Outrigger Reef Adds to Waikiki Improvements

The renovated property seems right at home with its upscale neighbors

By: By Ken Shapiro

Guest room // (c) 2009 Outrigger Reef On The Beach

Guest room //
(c) 2009 Outrigger Reef On The Beach

A few years ago, there was a lot of speculation about some of the changes that were planned for the north end of Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach, near Lewers Street. Since that time, the Halekulani has continued its success in the upscale market, while the Waikiki Parc has become a hip, boutique enclave. Outrigger’s Beachwalk Project and the Embassy Suites hotel have debuted and become huge hits with visitors. Even “The Donald” wants to be a part of this neighborhood with the opening of Trump Waikiki later this year or early 2010. But, without a doubt, adding to the success of the revival of this end of Waikiki is the renovation of the Outrigger Reef on the Beach, which reopened in April after a $110 million renovation. Indeed, this property has an energy all its own, and has become an integral piece of the area’s success story.

Located next door to the Halekulani and across the street from Trump, Outrigger Reef may not have the upscale reputation of its neighbors, but this mid-priced gem has a loyal following that appreciates value when they see it.

The Outrigger Reef provides some of the newest, most comfortable rooms in Waikiki, and at surprisingly reasonable prices. The guestroom decor is tasteful Hawaiiana — nothing too over-the-top, with a warm and inviting island ambiance. Besides new high-tech amenities, such as flat-screen televisions and iPod docking stations, the property actually reduced its total number of rooms so that it could make every one of the 639 new guestrooms (including 44 suites) larger. On a recent visit, I was very impressed by my large Ocean Tower guestroom with its balcony that looked out over the beach. In addition, the Outrigger Reef also offers no resort fees or Wi-Fi charges, which is just another example of how the property provides value.

The hotel also has all-new common areas and, here in particular, is where I felt like the hotel really came alive. In addition to shoppers visiting the hotel’s new stores, because of its location, the property seemed to get a lot of foot traffic going from the street to the beach, which (along with the bustling Starbucks in the lobby) made the hotel truly feel like it was part of the Beachwalk vibe. While the pool was busy but not overly crowded, the gem of the property is the new Kani Ka Pila Grille, a poolside restaurant that features live music in the evenings. (It’s rumored that some big names in the local music scene drop by to play here from time to time.) By locating the Kani Ka Pila Grille at the front of the property, not far from the street, the open-air restaurant taps into the excitement of the area’s nightlife, making for a lively and welcoming atmosphere.

Also redone is the hotel’s reception area — with individual seating areas instead of a long counter where guests have to stand and wait — and the porte cochere, which was built to resemble an ancient Hawaiian canoe house. Overall, the Outrigger Reef does a good job incorporating elements of Hawaiian culture throughout the guest experience. For instance, every night I received a small greeting card at turndown that explained a different aspect of Hawaiian culture and history. There is also a small gallery of Hawaiian art and artifacts in the lobby; however, this space seemed under-used and a bit random compared to the rest of the hotel.

Two features that have not changed is the Outrigger Reef’s popular beachfront eateries, The Ocean House Restaurant, offering Pacific Rim cuisine, and The Shore Bird, one of Waikiki’s most beloved local dives.

Next up for the property will be the eventual renovation of a stand-alone building near the pool that will supposedly house a full-service spa and fitness center.

In the meantime, however, if your clients are looking for a lively, comfortable, mid-priced hotel in the heart of Waikiki’s hippest area, the new Outrigger Reef on the Beach will not disappoint.