Fodor's Expert Review The Modern Honolulu
1775 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, Hawaii, 96815, USA See on Map
The lobby of this edgy, slickly designed hotel is both trendy and comfy, with recessed lighting and bookcases, making this the best hotel pick in Waikiki for urbanites who like the hip, big-city atmosphere. With natural tones, modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs, iPods programmed with music perfect for lounging, complimentary Wi-Fi, and private lanai in many units, guest rooms and suites are equally swanky. The hotel's signature restaurant, The Grove, allows for al fresco dining with beautiful harbor views. There are two pools: one with a teak deck; the other, a sleek cobalt blue adults-only version of a wading pool, is surrounded by 100 tons of sand, creating a beach feel. Three bars on the premises—the most popular being the Study, hidden behind a rotating bookcase—offer their own signature cocktails. Addiction, a trendy nightlife space, lures a younger, hipper crowd.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The hotel has recently been purchased by Diamond Resorts, and returning guests have noticed a marked difference in the service and hospitality of some of the staff. There is also a good chance that you’ll end up getting cornered for a timeshare presentation, but there is a resort credit of $100 offered in return.
Rooms at The Modern use minimalism to maintain a chic, beachy look, employing whites, beiges, and browns that give a luxurious feel. Tiny touches like seashells and ukuleles bring the beach inside. Options range from rooms with double or king platform beds and ocean, harbor, and city views (some with combinations of views). Luxury linens, slippers and robes, Keurig coffee makers, and free WiFi make the room even more comfortable.
Standard bathrooms are small, but stick with the simple, chic décor. Stand-up showers with clear glass exteriors are stocked with Lather products. Lighting in the bathroom is relaxing and warm, though not the strongest for makeup application.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The bathrooms are also not the most private – there are wooden jalousie blinds that connect one wall of the bathroom to the rest of the room, and while cute, they aren’t quite soundproof. Not quite ideal if your travel partner isn’t privy to your bathroom habits just yet.
The small lobby has a very cool and casual, super hip vibe to it. The polished wood reception desks add a sense of luxury to the lobby, and the giant collage made of surfboards that sits behind it is a really interesting piece of art. There’s not much seating, but what is there is very comfy, and there’s a small desk with computers that guests can use.
Valet parking is the only option at the hotel, and it costs $35 per day. There is a nearby public lot that is $1 per hour, so even if you leave your car all day/night, you’re still saving $11.
The hotel’s “sunrise pool” is all ages and offers beautiful views of the harbor. The L-shaped pool isn’t too large, but it and the surrounding wooden sundeck, full of loungers, daybeds, and variety of beautiful foliage surrounding the area all make for a luxurious pool experience.
The nearby 21 and up “sunset pool” is basically a laid back splash pad for adults, complete with lounge chairs and pool daybeds, surrounded by sand from nearby beaches, palm trees, with food and beverage service, as well as a small pool bar. This is one of the ways that the Modern elevates its experience for adult guests.
Lather Spa at The Modern focuses on massage and body treatments using custom-made Lather products that incorporate a variety of essential oils. Their signature Modern Harmony massage allows guests to choose from 15 different essential oil scents from their scent bar, then lets them relax with a combination of Shiatsu, hot stone, and Lomi Lomi massage. For spa guests who are not staying at the hotel, the adults-only pool and fitness center are also available after treatments.
Near the hotel pools is a bright, large fitness room is filled with cardio, weight, and yoga equipment for guest use. In addition, the hotel offers yoga classes at 8 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at the Sunset Pool.
Guests can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner by dining al fresco at The Grove, with either patio seating that has pool and harbor views, or passageway seating with overstuffed wicker chairs and benches for a more intimate experience. There’s plenty of fresh fare on the menu, and lots of yummy dessert options. The sesame seared ahi under the lite fare menu is definitely a seaside treat you’ll want to savor. The Grove offers happy hour from 9 a.m. to noon and from 3 to 5 p.m. In addition to the restaurant the hotel offers a 24-hour room service includes a well-curated menu by the culinary team, including a well-rounded late night menu.
Among other areas, The Modern really excels in the cocktail department. The Study, a hidden bar that sits behind a large bookshelf during the day and opens into a luxurious lounge with live music and literary-themed cocktails at night (6 p.m.). There is a wide variety of seating throughout, with plenty of chance for intimate evenings, but hanging out at the bar and chatting with the bartenders and other guests also makes for a great time. In addition to The Study, The Modern Player Club at Sunset Beach is located at the adult’s pool, open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (and early on weekends during football season), with a happy hour from 12 to 3 p.m.).
The Modern is also one of the few remaining Waikiki hotels with a nightclub in the hotel (though it has an external entrance so as to not bother guests). Addiction is fairly standard as nightclubs go, though the decor looks like someone’s Pinterest board exploded all over it, with way too many Edison lights and plastic bubbles. The DJ does a great job and the people watching can be a lot of fun.
If you’re planning to remain in Waikiki, a combination of cabs, rideshare, walking, and bike rentals will work just fine. If you want to explore more of Honolulu and the rest of the island, you’ll need a rental car.
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.
If you’re in or around the Ala Moana Center, the Hawaiian take on the gastropub is not to be missed. At The Brilliant Ox (10-min drive), guests will find an all-day menu with incredible shared bites, lunch specials that include amazing ingredients on a bun, and a vibrant brunch menu. Late night hours on the weekend make it a great spot to linger and enjoy their handcrafted cocktails and beer menu while grazing through their menu.
Though MAC 24/7 (8-min drive) is definitely a great place to grab a meal, especially breakfast, it’s their cocktails that we really love. Last call is at 3:30 a.m., so you can enjoy a nightcap with your late-night pancakes before heading back to your hotel. Fruity cocktails like the Frozen Mo’o and Lava Lava Rocks fill that island cocktails craving. They also have a great reverse happy hour from midnight to 3 a.m. (except Friday and Saturday), as well as a regular daily happy hour from 2 to 5 p.m.
House Without a Key (5-min drive) inside Halekulani Hotel provides some true upscale island ambiance along with its dinner and cocktails. The restaurant has a dedicated portion of its service area for those looking to enjoy a drink and an appetizer along with their nightly music and hula performances. Their signature drink is the mai tai but take our advice and try the off-menu “Lost Passion,” a tequila/passionfruit/champagne concoction that will get you in the island spirit.
WHY WE LIKE IT
The Modern is a contemporary hotel with resort-level amenities, which not only makes it a hotel you never want to leave, it’s one where locals also love to spend time. It’s chic and stylish without ever feeling like it’s trying too hard, and the hidden bar and lounge are a great place to spend time. There’s also a lovely boutique with nice gifts and accessories that is easy to lose an hour in. This hotel stands out amongst the many Waikiki options, though the recent change to a Diamond Resorts property may be causing The Modern to lose some of the charm that guests are accustomed to.