Wakiki Beach and Banzai Pipeline are worlds apart

Honolulu may be America’s most chill major metropolis, and one of its most scenic and visitor friendly, but you haven’t really seen how Oahu is maikai loa (awesome) until you venture beyond the city limits to the North Shore and Leeward Coast.


hotel rooms
greenest U.S. city (Honolulu)
for solar power per capita in U.S. (Honolulu)
percent of Hawaii’s population
miles long
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4,025 feet
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Parade in Polynesian Cultural Center, Laie

Polynesian Cultural Center. This nonprofit center created by Morman missionaries recently celebrated a half-century of cultural education by preserving and portraying the spirit, culture and people of Polynesia. In fact, it ranks as the single most popular paid visitor attraction in Hawaii, with more than 37 million visitors over the years.

Its 42 acres in Laie, a one-hour drive from Honolulu, feature villages from six Polynesian cultures, with arts, music, history and games; Polynesian activities such as Tongan underhanded spear throwing and tiki carving; a new, immersive cinematic tribute to the hidden splendors of Hawaii; and, of course, a full-on luau with cultural dance against a backdrop of waterfalls and lush gardens. A theater seating 2,700 people can be booked for events.


Laidback singer-songwriter Jack Johnson grew up on the famous surfing beaches of the North Shore, so it’s no surprise he sponsors beach clean-ups on Oahu. He also records in a solar-powered “green studio.” But his green vibe is much, much bigger. Johnson is an outspoken advocate for the planet—and, especially, for his fragile and precious native state.

That’s why he created his Kokua Hawaii Foundation. Kokua means to help or cooperate. And this nonprofit’s mission is to help Hawaiians, especially its school-aged kids, expand their appreciation of their environment and become lifelong stewards of the earth. Johnson will perform his annual zero-waste concerts at the Waikiki Shell August 4–5 to further his foundation’s work.


Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, Ko Olina
Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, Ko Olina

In serene Ko Olina Resort & Marina on the leeward coast, 25 miles from Honolulu, the Hawaiian principal of kuleana is taken seriously. Kuleana means you are here now because, seven generations ago, someone was mindful enough to care about you.

Sustainability is evident throughout Ko Olina. All businesses at the resort agreed voluntarily to phase out plastic bags; LED light bulbs are used in street lighting; resort staff use electric vehicles; and only non-potable water is used to irrigate the golf course and resort areas.

In 2013, a prime Ko Olina venue, Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, became the first resort in the state to win LEED Silver certification for its environmentally friendly construction and building systems. Aulani guests can snorkel with hihimanu (brown stingrays) and check out the loi kalo (taro field), a conservation project planted and harvested by community volunteers. The resort has 800 guest rooms, 76,000 sq. ft. of outdoor event space and a 21,000-square-foot conference center.

Other noteworthy Oahu hotels:

Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach will be the new incarnation of Pacific Beach Hotel by fall 2017, after a $115 million renovation to its 839 guest rooms and 21,784 sq. ft. of meeting space, re-conceptualized Oceanarium aquarium and lobby bar. Two new restaurants by chef Masaharu Morimoto will debut, as well.

Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, the newest major property in Hawaii, has 315 guest rooms and 77,958 sq. ft. of indoor meeting and event space. Adjacent to the resort is Lanikuhonua Cultural Estate, with 10 acres of pristine gardens for events. The kitchen works closely with Mao Organic Farms, a nonprofit enterprise on the island’s West Shore with a mission to fight hunger, improve nutrition and empower low-income families to move towards self-sufficiency.

Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach just marked its first year in Waikiki after a $115 million redevelopment and rebranding. With 623 guest rooms, it’s the world’s largest HGI, and has a 500-square-foot event space for intimate gatherings. Hilton’s Living Sustainably Campaign shares best practices developed by Hilton colleagues around the world.

Hilton Waikiki Beach is the first hotel in Hawaii to offer planners a stand-alone virtual reality (VR) app for mobile users. It also gives a 360-degree video tour on desktop and a fully immersive VR experience on headsets. The hotel features 601 guest rooms and more than 17,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort & Spa, also known as the First Lady of Waikiki since 1901, offers 793 guest rooms and a 10,782-square-foot conference area. Ninety percent of guests forgo daily laundering services as part of the resort’s opt-in green program.

Prince Waikiki, formerly known as Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki and Golf Club, has undergone a $55.4 million repositioning that includes renewal of its 563 guest rooms, a modernized lobby, a new infinity-edge pool and enhanced meeting space totaling 22,000 sq. ft., including a 6,960-square-foot ballroom. The hotel was the recipient of a 2016 Hawaii Green Business Award.

The Modern Honolulu is a full-service boutique hotel overlooking Ala Wai yacht harbor with an excellent curated list of eco-tourism activities. It features 353 guest rooms, four meeting studios and a 9,200-square-foot ballroom. Among many eco-friendly measures is the Clutter Free Meeting program.

The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach is adding meeting space in its second tower, which will be completed by late 2018. The Ritz-Carlton’s parent company, Marriott International, is an award-winning sustainability leader.

Akamai (Smart) Sustainability

The State of Hawaii has adopted this down-to-earth definition of sustainability in the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan, the state’s blueprint for its future:

  1. Respect for culture, character, beauty and history
  2. Balance between economic, social and community, and environmental priorities
  3. Ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.

? Oahu Insider Tip

When it comes to sustainable dining, Ed’s the man. But make room for Michael. Hawaii-reared chef Ed Kenney’s mantra at his four Honolulu hotspots—Town, Mud Hen Water and Kaimuki Superette are in the hip Kaimuki ‘hood, while Mahina & Sun’s in the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club, is in Waikiki—is “local first, organic whenever possible, with aloha always.” At Town, he even feeds veggie pairings to composting worms. And if your group wants to combine souvenir browsing with sustainable eats, head to Waikiki’s International Market Place, where The Street, a Michael Mina Social House just debuted. James Beard-award-winning Mina, schooled in San Francisco-style sustainability, offers 13 different chef-driven restaurant concepts, ranging from a Maui Onion burger joint to inventive poke. It seats 175.

Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach
Beachfront property (formerly Pacific Beach Hotel) with 839 newly renovated guest rooms; 21,784 sq. ft. of meeting space; Oceanarium aquarium; two new restaurants by chef Masaharu Morimoto, as well as new saltwater infinity pool, fitness center and spa; opening in fall 2017.
Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel
On Waikiki Beach; 645 guest rooms; 2,908 sq. ft. of meeting space; Tiki’s Grill & Bar.
Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa
On 21 acres in Ko Olina; 351 guest rooms and suites; 481 villas; 21,258-square-foot conference center; multiple dining venues.
Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, Alana–Waikiki Beach
Near Waikiki Beach; 317 guest rooms with private lanais; 10 function rooms, including redesigned ballroom; Penthouse deck for events.
Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina
Luxury resort 30 minutes from airport; 371 guest rooms; 16,874 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space, including 5,530-square-foot ballroom; golf; spa.
Landmark ultra-luxuxy hotel on Waikiki Beach; 453 guest rooms; 7,520 sq. ft. of meeting space; La Mer restaurant; spa.
Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel
Above Ala Wai marina; 541 guest rooms; 13,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; close to convention center; 2016 Hawaii Green Business Award.
Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach
Two blocks from Waikiki Beach; recently renovated; 623 guest rooms and suites; 500-square-foot event space for small groups; rooftop pool.
Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort
On 22 acres along Waikiki Beach; 2,860 guest rooms; more than 150,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space across three conference centers; five pools; several restaurants; 2016 Hawaii Green Business Award.
Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa
Recent $100 million renovation; 1,230 remodeled guest rooms; 19,550 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space; Japengo restaurant.
Kahala Hotel & Resort
Classic property on a secluded beach, 15 minutes from Waikiki; 338 guest rooms; more than 24,000 sq. ft. of event space; tropical garden; private lagoon; signature Hoku’s restaurant; fitness center; 2016 Hawaii Green Business Award.
Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort & Spa
Queen of Waikiki Beach dates to 1901; 793 guest rooms and suites; 10,782-square-foot conference area; patio bar with ancient banyan tree overlooking beach; various dining options; state-of-the-art spa.
Sheraton Princess Kaiulani
Steps from Waikiki Beach, shopping and nightlife; 1,000 guest rooms; 14,400 sq. ft. of meeting space; two dining options; Hawaiian cultural activities.
Sheraton Waikiki
Near Waikiki Beach; 1,636 recently renovated guest rooms; 40,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 26,000-square-foot Hawaii Ballroom; RumFire restaurant; spa; infinity-edge pool.
The Modern Honolulu
Cosmopolitan AAA Four Diamond lifestyle hotel; 353 guest rooms; more than 20,000 sq. ft. of flexible indoor meeting space, including 9,200-square-foot ballroom; Morimoto Waikiki restaurant; Addiction nightclub; spa.
The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort
Landmark Pink Palace of the Pacific, open since 1927; 528 guest rooms and suites; 12,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space, including 7,800-square-foot Monarch Room.
Turtle Bay Resort
North Shore property on 850 acres; 410 guest rooms and 42 beach cottages; 25,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space; various dining options; two golf courses; team-building activities.


Read more about the islands:

Soar and Float in Kauai

Be Awed and Hold On in Maui

Dine and Sip on Hawaii Island

Heavenly Hawaii Forever