The Surfjack, Honolulu

by  Christina Garofalo | Oct 16, 2018
Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club, Honolulu
Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club, Honolulu / Mariko Reed

Amid Honolulu’s bustling Waikiki tourist hotspot, the Surfjack is a unicorn. Set a few blocks from the beach on Lewers Street, the 112-room hotel has a laid-back, communal vibe, Insta-worthy decor, and plenty of local flavor.

The Basic 

Budget Level: Upscale to Luxe ($150-$300+/night)

Lodging Type: Large Hotel (100+ rooms)

What You Need To Know

The Look

Midcentury-modern meets contemporary Hawaiian hip. The lobby features the building’s original breeze block walls (c. 1958) and an oversize, vintage-green couch with acid-color pillows and bamboo armchairs. Across the way, the cafe—which boasts a vintage espresso machine—turns out expertly made lattes alongside woven bags, leather sandals, and boho-chic coverups that are part of an adjoining clothing boutique, Olive & Oliver.

Throughout the main level, colorful surfboards hang from the ceilings, and the restaurant walls feature custom “shaka”-print wallpaper by local artist Andrew Mau. The central oval-shaped pool’s hand-tiled message, “Wish You Were Here,” is Instagram gold.

The bungalow-style guestrooms—which range from standard size to three-bedroom suites—are minimalist, bright, and breezy. The headboards are upholstered with archived Tori Richard aloha prints, custom wood-block artwork and surf photos deck the walls, and lamps fashioned from recycled bottles hang from bamboo ceilings. Each room has a private balcony that overlooks the pool or the street.

The Vibe

Eclectic, artsy, communal, and welcoming. The Surfjack’s clientele consists of mostly millennials and couples (some with small children, many from Japan) who convene in the ground-floor spaces throughout the day. With the cool, eclectic playlist, couches fitted with charging ports, and the cafe and bar/restaurant a few steps away, the lobby functions as a sort of living room, where guests feel free to slip off their sandals and curl up with a good book or laugh with friends over cocktails. The open walls throughout the space and nightly entertainment—which guests watch from the bar or their balconies—contribute to the hotel’s laid-back, social atmosphere.

Who Will Love It

With its highly Instagrammable “Wish You Were Here” pool, eclectic decor and art collection, and live music and pool parties, the Surfjack was designed with millennials in mind. The property has also come to host many young families (including dogs) in apartment-style suites that sleep up to eight and have a kitchen and dining area and a sundeck.

Foodies will love the on-site restaurant Mahina & Sun’s, which is helmed by award-winning chef Ed Kenney and is a destination on its own. Lastly, the Surfjack’s hip, yet easygoing atmosphere and just-off-the-strip locale is ideal for anyone seeking a more authentic, low-key taste of Waikiki.

Who Might Not

Families who are looking for extensive programming to keep their kids occupied. While the Surfjack embraces kids and provides some thoughtful extras (like cookies upon arrival), the property is better suited to children who fit into parents’ lifestyles, rather than the other way around. Also, visitors looking to wake up to crashing waves and ocean views will not find that here. 

Best Amenity

The restaurant. At Mahina & Sun's, local chef Ed Kenney—a three-time James Beard Award semi-finalist who served as Barack Obama’s chef in the last days of his presidency—turns out creative mashups of Hawaiian, Pan-Asian, and American flavors. Standouts include pizza with fromage blanc, uncured bacon (sourced on the island), and sweet scallions; a pork-adobo fried rice with pickled mushrooms, kimchee, avocado, and an over-easy egg; and a dark chocolate-mochi waffle topped with sesame gelato (seriously to die for). All dishes are made with organic ingredients, most sourced locally—some herbs are even grown from a garden on the penthouse lanai—and items like the ricotta and yogurt are made in-house.  

Bonus: The staff reuses and composts to minimize waste, and drinks are served with metal straws as the hotel transitions to being entirely plastic-free.

The hotel’s cultural programming is also a highlight. In addition to nightly movies and live music, the hotel hosts monthly pool parties, often as fundraisers, with DJs and craft cocktails throughout the open-walled ground floor space.

What’s Included

Daily coffee from Mahina & Sun’s restaurant; use of bikes, tote bags, and pool/beach towels to use during your stay; local-inspired welcome snacks (dried mango and macadamia nut cookies); wifi; newspapers and magazines in-room; and access to pool parties or events held during your stay. 

Money Matters

Fees and Extra Costs You Should Know About

On top of the nightly room rate, a daily $25 hospitality fee covers the aforementioned perks.

How to Get a Deal

We recommend visiting in the fall to score cheaper airfare and room rates—sometimes dipping as low as $160 per night. (As of now, rates through May start at $237 per night.) The hotel also has a number of offers, which currently include free daily car rental, $100 dining credit at Mahina & Sun’s for those staying more than five days, and a 10 percent discount off a nightly room rate for Hawaiian residents. 

Getting There

In the Neighborhood

The Surfjack is a 10-minute walk from Waikiki beach, where visitors will find beaches well-suited to both families and an adult crowd. It’s three blocks from the Royal Hawaii shopping center; a mile from the convention center, Ala Moana shopping center, and Honolulu Zoo; and a mile and a half from the aquarium. In addition to its on-site restaurant, the Surfjack is surrounded by shops and restaurants within walking distance, including the popular Murakame Udon—handmade Japanese udon noodles—a few blocks away.

Nearest Airport

Honolulu International Airport (HNL) is just 9 miles, or a 20-minute drive, from the Surfjack.

The Bottom Line

Just a 10-minute walk from Waikiki beach, this trendy-yet-chill hotel, along with its restaurant—a destination in itself—is a hidden gem amid Honolulu’s buzziest tourist destination.


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