Colony Surf's Star Rises Again


Reed Travel Features

HONOLULU -- The Colony Surf Hotel, which opened in 1959, had by the 1980s gained a reputation as a Hollywood retreat at the quiet Diamond Head end of Waikiki.

Tom Selleck stayed here much of the time while filming the long-running television show "Magnum P.I.," as did "Hawaii Five-O" actors in earlier years. Frank Sinatra and Lana Turner are among others on its celebrity guest list.

With Hawaii's hard tourism times of the '90s, the image faded, the property drifting into foreclosure and closure in 1995.

The hotel opposite the 220-acre Kapiolani Park is revitalized under new ownership and management. It reopened Nov. 1 after a multimillion-dollar remodeling and renovation with an array of guest services it never had before. With 74 rooms and studios in two buildings, the property features a new driveway and landscaping and a lobby with a Polynesian design. Hotel rooms are decorated in a Balinese theme, with artwork, teak furniture and white fabrics.

Colony Surf is operated by Los Angeles-based Colony Capital Inc., a private investment firm that bought the hotel in June 1996 and began renovations last March (the Colony names are coincidental).

It is composed of what was called the Colony East building, a 13-story structure with 50 hotel rooms and the lobby, and the nearby 20-story beachfront Colony Surf building, with 24 condominium studios. A secluded beach fronts the condominium building.

The hotel building was gutted, remodeled and renovated; the studios were refurbished.

A 160-seat restaurant, David Paul's Diamond Head Grill, will open above the lobby March 1 in space once assigned to Bobby McGee's restaurant. It will be the second David Paul's -- the first is the award-winning Lahaina Grill on Maui -- and adjacent will be banquet and meeting facilities for 120 people. With the restaurant opening, the hotel will start providing room service. Room rates include continental breakfast.

"The hotel creed, which the staff lives by, is to surprise and delight guests. We want to make this hotel special," said David Cook, Colony Surf's director of sales. "This is a small, intimate property that is very service-oriented -- something you don't find in the middle of Waikiki. Our two big pluses are the serenity of the location -- and yet you can walk to Waikiki's nightlife and shopping -- and our services. In its heyday, it had the location but was really a plush condo without services."

The earlier Colony Surf marketed the hotel building as studios with kitchenette facilities, and the condo units (now studios) as suites.

Cook noted that all front desk and bell staff are trained to provide concierge services. Also, guests register in their rooms instead of at the front desk.

Another difference is the rooms have no honor bars: guests order from a list of items, providing a more-personalized service, he said. Rooms and studios have cable television with in-room movies, hair dryers, refrigerators, coffeemakers, safes, two-line telephones and Aveda bathroom products. There are also CD players with Hawaiian music CDs, and VCRs are available upon request. Hotel rooms have lanais and air conditioning, full kitchens and fans. Services include daily newspapers, maid service twice daily, valet parking, bell service, dry cleaning and laundry, fax and photo copying, beach towels and backrests.

Rates for the 455-square-foot hotel rooms are $225 (Diamond Head view) and $275 (oceanview). Condo studios are $175 for 500-square-foot units and, for 900-square-foot units, $240 (Diamond Head view), $285 (oceanview) and $425 (oceanfront). There also are two penthouse units -- one atop the hotel building for $3,000 a night, the other for $2,000 -- opening in the condo building in April. Through March, the hotel is offering a special run-of-house rate of $195 called the E Komo Mai (welcome) rate. It also is offering a $385 rate for an oceanfront studio (normally $425) through June 30.

The hotel is featured in programs of Classic Hawaii, Creative Leisure, All About Travel and Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays.

Colony Capital acquired the hotel from First Hawaiian Bank, which had foreclosed on owner Colony Surf Development Corp. in October 1995 and began renovation. Colony Surf Development had opened the hotel with the 13-story building in 1959, later developing the condominium building.

Colony Capital also owns the Big Island's 539-room Orchid at Mauna Lani, one of ITT Sheraton's Luxury collection hotels. Other holdings include the the Stanhope in New York and ownership interests in six Amanresorts properties in Thailand and Indonesia.

Colony Surf Hotel
Phone: (888) 924-SURF

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