Checking In: Waikiki’s Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club

Time to relax ... or surf. Your call.

ASN’s Checking In series delivers first-hand reviews of amazing boutique hotels, Airbnbs, yurts, treehouses and more for the active traveler. Because adventure doesn’t always have to mean roughing it in a tent. Happy Travels!

A style all their own. Photo: Mariko Reed/Surfjack

In the age of convenient, one-click travel packages, the thing that often gets sacrificed is personality. A genuine experience in a place. And that’s especially true in Waikiki. Somewhere along the way of that Honolulu tourist mecca’s development, everyone's trip started looking exactly alike, because every hotel was offering the same program.

No more. Nestled on Lewers St. in Waikiki, a block from Kalakaua Avenue’s sunburnt hustle and bustle, the hip Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club aims to change that model. And they're succeeding marvelously.

Such rad vibes at Surfjack. Photo: Mariko Reed/Surfjack

Opened in 2016 with 112 gorgeous rooms, the Surfjack has a cool, mid-century modern aesthetic that makes you feel like Don Draper from Mad Men jetsetting to Hawaii in the ’60s to close a deal. Or, to just relax.

Granted, I've been to the Surfjack before, so I understood the vibe. They throw epic weekend pool parties in the summer and have live music/DJ sets nightly, but staying the night there is when one truly notices how much detail they’ve put into giving guests a full contemporary-aloha experience.

The epic pool vibe. Photo: Desmond Centro/Surfjack

With details like: Surfjack tote bags available in every room to bag your gear for a beach day. Or, reef-safe eco-friendly sunscreen dispensers around the pool. Or, hip, locally published magazines like Contrast, FLUX and Trim on the coffee tables. Or, free admission to the Honolulu Museum of Art included in your stay. Or, beach cruisers for rent by the lobby, Surfjack's own blend of craft coffee on offer for every guest … the list goes on.

Breakfast is served. Photo: Laura La Monaca/Surfjack

Food-wise, like everything else in the hotel, Surfjack's premier restaurant Mahina & Sun's is tastefully local (and barely ten steps from the pool). Esteemed chef Ed Kenney's fourth establishment on the island (DO try his other three), Mahina & Sun's sources ingredients from Oahu farmlands and is the state's leader in ocean-friendly sourcing practices. And I swear you can taste the difference in the opah and ahi tartare.

The cuisine is next level. Photo: Olivier Koning/Surfjack

Obviously, the pool's nice, what with nightly movies projected on an exterior wall next and the highly Instagram-able "Wish You Were Here" message on the floor tiles, but maybe you've come to the Surfjack to, well … surf.

Lucky for you, you're just a two-block walk to the same breaks Duke Kahanamoku surfed way back when. Publics, Queens, Canoes, Pops, and Three's are your closest walkable options. Diamond Head, Kaisers and Ala Moana Bowls are a bike ride away, and yes, the North Shore is an hour drive north.

You might be able to catch the poolside quiet, but you can also catch it hopping with people. Photo: Mariko Reed/Surfjack

While the front desk will happily point you to a trusted beach-boy service for board rentals, the Surfjack also offers intimate surf lesson programs through Clips Hawaii at a less-crowded break near Waikiki.

Which brings us to the plethora of other authentically local, daily experiences the Surfjack offers. For instance, there's weekly on-site tasting rooms from local breweries, sunset yoga and pilates classes on the penthouse lanai, flower-crown-making workshops, block printing workshops, and did I mention live music and DJ sets every single night?

Relax and tip back a few. Photo: Laura La Monaca/Surfjack

Should you have forgotten a swim suit or just need some rad, new threads that you might only find in Hawaii, the Surfjack's on-site boutique, Olive & Oliver, has got you covered with curated gifts and goods of all kinds. Of course, there's high-quality craft coffee in the same shop, too, so you don't have to walk to the closest you-know-what.

Just what you need to get your relaxing on. Photo: Laura La Monaca/Surfjack

Beyond the details, perhaps the main takeaway from the Surfjack is knowing there's a spot to stay on the island with some character and class that's far more affordable than resort options, and far more comfy than a not-quit-what-you-imagined Airbnb.

Surfjack is an option that caters to surfers and jet-setters by channeling the vibrant, creative movement happening right now on Oahu.

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