Daylight is just beginning to fade on the southern shore of Oahu, coloring the lacy veil of clouds over Waikiki marina with streaks of lavender and tangerine. I'm nursing a Diet Coke on the Sunrise Pool deck at the brand-new Waikiki Edition, savoring the pastel-colored light show and the people-watching.
Nearly five months earlier, during a press conference held just before the property's grand opening last October, I asked Ian Schrager what sort of guests he hoped the Edition would attract. Schrager, credited with helping develop the boutique hotel concept with his 1984 opening of New York's Morgans Hotel, partnered with Marriott in 2007 to develop the new Edition Hotels luxury boutique brand. He told me the Waikiki Edition wasn't designed with a specific demographic or market in mind.
"I think it's going to appeal to a sensibility," he said. "I can't give you a demographic definition of it; it's a psychographic.
"The people who will respond to this could be 16 years old or 50, 70 or 80," Schrager added. "Miley Cyrus, who my daughter likes, or Mick Jagger or Bill Clinton. People will seek this out because it responds to what they like."
I will admit that, although I liked Schrager's answer at the time, I was a little skeptical. Having already walked through the property on that day in October and absorbed some of its modern, hip and unmistakably suave ambience, I had a hard time picturing the diverse crowd Schrager described actually congregating within the hotel.
During my recent visit, however, I was surrounded by that multifarious faction of folks Schrager envisioned. Young couples in expensive sunglasses and snug swimsuits were lounging right next to retirees -- some in equally tight-fitting gear. More conservatively dressed boomers laughed with their preteens while a couple of fellows enjoyed drinks at the poolside bar in suits and ties. There was even an elementary-school-age kid tooling around in the pool. Branding one-offs
The 353-room Waikiki Edition was only the first of many planned openings across the globe, and future Edition properties -- all of which will feature one-of-a-kind layouts, room designs and themes -- are planned for Miami Beach, Barcelona, Mexico City and Bangkok. The 77-room Istanbul Edition launched earlier this year.
"The idea is really simple," Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International, said of the Edition brand. "And that is to combine the creative genius and inspiration that Ian brings to this, and that expertise, and to marry it with a service culture, to make sure that it's not only a really lovely hotel and a great experience but is one where you can have a restful night's sleep, one where you can interact with a staff that really cares about you."
Service at the Waikiki Edition earned raves from Honolulu-based travel consultant Constance Williams of Tzell Travel West.
"I thought it was absolutely perfect," the 37-year industry veteran said of a recent stay at the property. "Everything about it, from the minute you walk in, the friendliness of the valets and the attention to every detail ... was spectacular."
Offering visitors an upscale alternative to what they'll find elsewhere on Oahu is another of the property's main draws.
"There is nothing like the Waikiki Edition in the Waikiki market, as it has a very different feel than the other hotels," said Sallie Rawlings, senior director of corporate communications for Travel Impressions. "The hotel will [also] draw guests that are looking for the Waikiki experience but who prefer to be situated away from the main strip."
A five-minute walk from the beach, the hotel sits at Waikiki's west end in what was once the Yacht Harbor Tower wing of the Ilikai Hotel. Home to two distinctive pool settings, a full-service spa and the exceedingly popular Morimoto restaurant and Crazybox nightclub, the Edition exudes a consistently urban persona.
Its guestrooms are full of clean lines and stark, white wall treatments and furnishings, all accented with a brightly colored ukulele, sarongs and seashells for just a hint of Hawaiiana. Amply proportioned flat-screen TVs, iPod docking stations and complimentary WiFi also come standard.
"I loved the views," Williams said of her stay in one of the hotel's corner suites. "You feel like you're in a villa, yet it's very friendly and not too stuffy." Shape-up special
Travelers looking to do more than soak in sunsets and cocktails around the pool may also want to consider the Waikiki Edition's Surf & Bikini Bootcamp. Created by a surfing world champ, the all-inclusive, four-day package is offered to guests once a month and runs about $1,220 per day for a couple.
"We've got some great hikes along with great yoga classes, cardio training classes, Pilates, core strengthening training and kayaking, all balanced with a nutritionally healthy menu and spa treatments," said Waikiki Edition General Manager Michael Rock.
Rock assured me that there's plenty of scheduled time for folks to rejuvenate and relax, as well.
"It is meant to be entertaining and fun while showcasing what Hawaii is, instead of a drill sergeant-type regimen where someone is screaming at you as you're trying to do those last few pushups."