Fodor's Expert Review Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club
412 Lewers St., Honolulu, Hawaii, 96815, USA See on Map
The new, cool kid on the block opened in April 2016 as a 1960s-inspired boutique hotel with a surfing vibe. (Interestingly, it's an Aqua Hotel, but you'd never know it from its branding.) The hotel's interior design, down to the smallest touches including the typeface used on signs throughout the hotel, set it apart from the cookie-cutter resorts in the area. The builders collaborated closely with local designers to bring authentically Hawaiian touches throughout the property; some of the collaborators included the Hawaii Potter's Guild, artist Mark Chai (who designed the lamps), designer Tori Richard (who designed the upholstery), and others. Another perk to staying at Surfjack is its restaurant, Mahina & Sun’s, which is operated by renowned Kaimuki chef and restaurateur Ed Kenney. As at his other three restaurants, the menu focuses on locally sourced ingredients and seasonal foods, plus great house cocktails.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Though there is a lot of appeal for families with the sizes and affordability of the suites, this is one of those places probably best left to adults or families with older kids (who will probably love it). It’s super trendy and offers a lot to cater to adults.
Rooms at the Surfjack blend retro and modern to create a charming aesthetic. Each room includes air conditioning, refrigerator, and private lanai. Room options include 1-3 bedroom suites, a bungalow suite, and two different penthouses with oversized lanais. Some of the rooms are even dog-friendly.
Chic, minimal, browns and whites, the bathrooms evoke a definite beach vibe. They include a standing shower with handheld shower head, LaBottega Davines toiletries, The Indigenous Soap Company hand soap, and Hawaiian Body & Bath soap.
The lobby area is fun and trendy, with bright colors, lots of bench and other seating for lounging, fun art throughout, and a small, unassuming reception desk. It’s very relaxed, and pulls in the pool area, the boutique, and the cafe area, making it a fun place to hang out and meet other travelers.
The medium-sized pool and sundeck area isn’t large or fancy, but draws you in with the cutesie (and utterly Instagrammable) “Wish You Were Here” painted on the bottom of the pool for aerial viewers to get a chuckle at. Even though it’s not grandiose, it’s a centerpiece of the hotel with special poolside programming including talk story time and movies by the pool, board games and books to use while hanging out at the pool, and an adults-only swim time from 6 to 9 p.m. daily.
Guests can find breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as happy hour and weekend brunch at Mahina & Sun’s where local foods are given a chic and contemporary twist, with a focus on locally and ethically sourced fish.
If you’re staying 3 or more nights, be sure to book direct with the hotel to receive a $100 credit at Mahina & Sun’s.
The bar at Mahina & Sun’s offers some great happy hours including their weekday Pau Hana Special (Naked Pig Pizza + 2 Maui Brewing beers for $20) from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and a 7 for 7 Happy Hour from 3 to 5 p.m. and 9 to 10 p.m. (all day on Thursday). There guests will find plenty of craft beers, fresh, vibrant cocktails, and a few off-menu items that shouldn’t be missed. It also caters to the early morning drinker, as it’s open from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. For those who need caffeine before day drinking, guests can find espresso and cold brew to-go inside Olive & Oliver boutique and other coffee drinks at the bar.
Waikiki and surrounding areas are easily reachable from the airport by cab or rideshare. There is plenty to do in these areas without ever leaving (walking, biking, taking the bus, or hailing a car), so a rental car is only necessary if you want to explore other parts of the island.
One of Chinatown’s standout spots is trendy The Pig and the Lady (13-min drive), a Vietnamese/Asian fusion restaurant with creative dishes that appeal to a variety of palates. They are even able to modify many of their menu items to meet the dietary needs of vegetarians. Their dessert menu is quite stunning, featuring island flavors and a rotating soft serve program, as is their cocktail menu full of quirky drink names and ingredients.
You may find the staple Hawaiian food poi cooked many different ways during your travels, but you’ll rarely find it in as intriguing and utterly satisfying a form as in the donuts at Liliha Bakery (16-min drive). Sadly, once you try them, you’ll regret every morning that you don’t wake up to these chewy, sweet purple treats. If you’re in the mood for something besides donuts for some reason, find some incredible offerings for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at their coffee shops. Pro tip: Grab a dozen poi donuts to take home – one of the locations is between Waikiki and the airport.
Even if you’re not staying at The Modern, you’ll want to sneak behind the bookcases in their lobby to grab a drink at The Study (5-min drive). It may look small from the outside, but this bar with yummy cocktails, incredible live music that gives way to a DJ, and diverse crowd is large and inviting. Alas, you will definitely not get any studying done.
Enjoy live jazz music with your cocktails at Lewers Lounge (6-min drive) inside Halekulani Hotel. Music happens every night of the week from 8:30 p.m. to midnight (and until 12:30 on weekends). It’s a great option for dessert and a nightcap. Be sure to try the “Lost Passion,” a tequila/passionfruit/champagne concoction that will get you in the island spirit.
WHY WE LIKE IT
This fun and funky boutique hotel puts a unique spin on vacationing by offering their Swim Club special programming featuring live music, free happy hours, special fitness classes, and more
to guests, creating truly memorable experiences. It’s trendy, casual, and offers plenty to do on-site, including some of the best eating and drinking in Waikiki and an on-site boutique, Olive & Oliver, that brings beach culture from Kailua to Waikiki with clothing and accessory options.
Fun little perks like a local snack at welcome, Sole bikes available to check out, and offerings of meditation/breathwork sessions and pilates classes really make this hotel stand out. Rates are surprisingly affordable for what you’re getting and the sizes of the rooms, making this a great option for groups of adults traveling together.