Meet the Wayfinder Waikiki, an affordable boutique hotel just blocks from the beach
- The Wayfinder, Waikiki’s newly refurbished boutique hotel, opened in December 2022 and is a chic, affordable alternative to hotels along the beach.
- The hotel is walkable from all the restaurants and the beach, yet an enjoyable break from the crowds on the busy main streets of tourist-filled Waikiki.
- The tropical-feeling pool is on the smaller side, but still a great place to enjoy the Hawaiian sunshine.
The Hawaiian Islands are home to some of the world's most epic resorts and beautiful beaches. Waikiki, a neighborhood in Honolulu, is known for having it all: It's easy to get to, has beautiful hotels, offers great food and, of course, boasts access to that breathtaking turquoise ocean. Unsurprisingly, a combination like this comes at a price.
If you're desperate to experience Oahu without breaking the bank, we have a hotel for you.
What is the Wayfinder Waikiki?
The Wayfinder is a newly refurbished boutique hotel in Waikiki and re-opened in late December 2022. It's a secret oasis tucked two blocks away from the beach, along the Ala Wai (a man-made canal running parallel to Waikiki Beach). Like the flagship Wayfinder Hotel by Dovetail + Co in Newport, Rhode Island, this tropical outpost is focused on as much local influence as possible. If you’re like me and could use a break from the luxury shops and mass of people in Waikiki but still want to be close to the action, the Wayfinder is for you.
Even when using points, Hawaiian vacations are often pricey because of the daily expenses; food and drinks are not cheap due to tourism and the importation costs required to supply the state. So, the Wayfinder Waikiki is the perfect way to save a few dollars without sacrificing your accommodations.
The lobby is tropical and chic
When I checked in, it was dark outside, but the hotel entrance was well lit with real flame tiki torches. The lobby featured an indoor-outdoor style without any doors or official enclosure, allowing me to enjoy the balmy air with a slight breeze from the fans above.
As you walk in, you'll notice there is a coffee shop and a gift shop to the left of the entrance and a restaurant on the right. The check-in desk is directly ahead. While the common area is not super spacious, there are options for comfortable seating if you’re waiting for an Uber or a fellow guest to arrive. The interior decor is enough to entertain you for a bit. It features a black and white checkered rug with a mix of distinct chairs and a gorgeous coffee table made from the trunk of a large tree.
None of these things individually evoke a Hawaiian essence, yet together they feel uniquely tropical. Just next to the check-in desk are the elevators, lined with multicolored wood paneling and a circular mirror. The wood smelled as if it was freshly cut the week prior, which always made for a pleasant elevator ride.
Rooms are colorful and locally inspired
I had a king room on the eighth floor with two (that’s right, two!) balconies facing east. One wall was nearly all glass, with sliding doors to the two patios. Not only did this make for beautiful sunrise and Ala Wai views, but it was great to have a private place to enjoy a meal or a drink away from the bustling streets of Waikiki.
In the morning, I’d wake up to the natural orange light of sunrise and open the patio doors to let the fresh, salty air in. The long, thin white curtains would billow in the morning breeze — it all felt like a dream. At night, there were pretty city lights from the surrounding buildings, but generally, the room was a bit dark. Two large lamps over each bedside table were the only sources of artificial light throughout the room. I personally didn’t mind and thought it added to the aesthetic, but if you have trouble seeing in darker rooms, it's a fact worth considering.
The interior designer for these rooms was not afraid of patterns. My stylish accommodation was mostly sage green; it featured unique textiles from local artists like The Vanguard Theory, which also produced textiles for the famed Royal Hawaiian Hotel (also called the Pink Palace). In keeping with the historic pink theme, the salmon-colored floral wallpaper in the closet area matched the headboard upholstery, tying the room together nicely and subtly reminding you that you’re in a tropical paradise.
The bathroom was probably the most underwhelming part of the hotel. It was small, with a tub/shower combo and curtain that felt very homey. The shower and bathroom were not ADA equipped, but according to the hotel website, there are rooms with these options available.
The vanity had a long wooden panel for easy storing, and a Conair hair dryer was available for guests to use. Though the bathroom didn’t offer five-star amenities or much space, it was very stylish and considering the recent refurbishment, I thought they did a great job with what they had.
While the shower itself felt far from luxurious, the products made up for it. The body wash, shampoo, conditioner and lotion were locally produced by Grown Alchemist. I tend to avoid using hotel products, but Grown Alchemist's damask rose, black pepper and sage shampoo was one of the best things I’ve ever smelled – I’m still telling people about it weeks later. After some quick research, I discovered these products are sold on Gweneth Paltrow’s luxury site, Goop, as well as their own online store. A bottle of the lotion goes for $72, and frankly, the smell alone is worth that. These products were also stored in larger 16-ounce containers, not the standard tiny hotel bottles.
Those smaller bottles are incredibly wasteful, and some counties even ban them because they are usually thrown away regardless of use. Nonprofits like Clean the World, which TPG recently partnered with, are helping to repurpose these hotel toiletries. Aside from the waste factors, I also love this trend of bigger bottles because you can actually use the quantity of the product you need, like full handfuls of moisturizer after a long day in the ocean.
The room amenities were simple: an empty minifridge, an ice bucket and a small TV, which was in a strange location for watching from bed. There was no tea or coffee maker, but the small coffee shop in the lobby was there for a caffeine fix.
Food is coming
The restaurant and bar Redfish sits downstairs next to the lobby, but it will not be open until May. It will serve modern Hawaiian food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, according to the website.
The lobby coffee shop called B·Side opens at 6 a.m. It serves coffee ($4.50), tea ($5), signature drinks like a coconut golden milk latte ($7), draft local beer ($10), wine ($12 to $15), mocktails ($7 to $10) and cocktails ($17). There are also water bottles and pastries available for purchase.
The pool was one of the best surprises
Unlike the pools at Maui resorts, Waikiki pools are generally smaller and void of multiple slides, lazy rivers and swim-up bars. Instead, many pools are more like what you might find in a luxurious home. With that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised by the pool at the Wayfinder.
Open daily from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., the bean-shaped pool and hot tub area has a small island of tall palm trees in the middle. There were roughly 20 green-and-white-striped loungers and several tables and chairs surrounded by foliage to create a quiet oasis.
If you’re looking to have a cocktail in the pool, it might need to be homemade since the bar and restaurant aren't open yet. Or, you’ll have to walk across the lobby to the coffee shop which has a few cocktails, wine and beer.
Location is ideal but can get noisy
The Wayfinder is about a six-minute walk from Kalākaua Avenue, one of the main shopping and dining streets. It's home to the International Market Place, which is packed with shops and restaurants. If you’re looking for a beachy getaway, the hotel is only two blocks away from (or about an eight-minute walk to) the water. There are also wheelchair-accessible paths to the beach.
If you’d like to explore the area further, bike rentals (called Biki) are all along the Ala Wai and right next to the hotel.
Speaking of the Ala Wai, I’d recommend a pool-facing room if you're a light sleeper. The Ala Wai can be a busy roadway, even at night.
One of the great things about Waikiki is the number of 7-Elevens and ABC shops (Hawaiian convenience stores). An ABC store within two minutes of the hotel is great for snack and beverage purchases.
The price is stellar
For the best rates at the Wayfinder, book direct. I stayed in a king bed with lanai room, which starts around $210 per night (though there are rates around $175 during the current soft-opening period).
For my two-night stay, I paid a total of $670.02, which included a roughly $35 per night resort fee and taxes. To break that down, my room cost $508 for two nights, meaning I also paid an additional $162.02 in extra fees and taxes.
Reasons it may not be for you
- Don't stay here if you’re looking for an ocean-view room or direct access to the beach. Try one of the many hotels along the water.
- If fancy bathrooms are your favorite part of a hotel visit, I’d recommend elsewhere.
- If you’re staying with many people and everyone will need some corner of the mirror to get ready, there isn’t a lot of square footage for this.
- If you’re looking for a quiet room, be cautious about the room you select.
- If you think resort fees are highway robbery for non-resort hotels, know that this hotel charges one.
Checking out was seamless. I enjoyed one more warm sunrise from the room, then took my fresh wood-scented elevator ride down to the lobby to drop off my key.
The Wayfinder is a great option if you don't hold elite status at any of the major hotel brands and want to get away from the busy streets near the water in Waikiki. It was comfortable, beautiful, fun, colorful and relatively affordable considering its proximity to one of the planet's most famous stretches of sand.
I’ll be back to the Wayfinder — let's just hope they never change that Grown Alchemist shampoo.