Opening on Feb. 1, the 122-room Kaimana Beach Hotel is one of the few Waikiki Beach properties snug on the sand with direct beach access along Kaimana Beach. In fact, this newly renovated property (which was previously the former New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel) is the only boutique-size hotel with this claim. Others in the area, like Royal Hawaiian, are much larger in size.
Kaimana Beach Hotel general manager Ha’aheo Zablan views the opening as an opportunity to embrace nostalgia. The property was built in 1963. “Kaimana has been an integral part of the fabric of Waikiki for more than five decades and a beloved spot for locals and travelers to surf and hang out at the iconic Hau Tree restaurant [right on the beach]," he said. "It is set on one of Waikiki’s quietest beaches and best surf breaks located on the quiet end of Waikiki.”
Hau Tree is actually shaded by a hau tree and is on the grounds of a Victorian home; it was frequented by author Robert Louis Stevenson. The restaurant is still there, now in the capable hands of Alan Takasaki (former owner of East Oahu’s Le Bistro) and James Beard Award-nominated chef Chris Kajioka. (Hau Tree’s small-plates-focused menu and all-day Rosé weekend-brunch menu are two highlights.)
The most noticeable change to the transformed property is the “modern-boho” aesthetic throughout the entire hotel. It’s the work of Hawaii-based interior-design firm Henderson Design Group, whose other projects include the Four Seasons Hualalai on the Big Island.
“One of the [hotel’s] owners said early on that he wanted the lobby to feel like your ‘funky auntie’s or uncle’s living room,” said Eric Henderson, Henderson Design Group’s principal and creative director. Ocean blues, coral pinks, and sandy neutrals were the chosen color palette, he said.
His team scoured Hawaii’s thrift shops for art and furnishings, studied photos of the building as it was during the 1960s, and custom-designed new pieces (like vintage-inspired tile-topped coffee tables) to nail the right look. “We chose materials, colors, and patterns that reference ‘60s vintage Hawaii, such as rattan, teak, and sunny pastels,” said Henderson. “We were primarily looking for unique and original mid-century artwork from the late ‘50s to the late ‘70s—the heyday of Modern architecture in Hawaii. The mix of vintage and new furniture feels as if it always belonged.”
Henderson also drew from his memories staying at the hotel when it was the New Otani. “I often wondered when someone would finally return the hotel to its full potential, for people to experience and enjoy,” he said. “I thought a lot over the years about what I would do, not ever knowing that this opportunity would come to me.”
“The hotel has been entirely transformed,” said Zablan. In addition to 122 guest rooms, there’s a new look for the lobby, Hau Tree, sunset bar, private dining room, and five top-floor suites (up to 838 square feet, with spacious outdoor balconies and shibori wallpaper). Guests also receive access to Kaimana Beach Club amenities: lei-making tutorials, Electra cruiser bikes, surfboard rentals at Pro Surf School, Peligro beach chairs, and beach towels. Club concierge access is also included.
Besides these onsite amenities, guests have other top attractions and activities nearby. Kapi’olani Regional Park and the Waikiki Aquarium are next door, and Kai Sallas’ Pro Surf School is in the hotel’s backyard. (Sallas is a 2018 International Surfing Association World longboard surfing champ.)