Lying Low in the Heart of Waikiki: A Review of The Laylow in Honolulu
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To The Point
Cozy and friendly, The Laylow is a low-key place to hang your surfboard in Waikiki for a short stay. Pros: friendly, cozy and comfortable. Cons: might feel cramped after a while, uninspiring view from my room.
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There are thousands of hotel rooms in Honolulu, the vibrant capital of Hawaii. And travelers using points to pay for hotels are spoiled for choice here. Just over a year old, The Laylow is the first Autograph Collection property on Oahu, and it delivers warm, friendly hospitality and a stylish space designed with Instagram in mind. During my stay, I saw a wide range of travelers: families with young children in tow, business travelers overheating in buttoned-up shirts and couples cozying up on the double daybeds by the saltwater pool. And despite having 251 guest rooms and suites, the property promises an intimate ‘ohana experience, where travelers can, well, lie low.
The Laylow is a Category 6 property in the Marriott Rewards program, meaning you’ll need anywhere from 40,000 points for a night in the off-peak season to 60,000 for one in the peak season. However, we found a solid rate (less than the member rate on Marriott.com) with Hotels.com, and I’m not currently pursuing any status with a hotel program, so we booked the $620 two-night stay with a Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, which earns 10x miles per dollar spent on hotel reservations when booked through the special link at Hotels.com.
You can also stack this with Hotels.com Rewards, which awards one free night per every 10 paid nights. Since the free night is based on the average price of the 10 nights, when stacked with the 10x miles from the Venture Rewards, it effectively gives us a 20% return on this reservation. That’s one of the very best credit card returns you can get when spending cash on hotels.
About a half hour drive from Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) by taxi, The Laylow is on bustling Kuhio Avenue, around the corner from the high-end shopping on Kalakaua Avenue and Waikiki Beach. Travelers searching for a beachfront property will no doubt be disappointed, as this Waikiki hotel isn’t on the beach, and only executive-level rooms offer so much as partial ocean views. Instead, travelers interested in looking over saltwater can hope for one of the pool-access cabana rooms, or at least a room on the side of the hotel with a view of the pool deck.
The Laylow lobby — open-air and all hardwood, furnished with potted tropical plants and midcentury seating — was accessible from street level by an unassuming escalator over the valet.
When I checked in, two friendly front-desk agents in twin uniforms (pale blue shift dresses with custom necklaces) with a backdrop of hip-shaking hula-dancer dolls helped me check in. I was given two room keys and a card describing the amenities included with my so-called daily destination fee (essentially a $29 resort fee).
The destination fee included a welcome basket, complimentary on-site shave ice, nonalcoholic poolside beverages and ukulele lessons.
Also included with the resort fee was a $50 voucher to be used toward one of five activities booked through the hotel concierge: tours of Pearl Harbor, a luau experience, helicopter tours, snorkel boat trips and a sightseeing bus tour. So, if you are able to take advantage of all those perks, the destination fee isn’t so bad. If not, it’s just another resort fee.
Though I had booked a room with one king bed and a double sofa bed, when I opened the door to Room 916, it was configured with two queen beds — a slight disappointment, but not something I wanted to bother the front desk about.
The mattresses were comfortable, and the pillows had substance (I don’t mess with flimsy bedding). The bold, custom monstera deliciosa leaf wallpaper was the same print carried throughout all of The Laylow’s branding and soft materials — the room keys and pool towels, for instance.
The colorful print brought in teal and splashes of coral and turquoise to an otherwise neutral space.
My room had a small balcony that faced the Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach, and if I craned my neck to the right, I could make out mountains in the distance.
There were outlets galore by the bedside and on the workstation. I had no trouble charging my phone, Apple watch, laptop and camera simultaneously.
Bathrooms were modern and modest, with fragrant bath products and a well-stocked jar of amenities including cotton balls and makeup wipes.
A well-lit mirror and a wall-mounted magnifying mirror were great for guests who wanted to closely admire their sunburns.
My favorite en suite elements were the Hawaiian-themed micro-library and the welcome basket, which was stocked with flip-flops, Hawaiian chocolates, taro chips, Hi-Chew candies, a rubber ducky and postcards — a simple but thoughtful touch that would’ve made even the most standard guest room feel more luxe than it is.
And though I’m ashamed to admit it, the high-definition television with complimentary HBO was also a highlight. Sure, your Hawaiian vacation is best spent outside no matter where you stay. But at 3am when you’re battling jet lag, it’s hard to undersell how much better it is to watch John Oliver than perky infomercials.
Food and Beverage
Hideout was The Laylow’s only destination for food and beverage, providing a full-service restaurant, coffee counter, room service and poolside snacks and drinks.
With a mix of formal seating and more casual lounge spaces (upholstered patio furniture, even sectional seating around firepits on what was essentially a grown-up sandbox), the space did indeed feel like a hideaway.
Travelers who elbow up for a drink and nightly live music will no doubt find themselves mingling with locals as well as other hotel guests.
I came here for breakfast and coffee (the latter available at 4am for travelers catching an early flight).
Craving eggs but not wanting to go too “mainland American” for my first Hawaiian breakfast, I opted for the North Shore Benedict: two poached eggs — slightly overcooked but better than undercooked, milky whites — on shrimp cakes with roasted baby potatoes and a side of fruit salad that was probably the highlight.
The saltwater pool and Brazilian hardwood pool deck were the focal point of The Laylow which, unlike many nearby competitors, doesn’t offer direct beach access. Guests also had access to a 24-hour fitness center, which was consistently more busy than most hotel gyms I’ve seen in my lifetime. (To get a decent photo, I had to drop by after midnight.)
The pool was quiet in the morning, but by early afternoon, all the daybeds were claimed with printed towels available from the adjacent gift shop. Families with small children, small groups of friends, couples both young and silver-haired: The pool showcased what a diverse range of travelers The Laylow hosted.
In addition to checking out towels for use at the pool and the beach, The Laylow’s gift shop was one of the rare hotel gift shops where you could pick up souvenirs and not feel like a jerk about it. Travelers could purchase the same woven necklaces worn by hotel receptionists, as well as locally crafted ceramics and candles.
I felt very comfortable and at home at The Laylow, though its coziness could become suffocating for travelers booked for longer stays. With only one pool and restaurant, this hotel might be tiresome for people who prefer to stay on property. (And at peak times, the small and limited public spaces seem like simply not enough for the number of guest rooms.) But this is not a problem exclusive to The Laylow. Many Waikiki hotels — The Laylow included — are renovations of existing properties, explaining both the hotel’s dedication to midcentury decor and cramped public spaces.
But given its central location, it’s a good thing the property encourages travelers to get out and explore. You’re a stone’s throw from Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach, an impossible-to-quantify number of restaurants and the beach neighborhood’s famous high-end retail shops. And everyone on staff was exceptionally friendly — the concierge, who I spoke with a handful of times, remembered everyone who passed by and gave thoughtful recommendations.
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