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One year in, Alohilani Resort keeps evolving

The pool deck at the Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach features a saltwater infinity pool, cabanas and fire pits.

It has been an eventful first 12 months for the Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach, and the modern, vibrant property shows no signs of slowing down.

The resort last month celebrated the anniversary of its grand opening, which marked the $125 million transition from the former Pacific Beach Hotel. Since the launch, the Alohilani has continued to evolve, adding amenities, dining options, programming and activity packages, with more on the way this summer. 

The resort has taken steps to work in Hawaiian culture and the traditions from the hotel's site at the eastern end of Waikiki Beach. It sits on land that once belonged to Queen Liliuokalani and was named after one of the monarch's beachside cottages. When guests enter the open, high-ceilinged lobby, they are greeted by towering columns wrapped in a Hawaiian teak pattern; an intricate, cardinal-red, Hawaiian chief's cloak in a display case; and a white coral-inspired sculpture by Nina Helms spanning one wall.

The centerpiece of the ground floor is the 280,000-gallon Oceanarium, with more than 500 sea creatures representing more than two dozen species, including two puffer fish species. Twice a day a scuba diver enters the tank to feed the fish as children — and a few adults — press their faces against the aquarium's large windows. 

The 280,000-gallon Oceanarium saltwater aquarium is the centerpiece of the resort’s ground floor.
The 280,000-gallon Oceanarium saltwater aquarium is the centerpiece of the resort’s ground floor.

The 839 rooms across two towers feature private balconies and are thoughtfully designed with the latest technological touches like convenient outlets and televisions that easily sync with guests' streaming services. During a recent hosted stay, I had a corner room in the taller Seascape tower that featured views of Diamond Head and the Pacific, with windows on two sides providing lots of natural light. 

A fun, lively atmosphere and inventive programming are key to the Alohilani's allure, and the property employs a Director of Vibe who focuses on entertainment, themed events and other initiatives. 

The resort recently helped host the Pow! Wow! street art festival, holding parties and also serving as the location for two new murals, including the postcard-style, 3,750-square-foot "Greetings From Hawaii" floor mural.

Alohilani partners with the Hawaii Legacy Reforestation Initiative, with a pledge to plant 100,000 trees on Oahu and Hawaii Island, and incorporates tree planting at Gunstock Ranch on Oahu's North Shore into its resort activities and packages. The trees can be dedicated and planted in the name of a loved one, and participants can follow the growth of the tree using an online tracking system. 

The latest activity bundle, the Thrillist, is a three-day exploration of Oahu by land, sea and air with a tree-planting excursion, surf lessons, snorkeling, a helicopter ride and hang gliding. There is also a Plant Your Intentions package, which includes an astrological reading and dream board manifestation workshop.

The pool deck is compact but well organized, with several sections. There is a narrow, shallow pool that serves as a children's area and also hosts Dive-in Movies every Sunday, and a larger saltwater infinity pool with adjacent loungers and a handful of comfortable seating areas arranged around fire pits. The cabanas feature slatted, mechanical roofs that can be adjusted by remote to allow just the right amount of sun. 

The culinary highlights at Alohilani both come from acclaimed Japanese restaurateur Masaharu Morimoto. Momosan is a casual lunch and dinner spot serving up the former Iron Chef's special brand of ramen noodles as well as dishes like soft-shell crab bao. On the second floor, with a terrace offering views of Kuhio Beach, Morimoto Asia is a more formal, fine dining establishment serving up inventive Asian fusion cuisine, such as Hainanese chicken with turmeric rice and crispy pork belly with jalapeno. The chocolate sphere, sorbet and streusel served with salted caramel ganache under a hard chocolate dome, is covered in Bacardi 151 rum and then lit tableside, a delight to see and taste that will elicit jealous looks from neighboring diners. 

The resort, with its rooftop tennis courts and batting cages and programs like sunset yoga, is a good choice for the active traveler. The gym, which welcomes hotel guests as well as local members, includes an area for free weights and more space and equipment than the average hotel fitness center. 

The Alohilani continues to flesh out the property. Kai Coffee opened up a cafe and roastery on the ground floor in the spring, and the local company offers roasting demonstrations and tastings. This month, the property will introduce a partnership with Enterprise Rent-A-Car to offer guests exotic and luxury vehicles such as the Tesla S, Maserati Ghibli and Range Rover Evoque Convertible. And during my stay, crews were hard at work on the forthcoming Longboard Club, an indoor-outdoor, poolside venue with exclusive, personalized service. 

Room rates at the Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach start at $289 per night.

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