Aloha From Hawaii
BY Job Brother
July 02 2008 12:00 AM ET
Like many people who call Los Angeles home, I am accustomed to a certain lifestyle: long hours at a day job to cover a rent that rivals the national debt, freelance gigs that dominate my “time off,” traffic that turns an errand to buy some milk and eggs into a daylong road trip, and breathing air that can not only be seen but sometimes even tasted.
It’s difficult to leave such a glamorous life behind, but when I was offered a chance to visit the Hawaiian Islands and check out some of the posh vacation destinations offered by Starwood Hotels & Resorts, I bravely accepted.
I packed a few essentials -- swim trunks, my iPod, and my boyfriend -- and boarded a flight for Honolulu. Having been raised on the island of Oahu, it felt curious to return as one of the many tourists I used to poke fun at. I made a mental checklist of the things I wouldn’t do, such as wearing my camera like a necklace or overusing the word mahalo.
My first destination was the W Honolulu Diamond Head (2885 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu; 808-922-1700). The hotel was unassuming -- so much so that we missed it on our initial drive down Kalakaua Avenue, sending us back around the circumference of the neighboring Kapiolani Park.
We were in a corner suite, which gave us a beautiful view of the inactive volcano of Diamond Head and a view of the ocean that was partially obstructed by larger hotels next door. The suite had lanai -- or patio -- appointments on two sides, which promoted a delicious breeze. (Be careful with your food, however -- lunching on the lanai led to a Hitchcockian experience of birds muscling in.) Our room’s decor was an uninspired mix of Polynesian wood furnishings amid white backdrops. All in all it was not up to the standard of urban cool that the W is famous for, a fact spokespeople seemed aware of as they showed us what the redesigned rooms would soon look like: Cobalt blue predominated over polished white furniture, while intricately designed sliding-glass fixtures maximized use of the small space. White netting resembled a sail over a bed, while a chair featured a blue woven back meant to resemble deep-water vegetation. It was a decidedly W postmodern vision of an undersea lounge.
The hotel does provide comfortable beach chairs and towels at the front desk, but unfortunately, the nearest beach is mostly waveless and located next to the historic but dilapidated Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium, a swimming pool built by the military that is now a depressing visage, in such disrepair that people may no longer enter it.
Rumor has it that the W hosts some swinging nightlife as well, but having escaped from hipster Los Angeles ourselves, we opted out of experiencing it.
Instead we enjoyed our first dinner at the Moana Surfrider Resort on Waikiki Beach (2365 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu; 808-922-3111). First opened in 1901 and having undergone a $50 million restoration in the late '80s, the hotel is a gorgeous example of beaux arts architecture, easily evoking a feeling of Old World glamour. Its restaurant, Beach House, is a joy to behold, with both patio and indoor seating offering panoramic views of the ocean. But the real joy lies in the food. Our waitress bragged that the steaks are so good we wouldn’t need the accompanying sauce, and it was true. Her knowledge and enthusiasm made her a welcome guide as we navigated the menu. Ultimately, we ordered diver scallop potato cakes with kula citrus-herb butter, and filet mignon seasoned with alaea salt blend and served with citrus bearnaise and cabernet jus. We also drank the first of what would be many piña coladas on our vacation, eventually judging each establishment on their preparation of this cocktail. The scallop potato cakes were rich without being oily; the potato flavor practically vanished and complimented the texture of the dish while allowing for the taste of scallop to predominate. The filet mignon, very rare, as I ordered it, was so tender it was like pudding, and boldly salty. Despite our waitress’s boast, I used the bearnaise sauce, which added a flavor of melted savory pastry -- my eyes rolled back in my head.