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Hawaii has nearly fully recovered from the pandemic plunge in tourism, with nearly 800,000 visitors arriving in January 2023 alone, according to the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. And its most-visited island, Oahu, is bustling.
“Car rental rates have declined and staffing has improved since the islands reopened, so it’s a much calmer time to visit,” says Randy Diamond, area managing director for Highgate, a hotel management company that runs several resorts in Hawaii and elsewhere.
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Having recovered the spirit of aloha, Honolulu is back on its feet with new hotels, restaurants and attractions, mostly in the tourist-centric neighborhood Waikiki. Here’s the latest.
The Twin Fin opened in November 2022 on the eastern end of the beach, near the Honolulu Zoo. The surf-themed hotel greets guests with a large-scale sculpture of a wave in the lobby made from recycled plastic found in the ocean. Guests can choose between rooms decorated in shades of sky and sea that overlook the ocean or Diamond Head, and borrow three items daily — including beach chairs, umbrellas and bodyboards — from Beach Candy, the on-site surf rental shop. Guided stargazing programs take place weekly on the 21st floor. Note: The property is ADA compliant. However, not all rooms have accessible features, so check with the hotel before you book. Rates start around $195.
About five blocks from the beach, near the Ala Wai Canal, the new Wayfinder Waikiki features lush foliage, bright colors and tropical patterns. Its culinary appeal stems from B-Side Coffee Bar and, coming soon, Redfish Poke Bar, which will highlight Hawaii’s popular raw seafood salad. Guests can rent a Moke ($125 per hour; $475 per day), an “all-electric, open-top vehicle, perfect for cruising Waikiki and Honolulu sights,” says Adrian Perez, manager of the hotel. Although the property is ADA compliant, not all rooms are accessible, so check with the hotel before you book. Rates start around $200.
Where to dine
Beyond Hawaiian fare, Waikiki’s culinary character nurtures a strong Asian streak as captured by Stix Asia. The new pan-Asian food hall revives the pre-pandemic hit Waikiki Yokocho. A few favorites are returning, including Nana’s Green Tea, known for matcha soft-serve ice cream, and Baikohken, known for bowls of ramen and bold flavors. New entries include a Taiwanese noodle stand, a Korean street food specialist and Hawaiian bagels in rainbow colors.