HOTEL RENEW, HONOLULU

Located only one block back from Waikiki Beach sits Hotel Renew: a modern oasis for the fussy but unpretentious traveller. A boutique hotel with only 72 rooms, that is well-designed, service comes with a smile from check-in to check-out.

Rooms take on Japanese styling, with sliding screens to close off your ocean view (if you choose). Cleanly furnished in shades of grey and black with the odd pop of colour, the room is comfortable and spacious.

My sleep on the king bed is peaceful with barely a beep of street noise. Lighting controls are conveniently fitted bedside and the TV is perfectly centred for movie watching.

If I weren't in Hawaii, I would almost contemplate starting up the Playstation. It went unused, but a great touch for those who are gaming inclined.
Stepping in to the bathroom you're surrounded by lights. Under the vanity, over the mirror, next to the toilet. Just right for applying some Max Factor.

Downstairs is an aromatic lounge for guests to use. In the morning it serves up a light breakfast with cereals and juices, in the evening it's an intimate spot for happy hour.

Breezing past the concierge who kindly handed over a beach towel for the day, I didn't intend to see my room until evening. Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay and turtle watching up on the North Shore was going to leave me exhausted. But on my return I knew I could pour myself a bath and jump in to a freshly made bed. And that was all I needed.

CHECKING-OUT DEBRIEF
FEEL: Clean and unpretentious.
ROOM PICK: Premier Ocean View King.
WIFI: Yes, complimentary.
RATES: Rack rates start from $399 USD but check online, there are great deals. $25 USD daily boutique fee applies.
BREAKFAST: Cereals, juices, muffins, fruit salad provided.
CHILDREN: Welcome but beware there is no on-site pool.
RECOMMENDED FOR: Those who want to spend their time in the sunshine with a comfy bed to retire to (conveniently a 5 minute stroll to the beach).

MINI BAR: Coffee, tea, bottled water.
IN-ROOM: C.O Bigelow amenities, shower over bath, Playstation, aroma bar (customise your own room scent).
BONUS: Some rooms are pooch friendly with treats on arrival and a loan doggy bed.
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I stayed courtesy of Hotel Renew.
http://www.hotelrenew.com/

THE MODERN, HONOLULU

There's something glamourous about Waikiki. Think jetting in on Pan-Am being welcomed with a lei and Polynesian folk music humming in the air. A rapid growth in tourism has seen the strip gentrify with hip dining, retail giants and art galleries. But what about designer hotels? There aren't many. In fact, there's really only one. The Modern.

Seduced immediately with it's white on white design, my corner suite comes with two balconies: views over the harbour and to the ocean. Powder blue throws are perfectly placed over couches, a giant mirror stands up against the wall, loft-style and lamps warm the room. It's a big change from the traditional floral design that you find along the strip.

So do all the clean lines and beach chic lose the aloha spirit? With a ukulele casually placed at the doorway and floral arrangements dotted about the room, I say no and mahalo to The Modern for gently reminding me that I'm still in Honolulu.

Downstairs the lobby flows from reception to a space called The Study. An annex elegantly furnished with tan leather couches beckons avid readers with a side of people watching.

Come 6pm, the bookshelf wall opens up to reveal a sexy bar where artisinal cocktails are crafted. It feels very exclusive and in-the-know.

Despite The Modern not fronting Waikiki beach - that's a good thing, it's only a 5 minute walk before you're lapping up waves. If you're feeling lazy, head poolside. The adult's only lagoon is a piece of paradise, surrounded by Hawaiian sand, hammocks and sun loungers. Waltz down the stairs and you're at the heartbeat of the hotel, The Sunrise Pool. The outdoor space serves up food and cocktails while you hang out in style.

In house, The Modern does simple food focusing on clean, light dishes. Smashed avocado with poached eggs was balanced and the yoghurt cup was abundant with fresh berries. Save room for pancakes, they were OTT and delicious.

If you feel like splurging make a reservation at Morimoto Waikiki. The Modern is home to Iron Chef Morimoto's Hawaiian outlet and is a favourite for locals including President Obama for it's fresh Asian-inspired cuisine.

Celebrity watching aside, The Modern has achieved what few other hotels in Honolulu have done; put the boutique back in to Waikiki. Watching the sunset, sipping a martini, the old school glamour that was once associated with Hawaii is back in a new way. It's still Waikiki but it's modern. And it's exactly what the strip needs.

CHECKING-OUT DEBRIEF
FEEL: A swank affair.
ROOM PICK: Ocean front suite.
WIFI: Yes, complimentary.
RATES: Starting from $309 USD
BREAKFAST: A la carte, poolside.
CHILDREN: Welcome but it's not a family-style resort.
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I stayed courtesy of The Modern Honolulu.
www.themodernhonolulu.com

THE PALMWOOD, KAUAI

Until recently, my experience with Kauai had been a sheltered one. Stuffed in to a golf resort with no wheels to get around, I had been bound to the local Princeville tourist beach and was ambivalent to ever returning. So, when an unexpected Kauai trip arose I decided to change things up and started by booking myself in at The Palmwood.

A simple drive north from Lihue airport gets you to The Palmwood (there's only one road to navigate the island so you won't get lost). A bespoke lodge with only three rooms, nestled high up in North-East Kauai, I was ready to switch off and explore.

Napping, reading and soaking up the sun are all encouraged with a spot to sit around ever corner. Staying on the ground floor in the East Room, I had views of the terrain from my hammock. And I didn't have to share it with the crowds.

The Palmwood hosts, Eddi and Mychael curate your experience by giving you a taste of what Hawaiian life really is. Tailoring your days around swimming in hidden beaches, finding marine life and local food spots, it was knowledge far off the beaten track any concierge could have given me. A service is on hand for helicopter and coastal tour bookings, should you require it.

The included breakfast is served in the adjoining pavillion and varies each day. Chorizo with sweet potato was a favourite, served with a white pineapple and avocado salad. While there isn't a range of juices or a spread of breads and cereals, it was a great, light start to the day. A fridge is provided, so stock up at the local market if you prefer the basics.

My East Room was snug but a comfortable island base. Equipped with a shower-over-bath, loads of hanging space and double doors leading to it's own patio, it was warm (no air-con) but airy and tranquil. Towels were plentiful and a fragrant mangosteen body wash was provided keeping you in touch with hotel life.

Cooling off was made that much better with the East Room's outdoor shower. In fact, it became such a ritual my jacuzzi went untouched.

Entering via the ground level is The Palmwood's communal guest area. With eclectic island furnishing in dark wood and leather, the lounge and dining areas lead outside to the lodge's best asset; a 180 degree panoramic verandah. Lush, green and uninterrupted.

As sunrise crept through the palm trees, packing my bag for a day trip to the Na Pali Coast, I was relieved I wasn't in the bustle of a bigger resort. The Palmwood felt like my home and Kauai was my island.

CHECKING-OUT DEBRIEF
FEEL: No make-up, no shoes.
ROOM PICK: Upper Suite (for air-con and a King bed)
WIFI: Yes, complimentary.
RATES: Starting from $295 USD with breakfast inclusive.
CHILDREN: Sure but Kauai is an island for lovers.
MINI BAR: The tap water is drinkable and a fridge/BBQ is on hand for all your food and beverage needs.
GETTING THERE: Hire a car. It's a must in Kauai.

I stayed courtesy of The Palmwood.
www.thepalmwood.com

THE LONDON, WEST HOLLYWOOD

I don't like being predictable. I'll scowl if you guessed that every time I go to Los Angeles I'm staying at The London, but I can't argue. It's true. I'd spend my last dollar in LA trying to afford a room here. Why? It's not the location. The hills are great, but you need a car wherever you stay so West Hollywood isn't particularly advantageous. It's not the service either, you've got the Andaz and Mondrian a few doors away who are just as nice. It's the pool and if you don't think that's a thing, it is.

LA can be pretty unfriendly to the visitor. The endlessness of Los Angeles and it's traffic and pollution can really suck holiday joy out of you. But a quick elevator ride to The London rooftop and there waiting is a pool surrounded by hedging, white rose bushes and ivy, beckoning you to have some iced tea and forget the city.

Deep patios, fully furnished.

Deep patios, fully furnished.

Panoramic glass views from the rooftop pool.

Panoramic glass views from the rooftop pool.

It was at The London, my mattress obsession was born. Unfortunately made exclusively for the hotel chain (I was desperate to purchase one), it sucks you in like a black hole and you can never get up. If and when you finally do rise, put on the robe, it's light and isn't three sizes too big. The disposable slippers don't feel throw away as you shuffle into the bathroom. Mosaic tiled walk-in rain shower on one side, plunge bath on the other, you can sit in the middle at the vanity space and glam yourself for hours in perfect lighting.

Basin and Dressing vanity. Bathroom comes complete with walk in rain shower and deep bath.

Basin and Dressing vanity. Bathroom comes complete with walk in rain shower and deep bath.

Grass covered cabana area, complete with Gordon Ramsay room service.

Grass covered cabana area, complete with Gordon Ramsay room service.

The prettiest breakfast room also double as the Gordon Ramsay restaurant.

The prettiest breakfast room also double as the Gordon Ramsay restaurant.

British influences extend in to the room, with velvety furnishings in greens, blues and blush pink. The cuisine is Gordon Ramsay throughout poolside, restaurant and in room dining. I rarely make it to breakfast, but when I have managed to get wake up in time, the selection of pastries, cereals, fruit and eggs are small but done well. The opulent dining room dressed in brown leather and pink velvet with retro booths and gold chandeliers, like everything else at the hotel, feels straight out of a James Bond film.

When you're at The London, you're part of the cool club, without having to flash your AMEX. You can have a few friends on the deep patio and be content that the night isn't going to spiral out of control. If you're keen for a big one, don't stress, The Standard is just down the road. But here, you'll want to hire an Aston DB5, drive up to the hills and smoke a cigar.
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I stayed in a London Crown Suite. Suites start at $399 USD per night.
http://www.thelondonwesthollywood.com/