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One of the best boutique hotels in Waikiki the White Sands Hotel is tucked away in the middle of all the action. It seems this area is quickly becoming a hip spot with lots of unique eating spots and other boutique hotels like The Laylow Waikiki, just down the road.
Imagine a dimly lit tunnel taking you into a tropical garden lined with bamboo and tikis and you start to understand how the White Sands Hotel is creating a certain vibe. Finding a boutique hotel in the middle of Waikiki is no easy feat and can be hit or miss. I think most will find this a hit as I did during my recent stay.
Booking & Check-In
I arrived early, as usual, to take a look around the property and grab some daylight shots, even though it was a bit cloudy on this occasion. I checked in with the hotel front desk, around 11am, to see if a room was available but no luck, not guaranteed so no worries on my end.
Time to look around.
I took a seat at the round-swing bar and had an amazing Mai-Tai, more info below in the dining section. Once I checked in I headed over to room 110, which is a pool-level room with a king-size bed. A helpful front desk always starts things off on the right foot and on this occasion they hit the mark.
If you are near the front desk or pool area at 5 pm keep an ear out for the Do Ho’s Tiny Bubbles song, you may also see a stream of bubbles floating around if you look carefully.
Parking is tight in Waikiki, even the paid parking. So $35 per night for self-parking did not phase me at all even though I know this shocks many visitors to Hawaii. There is street parking in the area that is free overnight but remember, you are competing with many who live in the area and if you arrive late it may be next to impossible.
If you are planning to stay in Waikiki for most of your stay and maybe do a bussed tour to the North Shore then you really don’t need a car. The beach, shopping, and dozens of dining options are all within walking distance. Like any major city be safe at night, especially on the side streets. Uber and rideshares are your friend or rent a car from Avis/Budget who have a desk in the International Marketplace nearby.
I received a pool-level room that had a king-sized bed and outdoor seating that was clean and cleverly decorated. The little details are what separate big brands from boutique hotels and The White Sands Hotel did not disappoint.
Cool “Shaka Handles” for you towels near the shower and a retro phone by the bed that transported me back to my teenage years, nostalgic and a grim reminder of my age.
Mirror with a bag strap or leather bag with a mirror?
The kitchenette area had a large mini-fridge along with a microwave, water, and a simple table for snacks. Of course more tikis over the sink, love it.
The king-sized bed was firm and comfortable along with a decorative throw that added color and style to the room.
My room (110) was located on the ground floor and had direct access to the pool and bar. I wrote most of this article right outside on those chairs below while having a margarita, it’s rough.
The bathroom was spotless and roomy although the high step into the shower was an odd layout option. At 6’2″ my chin came up to the shower head so hopefully something they adjust in the future.
I did use the bath products provided and they smelled wonderful enough to take a few home.
Resort fees are a sore spot for many who venture out and in many cases rightfully so, who wants to pay for pool access in January (in New York!), give me a break. Let’s look at what the White Sand Hotel has to say about their $25/day resort fee.
Here is a list of what is included in the daily resort fee –
- Beach chairs rental
- Boogie boards rental
- GoPro camera rental
- Portable power banks rental
- International Market Place Passport
- Live Music
- Koi fish feeding for children
- Pool deck chaise lounge covers
- Daily local newspaper
- High-speed Wi-Fi
- Toll-free and local phone calls
- Yoga class every Saturday by a certified instructor”
The beach chairs and boogie boards probably cover the entire resort fee alone for a party of 2 and these are not things you want to lug with you on the airplane. These beach chairs have backpack straps and storage, perfect for sunscreen and shades. I wasn’t there on a Saturday so couldn’t take advantage of the Yoga but I think for some this may have value.
Catching shots in the ocean or along a rainy waterfall hike are memories that should not be missed, the GoPro rental is included and I think every hotel in Hawaii should offer this.
I have only seen a few hotels in Waikiki with the portable power bank option and I think this is a smart move as well. I shoot video and photos most of the day and need to recharge around 1-2pm. If you are out on a tour or exploring this may not be an option. What are your thoughts?
Dining at White Sands Hotel
The food here was excellent. Running the show is 2022 James Beard Award winning Chef Robynne Maii. They are open Monday-Sunday 12noon-10pm and although it was not an extensive selection it was unique and tasty.
I started of my meal with the vegan lumpia which was fried to perfection, light and flaky, not oily. Mmmmm, fried health food 🙂
For my main course I had the Mahi Mahi with greens and cooked carrots. The portion was a good size and filled me up enough that I skipped dessert. Sorry no dessert pics on this review 🙁
Eat at the bar in a swing, a cocktail table, along the pool, or just outside your room as I did. The laid back feel throughout the hotel is matched with piped in crooner music that takes your stress level down a couple notches.
White Sands Hotel Tiki Bar
To start, I had one of the best Mai Tai’s on Oahu here thanks to Amber who clearly knew what she was doing. Do note however, the seats are mainly swings and Im still undecided if that’s a cool feature or a way to know when to cut you off, hold on.
A Chef Robynne’s recipe, the Mai Tai was made with mamaki-infused Ko Hano Koho rum (a distinguished local brand, aged 2 years), banana jam (yes, I requested to see it and smell it, it really was banana jam), aged Hawaiian agricole, orgeat, lime, and decorated with some palm fronds. It had a nice refreshing lime spritz that hit the spot on a sunny Waikiki pool day.
Amber also made me a margarita that was shaken, not stirred, it too was well made and refreshing although Hoku’s at The Kahala Hotel and Resort still takes the top spot. If you try the “Suicidal” let me know how it went down.
Cool vibe and top-shelf drinks, I recommend this place if you are looking to venture beyond the polished marble floors and head into the tiki-lined jungles of Waikiki.
The Green Lady – Cocktail Bar(Coming Soon)
I spoke with the front desk about this coming soon cocktail bar and they mentioned maybe October 2022 so we will keep an eye out. If the quality of cocktails is the same as the pool bar then it should be a hit.
Shave Ice at The White Sands Hotel
Similar to the Laylow Waikiki and The Ritz-Carlton Waikiki they have a shave-ice “bar” setup near the pool. A couple of things make this one the best of the 3.
First off the shave ice is flaky like fresh-fallen snow, not only is it easier on your mouth it helps hold the juice flavors in the ice instead of dripping down to the bottom.
The other noticeable difference is that they offered several flavors that were alcohol friendly, in fact, the selection was greater than the virgin ones. Pool, cool tunes, and shave-ice libations, these guys are owning it.
Pool & Hot Tub
The pool is the focal point of the entire hotel and rightly so with the bar in the background, it’s the perfect cooling-off oasis for a long day of lounging. Similar to the Halekulani Hotel these lounge chairs are padded with the intention of keeping you there all day, no striped vinyl burn marks here. Open daily from 9am-9pm.
I didn’t use the hot tub but it looked like a fun spot to hang out, especially with friends in the evening. A couple more Mai-Tais and I might have jumped in.
Boutique hotels walk the fine line of providing a unique experience and yet still delivering on baseline expectations. I do think the entire hotel industry needs to focus on the experience more than ever. The White Sands Hotels definitely had the Don Ho tiki vibe throughout the property.
If you are the type that looks for out of the way cool spots, give these guys a shot and let me know in the comments below what you think.