Heading up the escalators that lead from Kuhio Avenue to the Laylow lobby, visitors are briskly transported from the bustling traffic of shoppers and flip-flop-clad beachgoers with surfboards in tow moving like marching ants through the heart of Waikiki to a calming oasis beckoning with craft cocktails and views of the action below.
A wall lined with vintage hula girl figurines of various shapes and poses serves as a backdrop for the front desk, immediately entrancing guests with their swaying motion, a nod to the kitsch of the '60s and '70s that the Laylow is pulling from and pushing forward.
The 251-room hotel opened in March 2017 after a $60 million complete rebrand and midcentury modern redesign with distinct Hawaiian and tropical accents under the Marriott International Autograph Collection. The property originally opened in 1969 as the Coral Reef Hotel.
The redesign was led by Portland-based Official Manufacturing Co., blending a 1960s Hawaii vibe with modern amenities and in-room technology. There are 185 guestrooms and 65 suites. During a hosted stay in May, I was welcomed to my room with a complimentary basket of flip-flops, rubber ducky, chips, water, chocolate, and other sundries that aided in setting the shoes-off, feet-up mood. And for travelers who simply cannot unwind without their favorite furry friend by their side, the Laylow has a pet-friendly policy welcoming well-behaved dogs.
The rooms offer a bright, beach-appropriate decor without being excessively loud and busy in style. The suite I was in offered plenty of space for work, lounging and rest, and the bookshelf stocked with chronicles of Hawaiian history and culture topped with a functioning ukulele lent a sense of home often devoid at hotels run by international corporations.
The rooms are decked out in warm earth tones, including burnt orange, cobalt, and pink touches. Every room boasts a king bed and private balcony (with some of the larger rooms sporting two patios), and they are equipped with more than enough plugs for device charging and TVs that easily allow guests to access streaming services.
The inviting lobby and common areas were part of the "urban oasis" makeover, moved up from the ground floor during the renovations creating some separation from the busy street scene. The design team used custom furniture designs and curated items to populate the rooms and communal spaces, including vintage lounge chairs and bar stools, terrazzo countertops, and a long accent wall made of breeze blocks. Colorful custom wallpapers with floral designs and a plethora of green plants and trees round out the motif.
Surrounded by buildings, there is little view of note on the lower floors, where I was stationed, mostly having the effect of encouraging me to join the action on the street outside, or at the very least people watch from the property's signature indoor-outdoor restaurant with firepits overlooking Kuhio Avenue, the Hideout.
The signature restaurant is open all day and led by executive chef Bryan Byard, who crafted a menu of Pacific Rim-inspired dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. Try the coconut curry seafood stew with Kauai prawns or the "Piggy Marley," a burger with pork belly, wagyu beef, fried egg, ginger soy and pineapple. The open-air patio with fire pits features nightly live entertainment and is an ideal pre-dinner spot to try one of the signature cocktails, such as the "En-Thai-Cing," with Pau Maui Vodka, Domaine de Canton liqueur, coconut, lemongrass lime leaf shrub and orgeat. For those on the go in the morning, the lobby is also home to a coffee bar serving Stumptown roasts and assorted pastries.
The saltwater pool shaded with bamboo canopies is lined with comfy, spacious chaise lounges and private cabanas. The adjacent fitness center has the standard lineup of hotel gym equipment, enough to work up a sweat and earn an afternoon treat of complimentary shave ice served poolside. The hotel also hosts other programming such as ukulele lessons to encourage guests to congregate and mingle.
The Laylow is well situated in central Waikiki, a few blocks from the beach, close to popular restaurants such as Marukame Udon and Paia Fish Market, and near the International Marketplace's long roster of restaurants and shops.