As the economic hub of Hawaii, Honolulu isn’t just a tourist destination. It’s also a vibrant metropolitan city with thriving healthcare, agricultural, hospitality, and technology industries. With the year-round warm and sunny weather, world-class beaches, stunning natural scenery, and endless outdoor recreation mixed with the rich arts and culture scene, diverse cuisine, and high-end shopping, residents enjoy the perfect work-live-play balance. But if you feel like escaping without having to go too far, here are the five best staycation destinations in Honolulu.
The Ritz Carlton Residences
In the heart of Waikiki, The Ritz-Carlton Residences features residential condominiums in a luxurious, resort-style setting. Perfect for an indulgent staycation, short-term rentals for Honolulu residents (and visitors) are available. They offer different one- to four-bedroom suites with balconies, ocean views, living spaces, gourmet kitchens, and bathrooms with deep soaking tubs. But the ultimate accommodations are their penthouse residences, which feature high ceilings, private rooftop decks, hot tubs, and plunge pools.
Guests have access to resort amenities. There are two infinity resort pools, a state-of-the-art fitness center, and a media center. The Ritz-Carlton Spa has separate men’s and women’s lounges and offers massages, body treatments, and facials. For dining, Quiora serves rustic Italian cuisine with views of the terrace. La Vie specializes in refined French cuisine with outdoor dining and bay views. With advance planning, you can get a reservation at Sushi So, a ten-seat restaurant serving exquisite Edo-style omakase. They only do two seatings at night.
A renowned beachfront luxury resort, Halekulani Hotel offers Honolulu vacation rentals with private lanais and oceanfront views. Spanning over five acres on the iconic Waikiki Beach, this stunning oasis is like a step back in time to Hawaii’s golden age. You’ll hear traditional Hawaiian music over the sound of crashing waves. You’ll see locals and visitors in bright Hawaiian shirts watching hula dancers perform beside the resort’s 135-year-old kiawe tree.
The full-service Spa Halekulani is the first luxury spa in Waikiki to blend the traditional healing methods of the Pacific with holistic treatments and massages. Their iconic, oval-shaped pool features a charming mosaic design made of 1.2 million pieces of glass tiles. And their fitness studio offers complimentary classes for guests, from morning stretching to body sculpting classes.
For dining, La Mer has been serving award-winning, island-inspired French cuisine for over 30 years. It’s Hawaii’s only Forbes five-star and AAA Five Diamond restaurant. Paired with the elegant oceanfront setting, this is truly an unforgettable dining experience. Known for sunset views, live Hawaiian music, and signature mai tais, House Without A Key is Halekulani's iconic poolside restaurant. They offer a diverse cuisine of fresh seafood, grilled dishes, brick-oven pizzas, and other favorites.
Beach Villas at Ko Olina
Set on the west side of O’ahu, The Beach Villas at Ko Olina is an oceanfront condominium resort with residences and Honolulu vacation rentals. Each luxury two- or three-bedroom villa features a spacious lanai, panoramic ocean views, separate living and dining areas, and a Roy Yamaguchi-designed chef’s kitchen.
The units are located in two distinct towers. The Ocean Tower goes up 16 floors. Here you’ll find a state-of-the-art fitness center and a lap pool. The second Beach Tower has 11 floors, and it’s closer to the lagoon and children’s pools. Additional amenities include outdoor barbeque grills, steam rooms, and the Makai Hale Beach Bar. They also offer in-villa massage therapy.
For golf enthusiasts, the nearby Ko Olina Golf Club features a Ted Robinson-designed 18-hole course, a 300-yard driving range, a 2,000-square-foot practice putting green, and a clubhouse. There are eight PGA Professionals on staff offering private lessons, beginners’ classes, and golf clinics.
Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa
Also in Ko Olina, Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa is a unique family-friendly resort. Vacation rentals are Hawaiian-themed, and guests can choose from a variety of accommodations. There are regular rooms and suites, or you can opt for the two-bedroom Disney Vacation Club villas and grand villas, which come equipped with a full kitchen, private bedrooms, spacious living rooms, and a washer-dryer set.
Guests have access to a private beach and a host of resort amenities, including several pools, a lazy river, and a splash zone. The resort also hosts numerous activities and experiences. Aunty’s Beach House is a supervised activity center where children can learn arts and crafts or play games. They put on festivities, performances, and a buffet-style dinner at the nightly luau. Or you and your family can go on a guided catamaran and horseback riding tours.
The Kahala Hotel and Resort
Considered one of the top luxury hotels in Honolulu, The Kahala Hotel and Resort offers elegant and spacious accommodations, ranging from hotel rooms to two-bedroom suites that can fit up to eight people. Every room or suite has an ocean or garden view. This location is on a more serene and less crowded stretch on the southern coast of O’ahu.
Since its opening in 1964, The Kahala Hotel and Resort has attracted numerous celebrity guests and dignitaries, earning it the nickname “Kahally-wood.” Famous guests have included John Wayne, George Harrison, Frank Sinatra, Lyndon Johnson, Princess Diana, George W. Bush, and Hawaii native Barack Obama. You’ll find photographs and autographs of the many famous people that have stayed here on the Kahala “Wall of Fame.”
Resort amenities include The Kahala Spa, a private beach, a pool, and a gym. The resort is also home to several iconic restaurants. Hoku's Kahala is an award-winning, fine-dining restaurant at serving global Hawaiian cuisine and a tasting menu with ocean views. The more casual Plumeria Beach House offers open-air seating, exclusive ocean views, fresh seafood, and American fare. For a late night out, The Veranda serves cocktails and evening appetizers and hosts live music Friday and Saturday nights.
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*Header photo courtesy of Frank Clark