Sheraton Princess Kaiulani is closing in August for a two-year renovation. // © 2014 Sheraton Princess Kaiulani
A sense of deja vu is permeating Waikiki these days. As in decades past, the south Oahu playground is riding a wave of new accommodations, hotel renovations and shopping and dining additions aimed at securing Waikiki’s position as a world-class destination.
More than a decade ago, Waikiki went through a notable renaissance that revitalized public and private facilities. From the creation of wider sidewalks and improved landscaping in 1999-2000 to the launch of the Waikiki Beach Walk complex in 2005, the region reclaimed its cachet with tourists.
Now, Waikiki is enjoying a similar flurry of projects designed to protect its status as a visitor hub, according to Hawaii Tourism Authority president Mike McCartney.
“The upcoming renovations in Waikiki are an investment in the long-term sustainability and growth of Hawaii’s tourism economy,” said McCartney. “It is important that we continually refresh, improve and upgrade our product to remain competitive.”
Making its official debut this month is Hokulani Waikiki by Hilton Grand Vacations Club. Touting 143 one-bedroom suites with kitchens, the property — commissionable to travel agents — is turning heads with amenities such as an exclusive open-air rooftop pool bar. Hokulani is the final component of Waikiki Beach Walk.
“Hokulani Waikiki is designed for sophisticated, cosmopolitan travelers who want to be right in the center of Waikiki’s excitement and energy,” said Bryan Klum, executive vice president of Hilton Grand Vacations, Asia Pacific.
The Ritz-Carlton Residences, a luxury hotel/condominium with high-profile retailers and restaurants, is currently under construction and slated to open in mid 2016. Waikiki’s first high-end condominium property since 2009, the tower will have perks such as resort pools and a spa. The developer hopes to erect a second condo-hotel next to The Ritz.
“To have a new luxury property of this stature rising in Waikiki at this time is a very positive sign for tourism,” said Waikiki Improvement Association president Rick Egged.
Sheraton Princess Kaiulani is closing in August 2014 for a $500 million restoration, with major portions scheduled to reopen in late 2016 or early 2017. The property’s renovated Ainahau Tower will include 650 hotel rooms and suites, while a new tower will have 300 hotel rooms and 135 residences. This follows the major overhauls of its sister properties in Waikiki: Sheraton Waikiki, the Moana Surfrider and Royal Hawaiian.
Meanwhile, the owner of Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa is investing $100 million to renovate all 1,230 guestrooms with pillow top beds and bidet-style toilets. Work will begin this year and take 18 months to complete.
Stimulating Shopping and Supping
On the retail scene, the International Marketplace — a dog-eared, decades-old complex of souvenir stands — and Miramar at Waikiki Hotel have closed. In their place will be a $300 million visitor-oriented retail/dining/entertainment center scheduled to open in early 2016. Its three levels and 390,000 square feet will contain tourist draws such as Saks Fifth Avenue and the Grand Lanai, with seven sit-down restaurants.
As Waikiki bids goodbye to the old and welcomes the new, perhaps the best place from which to observe its renaissance will be Skybar Waikiki. Opening in summer 2014, the 19th-floor gathering place is billed as Hawaii’s highest lounge. Boasting a 3,000-square-foot wraparound outdoor lanai, it promises inspiring views of Waikiki’s latest look.