properties, and this was the first time I had ever gotten into bed and fallen asleep without rearranging a single pillow. When guests are traveling in from around the world to attend a destination wedding in Oahu, this is the type of luxury accommodations they will want to have.

A House Befitting Heaven

The name Halekulani translates to, “A House Befitting Heaven,” which perfectly sums up the ambiance of the property. An in-house florist provides exquisite tropical floral arrangements that are displayed throughout the property. Even when I was waiting for my car service to arrive, I was sitting on a bench in a quiet corner covered in vines and orchids, while little birds perched on the vines and sang. It’s an especially gorgeous setting for wedding photos, and I later spotted a beautiful bride and groom having their first-look photos taken among the orchids.

Dining at Orchids

By far, the highlight of my stay at Halekulani was dining at Orchids. I was joined by the lovely Bonnie Bise, the hotel’s PR Manager, and the friendly staff brought out the most delectable array of dishes to sample. We started with some perfectly made Mai Tais, followed by: Kona kampachi carpaccio, Hamachi, lobster bisque, mushroom risotto, branzino, grilled octopus, lasagnette with prawns and scallops, white chocolate mousse cake with kalamansi lychee gelee and pineapple sponge, and Halekulani’s world-famous coconut cake. The coconut cake has been my mom’s favorite since before I was born, and locals refer to it as “Old Faithful.” To make dining at Orchids even more spectacular, we met at golden hour. With Diamond Head in the background and a row of sailboats crossing in front of the setting sun, the whole scene couldn’t have been more stunning.

For couples getting married at Halekulani, wedding menus are in good hands with the hotel’s catering staff. The freshly caught seafood is almost unreal in its quality, and every dish looks like art on a plate. Orchids would also make a beautiful location for rehearsal dinners, as it showcases Waikiki at its best – world-class dining with epic scenery.

A Prime Location in Waikiki

Halekulani has a prime, oceanfront location in Waikiki that is walking distance to designer shops and local attractions, while other top tourist spots are only a short car ride away. I even spent a few days scuba diving with Kaimana Divers, and I arrived at the marina every morning in less than 10 minutes. Coincidentally, while taking a break from diving with Hawaii’s massive green sea turtles, I met another diver from Canada who had gotten married at Halekulani about 30 years ago. He only had wonderful things to say about his destination wedding experience, and it was so special to hear how Halekulani has created so many fond memories for people from around the world, spanning several generations.

In addition to its convenient location, one of the best bonuses for guests of Halekulani is the room key, which I like to call “the key to Oahu.” Presenting your room key gets you complimentary access to some of the island’s best cultural attractions such as Manoa Heritage Center, ‘Iolani Palace, Honolulu Museum of Art, and – my favorite – the Bishop Museum.

Five-Star Service

Halekulani’s aesthetics, dining, and luxury accommodations are second to none; but what stands out most is the five-star service. From the moment guests arrive, there’s a genuine sense of Aloha and a level of service that is anticipatory without being overwhelming. I had the best time chatting with Bonnie and the restaurant staff at Orchids as they described each dish to me; I loved talking story with the concierge whose dad may have worked with my dad decades ago on the Orchids catering staff; and the nightly turn-down amenities were a thoughtful and sentimental touch to the guest experience.

Even with so many luxury hotels and resorts to choose from nowadays, it’s rare to come across a hotel that you can visit for the first time (or for the first time in 30 years) and experience a feeling of comfort and familiarity. It doesn’t matter where in the world you’re visiting from, or if it’s your first time in Hawaii. When you come to Halekulani, you’ll feel as if you’re coming home.

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>Written By: Lauren Malamala