By John Wogan
June 14, 2021
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Hawaii tourism, you might have heard, is booming. Visitors have returned in droves as the U.S. continues its recovery from the pandemic, and for many, the island archipelago is the top choice for that first post-lockdown family trip or couples getaway. And this summer, travelers will have a lot to look forward to.

In the past year, hotels and resorts across the state have used this tourist-free time as a chance to update or (in some cases) completely renovate their existing properties. Four Seasons Resort Hualalai on the Big Island and the Hyatt Regency Maui both debuted their new looks this year, and there have also been ground-up projects like the AC Hotel Maui Wailea, which opened in May. But it's on Oahu where the most action is taking place. Below, we take a closer look at the four most exciting projects. 

Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort

Interior of a king room at Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort
Credit: David Murphey/Courtesy of Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort

In the heart of Honolulu's most famous neighborhood, the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort has finished the first phase of its revamp. All of its 635 guest rooms are now complete, with a palette of ocean-inspired blues and plenty of natural wood that feels appropriate for the beachy surroundings. Coming up: a new cultural center, a wellness wing with spa rooms and fitness center, and the resort's anchor beachfront restaurant, Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman, from the celebrated local chef and restaurateur, Peter Merriman (opening this winter).

outriggerreef.com; doubles from $199.

Turtle Bay Resort

Far from Oahu's busiest tourist zone, Turtle Bay Resort occupies a prime beachfront perch on the island's rural North Shore. And this summer, the 1,400-acre property is reopening after a total renovation. Among the changes (aside from the overhaul of its 410 guest rooms) include the lobby's look and feel: the walls were replaced with windows that overlook the beach and surf. And to honor the local artistic community, the resort will exhibit large-scale works by Hawaii-based artists including Nick Kuchar, known for his vintage travel-inspired designs, and Abigail Romanchak, who specializes in Hawaiian printmaking. The existing pool has been redesigned in an infinity-terraced layout, and there's a new restaurant, Alaia, which will feature the sustainable agriculture of the North Shore throughout its menu.

turtlebayresort.com; doubles from $439. 

Kaimana Beach Hotel

View of the beach at Kaimana Beach Hotel
Credit: Courtesy of Kaimana Beach Hotel

Due to its location on the less crowded southern end of Waikiki, Kaimana Beach Hotel is in the enviable position of being close enough to all the action (including the endless amounts of restaurants and shops of the area) while feeling like a quiet retreat once you return to your room. This year, the hotel rebranded (it was formerly the New Otani) and with it, a new look and atmosphere. While only the suites so far have been redesigned (in a light, bright color scheme that compliment the ocean and Diamond Head views outside), all of the common spaces are finished - most notably, the hotel's beachfront restaurant, Hau Tree (which serves island-inspired dishes like grilled fish and salads using North Shore produce), which has become one of the most in-demand reservations in town.

kaimana.com; doubles from $199.   

White Sands Hotel

The pool deck at White Sands Honolulu
Credit: Courtesy of White Sands Honolulu

A smaller-scale hotel than its high-profile neighbors, White Sands is a throwback to the Honolulu of the '60s and '70s, when jet travel to the state became common and tourism took off. Local design firm The Vanguard Theory gave the 94 rooms a midcentury tropical flair by using bright colors and groovy, vibrant fabrics, and each one comes with its own outdoor lanai. Other retro details include landline telephones that look straight from an episode of the Brady Bunch, vintage cigarette machines (that now dispense small scale artwork), a courtyard pool with a cascading waterfall, and a grotto-style hot tub. And the open-air restaurant, Heyday, features a poolside bar for daily mai tais while checking out the cool crowd of locals and visitors.

whitesandshotel.com; doubles from $159.