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The best hotels in Hawaii: Where to book your next stay so you can feel like a local

Going to Hawaii? There are many hotel options on the island chain but these are the best of the bunch

When you go to Hawaii, you’re going to want to stay for a while. That’s simply what snorkeling, surfing, eating poke, sipping shave ice, and hiking through glorious National Parks will do. And in Hawaii, you’ve got quite a few great options, whether you’re doing the city thing in Honolulu or getting away in Lanai.

Part of an extended stay is living like a local. In Hawaii, you can do that while pampering yourself with the extra creature comforts a real vacation warrants. Think of the hotel as your headquarters for an immersive island experience, a place to rest up in between incredible meals, fun excursions, and visits to the archipelago’s many wondrous small towns and beaches.

Diamond head in Honolulu.
Danita Delimont/Getty Images

With so much to do in the Rainbow State, it’s easy to overlook a quality hotel and see it as little more than a place to hang your head at night. Not so, as the best hotels complement your stay every step of the way.

Read on to find your ideal digs during your Hawaiian vacation.

Where to stay in Oahu

The Laylow, Autograph Collection

That name is no accident. This ultra-modern Honolulu luxury hotel from the Marriott group will turn you into an expert flaneur with hammock chairs, complimentary shave ice, and walking-distance access to Honolulu’s best street scenes. They also offer important mainland imports like Stumptown coffee, Slowtide towels, and that monstera wallpaper you’ve been seeing all over Instagram.

The Laylow in Honolulu.
Genevieve Poblano/The Manual

And if you’ve ever wondered how midcentury modern design might translate to a tropical climate, the Laylow is proof that it works. You’ll be in the thick of Honolulu

  • Nearest Airport: Daniel K. Inouye Int’l
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Distance: 9 miles

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ESPACIO The Jewel of Waikiki

For the full panoramic and luxurious Honolulu experience, this is it. The hotel has just nine suites, each making up an entire floor. A visit to Mugen, the hotel’s restaurant, is reason enough to go. The cuisine is a fusion and French and Japanese inspiration with chef Jason Yamaguchi pulling out all of the stops.

The penthouse suite at the Espacio in Honolulu.

There’s an otherworldly spa, rooms come with fully loaded kitchens, and you get to enjoy sips on your own private balcony. It’s the only restaurant and hotel tandem on the islands to be awarded a five-star designation from Forbes.

  • Nearest Airport: Daniel K. Inouye Int’l
  • Time: 23 minutes
  • Distance: 1o miles

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Surfjack Hotel and Swim Club

If your happy place is being at the center of a scene, you better post up at the Surfjack. This ultra-hip boutique hotel is where Waikiki’s bright young things mix and mingle poolside, whether it be to watch an open-air movie premiere, or enjoy adults-only swim time during happy hour (yes, cocktails are served).

A scene from Surfjack Hotel in Hawaii.

With included amenities like an in-room welcome basket, complimentary bikes, reef-safe sunscreen, and even dinner credit at adjoining restaurant Mahina and Sun’s, the Surfjack is serious about leisure.

  • Nearest Airport: Daniel K. Inouye Int’l
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Distance: 9 miles

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Halekulani

Located near the freshwater springs that give Waikiki its name, Halekulani has the distinction of being one of Hawaii’s first hotels. Built in 1907 and expanded by each generation of owners, the hotel continues its hospitality legacy with an ethic of understated elegance and world-class refinement.

A room at Halekulani in Hawaii.

With all rooms decorated in Halekulani’s signature “seven shades of white,” the only decision you’ll have to make is whether you want your lanai to look out at the ocean, or at Diamond Head Crater. Dine al fresco in the shade of a century-old kiawe tree, float in the heated pool, groove to live jazz music over dinner, and bask in the legendary service that comes from the highest staff-to-guest ratio of any Hawaiian hotel.

  • Nearest Airport: Daniel K. Inouye Int’l
  • Time: 22 minutes
  • Distance: 9.5 miles

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Lotus Honolulu

Tucked away on the gold coast of Waikiki, many consider this hidden gem one of Honolulu’s best-kept secrets. With the iconic Diamond Head Crater looming on the horizon, plus local hangouts Kapiolani Park and Ala Wai Canal Promenade just a short stroll away, you’ll experience the best of both nature and urban settings.

A room at The Lotus in Honolulu.

Private lanais, free valet parking, evening wine-tasting sessions, complimentary bikes and beach necessities, and an outdoor shower for post-adventure cleanup round out a suite of amenities designed for the traveler who likes to be a little fussed over.

  • Nearest Airport: Daniel K. Inouye Int’l
  • Time: 23 minutes
  • Distance: 11 miles

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Where to stay on the Big Island

Holualoa Inn

Located on a 30-acre estate in the heart of Kona coffee country, this intimate country inn offers a taste of what Hawaii’s original settlers must have felt. Perched at 1,400 feet elevation on the slopes of Mount Hualalai, each of the inn’s eight accommodations (four guest rooms, two suites, and two cottages) features unique decor and design.

The Holualoa Inn.

Work off your homemade farm-to-table breakfast with a stroll around Holualoa’s acres of heritage fruit and coffee trees and beautifully tended flower gardens. Stop for a meditative pause in a gazebo overlooking the ocean or head back for a dip in the mosaic pool, and make sure to spend an afternoon perusing the beautifully restored ranch house. No matter how you spend your day, be sure to end it with a glass of wine in the rooftop gazebo while watching the sunset.

  • Nearest Airport: Kona Int’l
  • Time: 25 minutes
  • Distance: 13 miles

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Where to stay in Maui

Paia Inn

Paia feels like a world away, a sleepy and surfy little beach town pretty close to the Maui airport. It’s a town full of good food and great walkability, meaning you can become a local really fast. The Paia Inn is where it’s at, with beautiful rooms that are just the right size, intimate beaches just paces away, and an overall theme of restoration and wellness.

Paia Inn Hotel.
Paia Inn

It’s hip and boutique without being too much of either. In fact, it seems very much at home, a perfectly placed building that happened to morph into a great hotel. That building, by the way, is quite charming, a historic edifice constructed in the late 1920s.

  • Nearest Airport: Kahului
  • Time: 18 minutes
  • Distance: 7 miles

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Lumeria Maui

Located in Maui’s rolling green upcountry, Lumeria offers a tranquil escape for the wellness-focused traveler. Housed in a former convalescent home built in 1910, this boutique hotel pairs the historic charm of four-poster beds and wraparound porches with natural modern touches like a stone-floor shower and a salt-water pool.

A scene from the Lumeria Hotel in Maui.

Organic meals, juice cleanses, yoga workshops, and a slate of esoteric bodywork offerings (Reiki, craniosacral work, crystal massage, etc.) make up your high-vibe experience at Lumeria. Just down the hill is the village of Paia, where you can enjoy a kombucha and an avocado toast with the local crowd of surfers and artists. At night, slip away into the on-site pine forest, where you can swing in a hammock and stare up at the stars.

  • Nearest Airport: Kahului
  • Time: 24 minutes
  • Distance: 12 miles

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Where to stay in Lanai

Hotel Lanai

This 1920s-era boutique hotel is housed in the former residence of James Dole, of Dole pineapple fame. With just 11 rooms decorated in a warm mix of modern minimalism and vintage Hawaiiana, this cozy, intimate and thoughtful hotel gives you the feeling of staying with friends. (Friends who just happen to live on Hawaii’s most exclusive island.)

A room at the Hotel Lanai in Hawaii.

A far cry from the hustle of Waikiki Beach, the Hotel Lanai might be the most tranquil option on our list. Whether you’re relaxing in your bamboo-paneled suite, meandering through ancient temple ruins, or keeping an eye on the shoreline for humpback whales, a visit to the island of Lanai is all about awakening the senses and connecting with nature.

  • Nearest Airport: Lanai Airport
  • Time: 9 minutes
  • Distance: 4 miles

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Where to stay in Kauai

The Palmwood

Forget everything you thought you knew about B&Bs. One stay at the Palmwood and you’ll be planning your vacations for the next 10 years. Located on a secluded 5-acre estate in Kauai’s hill country, the Palmwood is modeled after traditional Japanese country inns, with just three painstakingly curated rooms that emphasize open space for a feeling of deep serenity.

The Palmwood B&B in Hawaii.

Vaulted ceilings, French doors, private lanais, Parachute bed linens, locally sourced meals, private hot tubs, complimentary bikes—need we go on? It’s the kind of place you’ll want to keep secret from all your friends.

  • Nearest Airport: Lihue Airport
  • Time: 32 minutes
  • Distance: 17 miles

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