Location, location, location: Whether clients are looking for a house or a hotel, location should be top of mind. And it’s one of many things that make the recently renovated Ala Moana Hotel by Mantra an excellent choice if travelers are planning a vacation on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
Granted, the 1,100-room property is not situated oceanfront, but it is a 10-minute stroll to Ala Moana Beach and Magic Island, a human-made peninsula that’s popular for swimming and picnicking. It’s also across from the Hawaii Convention Center; right next to Ala Moana Center and its 350-plus shops and restaurants; and a 15-minute walk to Ala Wai Harbor, the launching point for some 20 boat tours.
The hotel is also just 1.5 miles northwest of Waikiki Beach and the same distance east of the revitalized community of Kakaako, where one of Hawaii’s best farmers markets draws crowds on Saturday mornings. And the hub of downtown Honolulu is 1 mile beyond Kakaako. If clients don’t want to rent a car, they don’t have to; buses and trolleys serving all of Oahu stop a few blocks away from the hotel’s porte cochere.
What I noticed immediately during my recent stay was Ala Moana Hotel’s new, modern look, thanks to a multi-year, multimillion-dollar renovation of the common areas. Guestrooms have been refreshed with new mattresses and soft goods, and clients who prefer preparing some meals themselves can choose a one-bedroom suite, which includes a kitchenette with a two-burner cooktop, fridge, microwave, coffee-maker, dishwasher, dishes, utensils, cookware and basic kitchen tools.
Rest and Relaxation Are a Highlight
If pampering is a priority, visitors can reserve time at the 9,000-square-foot Dada Spa, Salon & Cafe, which provides treatments that run the gamut from hair styling, nail care and massages to acupuncture, HydraFacials and brow lamination. While traveling in Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea several years ago, founder Richie Miao saw many such “one-stop shops” for personal-care services and was inspired to introduce the concept in Hawaii.
Stiff and sore from too much time at my computer, I decided to indulge in a 90-minute full-body massage — and it was pure bliss. My therapist, Masami, zeroed in on all the areas that needed attention, kneading out even the biggest kinks with deft strokes.
On my list to try are the 24K Gold Foil facial (a mask containing pure gold foil that helps regenerate collagen) and the Head Spa (a rejuvenating shampoo and blowout with a head, neck and shoulder massage).
Refueling before, between or after appointments is steps away at Dada’s cafe, which offers breakfast all day along with standout options such as a hot pastrami sandwich, Chinese chicken salad and boneless short ribs. All the breads, pastries, sauces and dressings are made in-house.
Standout Dining Options
I’m not much of a pub person, but I took to the hotel’s watering hole, Pint + Jigger, right away. I loved its convivial vibe; its decor, which incorporates 53-gallon whiskey barrels and 900 bottles of spirits; and its food — a cut above usual tavern fare. Breadcrumbs infused with Guinness were the binder for my stout burger, which was basted with herb butter, grilled to a perfect medium rare and served with garlic aioli and beer cheese made in-house. Other hearty highlights include ratatouille with quinoa cakes, breaded and deep-fried Scotch eggs wrapped in pork rillettes and whiskey-flambeed mushrooms on crostini with garlic-Parmesan cream cheese.
Opening soon at Pint + Jigger will be Harry’s Hardware Emporium, a cozy hideaway reminiscent of a Prohibition-era speakeasy. Antiques add to its ambiance, including a 1930s cash register and glasses that owner Dave Newman personally sources at thrift stores and estate sales. Seating only 27 guests, Harry’s is named after Newman’s great-great-grandfather, who owned a liquor store in Erie, Pennsylvania. After Prohibition forced him to close it, Harry started working at his best friend’s hardware store and making bathtub gin for friends and family in his spare time.
Caviar, smoked opah crostini and bone marrow mac and cheese are among the choice tidbits on the menu at Harry’s. If clients can’t decide on a beverage, the Fortune Cookie Cocktail is a fun option: The note in a house-made fortune cookie determines what they’ll get. For instance, it might say, “There’s dripping red wax in your future,” in which case, the bartender will whip up a concoction with Maker’s Mark bourbon whiskey for them.
As the day winds down, clients can head up to the 36th floor, where superb cuisine; stellar service; live piano music; and a panorama encompassing Diamond Head, the ocean and Honolulu’s cityscape await at The Signature Prime Steak & Seafood. If dinner is too much of a splurge (most entrees are priced north of $50), guests should consider the well-priced happy hour, which will likely have a line to get in — but the wait is well worth it to pair favorite drinks with the likes of oysters Rockefeller, steak and crab- and shrimp-stuffed mushrooms — and that million-dollar view.
Nightly rates at Ala Moana Hotel start at $199, and there is no resort fee.