Boutique Hotel Product Arrives In Waikiki, In Pairs

Two Urban-Styled And Modern Chic Hotels

It's been no secret that the decade-old trend of minimalist chic hotel product that saturate places like San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, has completely eluded Honolulu. Which is strange. The hotel genre (W, The Standard, The Hudson, etc.) seems to attract a young, hip and international clientele; each an adjective that certainly describes visitors to Oahu. So is the allure of traditional, breezy beach resort too enticing to hoteliers and developers?

Until this year, yes. As the veil lifts on a newly renovated Waikiki Beach Walk at Lewers Street, the curtains have been pulled back. A fresh canvas is now painted with international color, globally influenced design schemes and styles that reflect the various moods and wants of Hawaii's visitors. No longer are they arriving to simply catch a tan and wade in the water. Shopping, dining and drinking, visiting art galleries and markets are just a few of the activities on the rise in Honolulu. And it just might take a boutique hotel to put these "new" draws at the fingertips of inbound guests.

The Waikiki Parc, tucked between the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center and the Halekulani, is in the home stretch of a massive overhaul that began a year and a half ago. All the rooms were refurbished with pastel colored walls, dark wood furniture (desk, nightstands and bed frame), plush bedding, glass-metal-tile bathrooms and digital art on the walls. Renowned artists were called in to make signature throw pillows depicting romantic scenes, which sit on the bed. Shutters slide across the glass windows, adding a home-like feel to this ubran-chic design.

Leading to the lobby, a long, white hallway (reminiscent of the John F. Kennedy Airport hallway used in countless movies) uses slowly changing colored lights to adjust the mood every few minutes. A round, custom-made carpet is interrupted by 3 orange benches, each a different shape, and nodding to the Deco era. The business lounge resides on the opposite side of the lobby from where Nobu's main entrance will be when the popular sushi eatery opens in a month and a half. After Nobu, the 8th floor pool will be the last phase of construction. It may be the future site of the weekly manager's reception, open to all guests.

Unique programs like the hotel's custom-labeled wine -- which comes in three varieties -- wireless access throughout, a super-hot restaurant soon to be on-site (Nobu), and the Lotus sports car rental in the lobby (the Parc, currently has the only Lotus's on the island available for rental) all create a vibe that is far more than the sum of it's parts. The hotel's tucked-in nature, without any major Waikiki thoroughfare outside its doors, might even prove to be the edge it's looking for. Think about all those "hot" restaurants and city clubs in places like N.Y. and L.A. that have no sign; non-descript doors with a bouncer out front, and how successful they have been simply because they bill themselves as a "secret". The Waikiki Parc might be Waikiki's best-kept secret.

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Behind the former Aston Waikiki on Paoakalani Avenue (between Kalakaua and Kuhio) sits another new arrival on the boutique hotel scene. It is called Hotel Renew, and we'realize this is most likely the first many of you are hearing about this property. Managed by Aqua Resorts, Renew in currently in the process of finishing the remaining 25% of their 70 rooms, scheduled to be completed by June. Designed by Malaysian-born, San Francisco-based designer Jiun Ho, the rooms are a study in simple, clean lines accented with bold tones and Eastern finishings -- all of which are hand-designed by Ho. An esteemed furniture designer, Ho started with low, platform beds made of dark wood. Shoji sliding doors cover the oft-bland windows at many of Waikiki's cookie cutter hotels, adding a nice touch to the main light source in the room. Wall sconces and table lamps hang like Chinese lanterns, while a chaise lounge chair sits in one corner of a king room. Walls are muted in either gray or cream; with red being the color chosen to accent the room. A red throw is draped across the bed; a red pillow tossed on the chaise, and red flowers left on the bedside table. A cream-colored, leather chair (which also nods to the Deco era) sits at a wooden desk.

Perhaps one of the most unique perks to the rooms exist only in the twin bed or double rooms. A projection television unit beams the gigantic image of cable T.V. onto the white wall in opposite the two beds. Larger than life movie viewing isn't something we're used to in a hotel room -- and Renew has handed it to us. (The projector will also connect guests' computers to the Internet, which can then be projected on to the wall as well. King bedded rooms have plasma flat screens.) It seems that the folk at Renew (and Aqua) understand what Generation X travelers consider necessity, as opposed to a mere "perk": Free wireless Web access, adjustable lighting and a comfortable room.

The rooms at Renew are available now, to those who wish to preview what Hawaii's boutique offerings are like. While some services -- like in-room massage, complimentary breakfast delivered to room and the lobby-level lounge are not quite in place, Renew is open for business.

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