Hollywood in Hawaii

The Ilikai caters to both on- and off-screen clients

By: Mimi Kmet

Guests at the Renaissance Ilikai Waikiki Hotel willing to admit they are old enough to remember “Hawaii Five-0” might recognize the view. It was on the penthouse balcony that Jack Lord, who played the lead on the TV crime drama, posed with the Pacific Ocean in the background. The brief but memorable shot was shown at the opening of every episode from 1968 to 1980.

The penthouse is now privately owned, but Ilikai Waikiki guests have the same sweeping vista of the Pacific from most of the property’s more than 700 rooms and suites.

“Gilligan’s Island” fans can catch sight of the nearby Ala Wai Yacht Harbor from their rooms or the pedestrian bridge that links the hotel with Waikiki Beach. The harbor is where Gilligan, the Skipper and five passengers set sail for their “three-hour tour.” (Guests can also reminisce with a sailing tour booked through the concierge.)

Since it opened in 1964 as Waikiki’s first high-rise, luxury hotel, the Ilikai Waikiki has courted the entertainment industry. Scenes from the TV series “Magnum P.I.” and “Jake and the Fatman” were shot here, and “Hawaii” used the Ilikai for both on- and off-camera purposes. “Lost” fans might recognize the Aloha Suite, Canoes restaurant and lobby all used to set the scene for the popular TV drama. Crews from the films “Windtalkers,” starring Nicholas Cage, and “50 First Dates,” with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, called the Ilikai Waikiki home while shooting.

As Waikiki’s only hotel with an onsite screening room and offices for managing shoots and storing props and equipment, it’s no wonder the hotel hosts production crews. But the Ilikai also has much to offer its less-Hollywood guests.

Now managed by Renaissance Hotels and Resorts, the hotel’s two towers recently underwent a $27 million-plus transformation. So far, most of the renovations have been at the Ilikai Tower, which still maintains its original identity as a mix of hotel units and private condos, while the Yacht Harbor Tower is currently undergoing a floor-by-floor renovation to its hotel rooms.

From the outside the Ilikai Waikiki looks almost the same as it did in the 1960s, but the interior has been revamped to include modern amenities like wireless Internet access, dataports and cable TV in each room. Guestrooms also feature Hawaiian decor that’s not over the top. The sage green and deep red color scheme is accented by light wood furniture with mother-of-pearl inlay, and the baths feature granite finishes. Another draw for crews as well as families is the hotel’s 187 units with full kitchens.

The renovation also opened up the once closed, dark lobby to give it a boutique feel, and a Wyland sculpture of a mother whale and her calf has been added at the entrance. Beyond the lobby waits a newly landscaped courtyard with waterfalls and a wooden walkway connecting the hotel’s two towers.

The hotel’s restaurants Tanaka of Tokyo West (tableside teppanyaki service) and Paddles (poolside bar and grill) spruced up their menus with new choices. And the double-onion steak sandwich and seafood pasta at the Canoes restaurant ranked among the best dishes at last year’s Taste of Honolulu. For panoramic Pacific views, send clients to Sarento’s Top of the “I,” an independently owned restaurant at the top of the Ilikai tower.

Aside from the Hollywood highlights, the hotel keeps clients busy with a shopping area complete with its original terrazzo floors and glass storefronts. Clients can cruise several boutiques, including bridal and flower shops for guests getting married in the hotel’s Angel Chapel by the Sea or its adjacent garden. A business center, medical clinic, Dollar Rent A Car office, massage services and the Ultrazone a 4,000-square-foot laser-tag arena and video arcade round out the offerings.


Renaissance Ilikai Waikiki Hotel
1777 Ala Moana Blvd.
Honolulu, HI 96815

Rates: $270-$800 a night
Commission: 10 percent
Packages: The Renaissance Ilikai Waikiki Hotel’s Paradise Plus packages start at a nightly room rate of $219 for city-view accommodations and $234 for oceanview accommodations. Guests choose between a Room and Car plan, which includes an economy-size rental car each day of their stay, or a Room and Breakfast plan, which includes daily buffet breakfast for two at Canoes. The package is available through Dec. 31; blackout periods apply. 

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