When I recently visited Waikiki, Hawaii for the first time, I had the opportunity to utilize an incentive for a 5-night hotel stay. Remarkably, I only had to cover the taxes and resort fee, a cool benefit considering Hawaii’s notorious expense had previously deterred me. Initially planning to extend my stay at the booked Hotel La Croix, which boasted a sauna—a rarity in beachy locations, I found that while the sauna and pool were pleasant, the rest of the hotel did not quite meet my expectations.
Now finding myself delving into Waikiki’s boutique hotel scene, I went out to test four other places in the same budget-friendly range. Each promised a distinct combination of comfort, style, and affordability. This article will walk you through my experiences, offering insights into the details of these budget-friendly boutique stays. All of these options offered good value in that mid-range category with notable features, and finally, a standout favorite for me with super cool design elements, great facilities, and awesome food. Join me as we uncover the gems of Waikiki’s affordable boutique accommodations. Whether you’re a savvy traveler seeking a wallet-friendly escape or just curious about the diverse offerings in this tropical paradise, read on to navigate the highs and lows of my boutique hotel sojourn in Waikiki.
Hotel La Croix:
Yay for Wellness, Nay for Dining Options
I recently stayed at Hotel La Croix, and although my experience wasn’t outstanding, there were some positive aspects this hotel had to offer. The hotel had its merits, with a decent pool and a delightful sauna offering views of the adjacent park. The rooms, while spacious, lacked attention to detail and were somewhat bland. However, they did provide all the essential amenities and the hotel is centrally located in Waikiki, especially if you are interested in checking out the Hilton Hawaiian Village nearby.
One notable downside was the limited dining options. Room service was available, but the Monkeypod Club Lounge which offers fruit and hot coffee in the morning and snacks and beverages throughout the day was open to Palms Beach House, Gold Ocean View, and Platinum Room Guests only. Unfortunately, silver rooms (my category) and bookings in the bronze category were not eligible for access. While it would have been nice to use those extra amenities, especially to meet other travelers, there was a Dean & Deluca right on the next corner for some good breakfast options.
The hotel’s location across from Fort DeRussy Beach Park was convenient, allowing easy access to both the beach and the bustling Waikiki strip with its array of shops and restaurants. The proximity of an ABC store just outside the lobby was convenient, although you can find these convenience stores at every other corner in the area and close to any hotel you might choose.
After all, my stay at Hotel La Croix was pleasant, but not particularly impressive. While the rooms were spacious and the amenities met basic requirements, the lack of attention to detail and restricted access to certain facilities left me wanting more. I have enjoyed the sauna and pool a lot, and despite some drawbacks, the hotel does offer good value for the overall experience.
Price: Just under $200 and a high resort fee of $45.
Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club:
Retro-Chic with Hawaiian Surfer Flair
Nestled in the heart of Waikiki, the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club offers a refreshing and nostalgic take on Hawaiian hospitality. From the moment you enter the stylishly retro lobby, you are in for a unique and laid-back experience.
The hotel’s aesthetic pays homage to mid-century Hawaiian design, with vibrant colors, vintage-inspired furnishings, and locally sourced artwork adorning the walls. The attention to detail in creating this retro-chic atmosphere added a playful and welcoming touch that set Surfjack apart from more conventional hotels. Their theme also incorporates the spirit of surfing and skateboarding, creating a vibrant, youthful, and dynamic environment throughout the property. Surfjack’s central location in Waikiki is a plus too, making it easy to explore the nearby beaches, shops, and eateries.
While I did not stay at the hotel, the room they showed me at Surfjack Hotel was a cozy haven with a beachy vibe. The decor continued the retro theme, with modern amenities seamlessly integrated into the nostalgic surroundings. The room appeared comfortable, coupled with the quirky yet functional furnishings, creating a charming space that felt like a home away from home.
The Swim Club, with its inviting pool surrounded by cozy lounge chairs, was a definite highlight. Whether lounging poolside or enjoying a refreshing swim, the laid-back ambiance made it an ideal spot to relax and soak up the Hawaiian sun. The onsite restaurant and bar, Mahina & Sun’s, offered a delightful menu of thoughtfully crafted dishes.
Embracing a commitment to artists, makers, dreamers, and doers, as outlined on their website, the hotel hosts various events. Explore their event calendar for movie nights, live music, or lively pool parties. Additionally, you can book surf lessons, while the hotel partnered with legendary surfer and 2023 Longboard Champ Kai Sallas. Guests can enjoy a complimentary 2-hour surfboard or paddleboard rental, and this place is dog-friendly, allowing guests to bring their furry companions without incurring any fees.
Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club is a charming and distinctive choice for travelers seeking a relaxed and authentic Hawaiian experience with plenty of entertainment right in the hotel. The retro-chic ambiance, friendly staff, and convenient location stood really out to me.
Price: Well under $300 with no resort fee.
White Sands Hotel:
Unveiling Waikiki’s Best-Kept Secrets
A couple of blocks further from Surfjack Hotel also close to Ala Wai Canal, White Sands Hotel (built in 1957 and reimagined for today) provides a lush, tropical oasis as a hidden gem. You enter the motel-like hotel through a long, rather dark entryway that leads you to the reception and into a beautiful courtyard with a pool and Tiki Bar.
The Heyday Tiki Bar, an integral part of the White Sands Hotel, is a delightful homage to the golden era of tiki culture. With its bamboo accents, tropical motifs, provided swings, and expertly crafted cocktails, the bar exudes a playful and laid-back atmosphere. Sipping on a perfectly blended Mai Tai or a signature Tiki Punch by the poolside, surrounded by the enchanting garden that offered many different seating areas, was a highlight of my visit when I did the hotel scouting.
Adding to the allure of the White Sands Hotel is its secret treasure—a little speakeasy tucked away from the main areas. This clandestine watering hole provided a cozy retreat, perfect for those seeking a more private and exclusive experience. Yet, with an increasing number of guests uncovering its appeal, the atmosphere here gradually became livelier over time.
The rooms at White Sands Hotel continue the retro theme, with tasteful decor that pays homage to the mid-century modern aesthetic. The staff at White Sands Hotel were warm, friendly, professional, and always ready to assist, and I very much appreciated their attention to serving every guest the best they could.
In conclusion, the White Sands Hotel in Waikiki is a true gem. The Heyday Tiki Bar and the little speakeasy add an extra layer of enchantment, making it an ideal choice for those seeking a unique and immersive Hawaiian experience, whether you stay at the White Sands or just snug over for a cocktail.
Price: Just around $175 with an appropriate $25 resort fee.
A Coffee Bliss and Craft Beer Delight
Nestled in the heart of Waikiki’s bustling tourist center, the OUTRIGGER Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel seamlessly blends modern luxury with the comforting appeal of island living. Upon ascending a lengthy escalator from the main shopping street, guests are welcomed into a contemporary lobby that sets the tone for their stay. While not directly on the beach, the OUTRIGGER’s strategic position on Kalākaua Ave ensures easy access to the iconic Waikiki Beach, creating an ideal fusion of urban convenience and seaside charm. The rooftop pool area on the second floor, offering panoramic views of the city, becomes a tranquil oasis complemented by attentive poolside service and plush loungers, delivering a lavish retreat amidst the urban backdrop.
Enhancing the hotel’s appeal is the Hawaiian Aroma Caffe, nestled conveniently next to the pool, an enchanting find for coffee enthusiasts. This charming café, boasting a cozy atmosphere and a menu featuring locally inspired coffee and snacks, became my go-to for a leisurely afternoon interlude. Its convenience became particularly evident during a sudden heavy downpour; serving as the ideal refuge, I could still enjoy the view of the outdoors and the pool.
Adjacent to the hotel, the Maui Brewing Co. emerges as a captivating haven for craft beer aficionados. This onsite brewery showcases a diverse selection of handcrafted beers paired with the usual menu of pub-style cuisine. It was a lively atmosphere when I entered on a weeknight, accompanied by the live music in the background.
Located at the street level of the hotel, you’ll discover Gallery Waikiki—a blend of art gallery and café showcasing creations from local artists, accompanied by live music in the evenings. Also, don’t miss the opportunity to explore Duke’s Marketplace, conveniently positioned right next to the hotel, offering locally crafted gifts and refreshments.
Though I did not personally experience the hotel rooms, the inviting glimpses on their website suggest well-appointed accommodation with all the necessary amenities for a comfortable stay.
In summary, the OUTRIGGER Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel, despite it also not being directly on the beach, stands as a sophisticated urban retreat in the heart of Waikiki. I enjoyed trying a craft at the Maui Brewing Co. and the delightful Hawaiian Aroma Caffe.
Price: Just over $200 with a fairly high resort fee of $40.
Wayfinder Waikiki: Beyond Hospitality—
Crafting Memorable Experiences in Paradise
Wayfinder Waikiki has effortlessly secured its spot as my absolute favorite hotel in paradise. From the moment I entered into this fusion of Hawaiian brutalist architecture, I was captivated by its outstanding charm and meticulous attention to detail. The design-obsessed owners have curated an experience that is nothing short of awesome, making every moment of my stay very comfortable.
Celebrating the abundant diversity and multicultural spirit of Hawaii, the hotel skillfully integrates elements of Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Filipino, and European details, resulting in a unique *Kamaʻāina style, as explained by the hotel. Each room is a testament to the owners’ dedication to creating a unique and stylish atmosphere. From the cool fabric headboards, and super cute glasses (no plastic in sight) to the chic lamps that can be dimmed to suit your mood—every detail exudes a sense of thoughtful coziness.
*Kamaʻāina (Hawaiian: kamaʻāina) lit. means ‘child or person of the land’ and as a style states, that it involves not just beautiful tropical interior design but embodies the warmth of lived-in homes that evoke a true sense of Hawaii.
The little extras provided by Wayfinder Waikiki truly set it apart. The robes in the room are a cozy touch, adding to the overall sense of comfort. A brochure about the hotel, elegantly encased in a vinyl cover, narrates the story behind this special place, its architecture, and its design. The inclusion of a QR code leading to the Wayfinder Spotify list is a brilliant way to immerse guests in the hotel’s vibe.
B-Side Coffee Bar, the on-site cafe, is a delightful spot for a morning pick-me-up. The restaurant, Redfish, elevated my culinary experience with exceptional and enjoyable dishes, such as the best poke I’ve ever had and Okonomiyaki fries—a delightful alternative for a snack. As a hotel guest, the 20% discount on food was a welcomed bonus. And the pool bar, Lost + Found, not only serves refreshing drinks but also presents guests with wooden tokens for a complimentary welcome drink, or two 😉.
The pool and hot tub provide a peaceful escape in Waikiki, creating opportunities to connect with other travelers; enjoying the company of people from different roots is effortlessly delightful in this laid-back setting. Canadian humor turned out to be a hilarious revelation! I have had an absolute blast with the people I’ve met, cracking up with laughter! 😄 Engaging yoga classes, poolside DJ sessions, and the owners’ active involvement in Oahu’s community, supporting local artists, offering a free entrance to the island’s renowned Bishop Museum to support their mission, and aiding Maui’s recovery from the 2023 fires, add a vibrant and community-focused dimension to the Wayfinder Hotel experience.
Wayfinder Waikiki is a design oasis that goes above and beyond to create a truly special experience. With its unique charm, thoughtful extras, exceptional culinary offerings, and a sense of inclusion it’s more than a hotel; it’s a destination in itself.
Price: Just under $200 with a medium resort fee of $35.
To sum this up: Each of the previously mentioned four hotels offered remarkable value, presenting unexpected and distinctive amenities and ambiance. While Wayfinder Waikiki provided a truly delightful experience that makes me eager to return, all four discoveries left a lasting positive impression. I would gladly opt for any of them on my next visit, drawn in by their individual and unique offerings.
Thank you for visiting my website, and Aloha and Mahalo for taking the time to read about my travel experiences. Your interest is sincerely appreciated!