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On my last trip to Waikiki, I think I found my new go-to hotel. Now, I love the grand jewels of Waikiki as much as the next girl (do other people dream of staying at the Royal Hawaiian and the Moana Surfrider? Yes, no?), but sometimes you don’t need the full resort experience. And I’ve found that amidst the city vibes of Waikiki, I’m usually happier at a low key (and lower budget hotel) so I don’t feel guilty when I’m out running around the island all day instead of at the pool or beach.
But I’ve found a place that brings the best of both worlds!
The Laylow Review
The Laylow is a high end city hotel with the vintage Hawaiiana charm everybody dreams of.
The Laylow doesn’t sit beachfront or have ocean views (rooms on the very upper floors may have a distant side view), but it’s just about 2-3 blocks from a public access point to Waikiki Beach (near the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort & Duke’s Waikiki). The hotel sits on busy Kuhio Ave in a bustling part of Waikiki.
Shopping and dining options abound and it’s a great location for walking pretty much everywhere in Waikiki.
Lobby & Check In Experience
The Laylow definitely “lays low” and feels a bit hidden when you first pull up. You turn into an alley just past Duke’s Lane where the valet will check your car in and direct you up the escalator to the lobby.
Once you step off the escalator into the open air lobby, you’ll instantly feel a world away from bustling Waikiki down below.
The lobby area feels like a low key hang out spot catching people in transition from the check in desk, the coffee shop and restaurant, and the pool which all converge in a relatively small space. But it’s well laid out and feels like a cozy, pleasant space.
The check in desk is small, but when you see that famous wall of vintage hula girls, you know you’re in the right place!
Check in itself was quick and smooth. There was no lei greeting like you’ll find at some bigger resorts, but they had a bowl of individual orchids and bobby pins at the desk (presumably so you could pin a flower in your hair if you’re so inclined).
Heads up: The Laylow is one of Marriott Bonvoy’s Autograph Collection hotels so you’ll square away status based upgrades, point gifts, breakfast vouchers, etc. when you check in.
The rooms at the Laylow are all pretty spacious and bright. The room I booked featured two king size beds (something I’m finding more common in city hotels where a group of adults may be traveling together) and there was plenty of floor space.
My only complaint here (and so many hotels have this problem) is that there aren’t nightstands and outlets on both sides of the beds. So plan to pack an extension cord and use a chair or a suitcase as a makeshift nightstand if you want access to a charger next to the bed.
The bathroom is modern and bright (I LOVED the wood grain tile in the shower) with their own brand of toiletries.
The Laylow is fairly insta-famous and they’ve done a good job carrying that over to the rooms. The colorful wallpaper and ukulele make a fun photo op and every room gets a FUN gift basket featuring branded flip flops, refillable water bottles, snacks, and some other fun goodies.
And if you’re a person who likes hotel robes, you’ll be happy to know they also have waffle cotton robes branded with their cute pink logo.
I don’t have much to say in this category in either direction. Everyone I interacted with at the Laylow was very friendly and helpful, but it’s largely a self service oriented hotel so don’t expect a Four Seasons experience.
The guys at the valet were always on top of it, the lady who checked me in was pleasant, and we had a great server at breakfast every day and in the coffee shop.
We declined housekeeping, but it was available.
I didn’t hang around the pool much during the day, but I do believe they have food and beverage runners from the Hideout.
You get your own towels for the beach and pool from the little gift shop kiosk (or the front desk when they’re closed) and there’s a GREAT water and ice refill station (plus a microwave) on the main floor by the elevators (although I wish there was one on every floor).
They’ve done a lot to make sure that you always have everything you need, but it’s largely a self service property.
The Hideout is the hotel’s open air restaurant, bar, and coffee shop. It’s set up to serve hotel guests pretty perfectly, but it also attracts a crowd from Waikiki in the evenings. The stylish space is located on the same floor as the lobby and pool (just a short escalator ride up from the sidewalk below) and it has a nice rooftop feel.
The coffee shop opens at 6AM as does the main part of the restaurant for breakfast. It’s not super crowded in the mornings and it’s mostly just people staying in the hotel. I got coffee (and sometimes a danish/pastry) pretty much every morning and it was really pleasant to sit on the couches and chairs out on the deck even for just a couple of minutes before heading out for the day.
We had a sitdown breakfast at the Hideout one morning when we had somewhere to be early and it was a great meal. My Marriott Bonvoy status (Platinum at the time) entitled me to two $15 vouchers to be used in the restaurant every day, which covers the continental type offerings, but you’ll pay a little extra for the hot options.
We had great service for breakfast and the food was honestly just as good as everywhere else we had breakfast (including top, popular spots).
Happy hour (5-6PM) features $12 mai tais and $10-15 pupus. A full dinner menu is served from 5-9:30PM.
I always get mai tais when I’m in Hawaii, but multiple people told me that their old-fashioned is exceptional.
Facilities & Amenities
The Laylow definitely feels more like a city hotel than a resort, but one with a really relaxed vacation vibe.
So don’t expect a sprawling resort packed with amenities, but what they offer is really nice.
The pool area is sleek and a little lux. The pool towels you can check out are pretty substantial and work great for the pool but also for taking to the beach or around the island for adventures. Just don’t forget to check them back into the front desk when you’re done or you’ll get charged. I actually thought about keeping one as a souvenir, but I didn’t have room in my suitcase.
The gym is on the main level and faces the pool area. It was adequate but didn’t have any equipment to write home about (no Peloton bikes, etc.).
And I already mentioned the water/ice/microwave set up.
There’s a small gift shop by the pool with pretty limited hours, but they have a nice selection of branded Laylow merchandise.
This is where the Laylow really shines! I think they cater perfectly to a demographic that’s in Waikiki for more of a city vacation (instead of going to Maui or Kauai) but still wants that classic Hawaiian laid back vibe and modern amenities.
They’ve really leaned hard into the vintage Hawaiiana vibe. In some ways, I think of the Laylow as the Royal Hawaiian’s (little) sister property.
It’s big on style, and has an overall “nice” feeling, while staying light on amenities and services.
Value for the Money
I wouldn’t call the Laylow a budget hotel (especially since it’s in a city with so many truly cheap hotel options), but I think it’s an excellent value for what it offers.
The Laylow is frequently in the $300-$350/night range which is quite a bit cheaper than good beachfront options, especially considering how stylish the Laylow is.
If you’re just looking for a place to shower and sleep while you’re out exploring the island each day then you can definitely find a cheaper place. But if you value coming back to a “nicer” hotel, but don’t want to pay beachfront prices, the Laylow is a great option.
There’s a daily $35 destination fee and valet parking is $50/night.
The Laylow is definitely my new go to Waikiki hotel. I don’t love paying the big $$$ for the nice hotels on the beach when I’m usually a bit more on the go then when I stay on Maui, Kauai, or even other parts of Oahu, but the Laylow still feels like more of a destination hotel than most budget friendly hotels in Waikiki.
Where to Book
Click here to book and check rates at The Laylow.
Still Looking for a Place to Stay?
Here’s one more really important thing you need to know before your Hawaii trip…
Reservations You Need to Make BEFORE Your Hawaii Trip
You’ve got your airfare, hotel, rental car and your big activities booked, so you should be good to go, right? Wrong!
Travel is BOOMING in Hawaii so a lot of state and national parks used the closure and reopening to institute reservation systems at some of the island’s most popular spots to make things a little more sustainable.
That means that there are now over half a dozen sites (beaches, trailheads, etc.) that require advance reservations. And some sell out well before you arrive on the island so you really need to have some sort of a plan.
I recently saw somebody in a Hawaii travel group post in a panic that they didn’t know they had to make reservations for things in advance…they thought they could just show up and “go with the flow.” I was tempted to say, well, “as long as the flow doesn’t take you somewhere that requires reservations, you can!” ; )
But I don’t want YOU to be that person, so I’ve pulled together a list of all the places you need to reserve entry in advance (plus all the details on booking windows, price, links, etc.) and a handful of popular tourist hotspots that book out really far in advance too.
Haleakala National Park (Maui)
To visit Haleakala National Park for sunrise at the summit, you must make reservations in advance here.
Reservations are required to enter the park gates between 3AM and 7AM (sunrise hours).
Online reservations are $1 per reservation/vehicle PLUS you’ll pay the park entrance fee of $30/vehicle when you arrive (National Park annual passes are also accepted at the gate).
The reservation booking window opens 60 days in advance at 7AM HST. There are also a limited number of tickets released two days before.
You can make one reservation every three days with the same account. So if you want to make reservations for back to back days (in case of weather/conditions), you’ll need to do so with separate accounts (email addresses).
If you can’t get reservations for sunrise, you can enter the park anytime after 7AM without reservations. The summit is spectacular during the day and you don’t need reservations for sunset.
I strongly recommend creating an account before and making sure you’re logged in at 7AM HST because it’s not uncommon for reservations to sell out quickly.
Waianapanapa State Park (Maui)
To visit Maui’s famous black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park on the Road to Hana, you must make reservations in advance here.
Reservations are required to visit the beach and are distributed in windows from 7AM-10AM, 10AM-12:30PM, 12:30PM-3PM, and 3PM-6PM. And they are pretty strict about exiting by the end of your window time (you can arrive anytime within your window).
It’s $5/person to enter plus $10/vehicle to park and those fees are paid when you book your time slot.
Reservations open up 30 days in advance.
Iao Valley State Park (Maui)
To visit the lush, green mountains and hike at Iao Valley State Park, you must make reservations in advance here.
Reservations are offered for 90 minute time slots beginning at 7AM and ending at 6PM. They ask that you arrive within the first 30 minutes of your time slot.
Entry is $5/person plus $10/vehicle to park.
Reservations open up 30 days in advance.
Diamond Head (Oahu)
To hike to the top of Waikiki’s famous Diamond Head, you must make reservations in advance here.
Reservations are offered in two hour increments beginning at 6AM (6AM-8AM, 8AM-10AM, etc.) and ending at 6PM. If you’re parking onsite, they ask that you arrive within the first 30 minutes of your reservation window.
Entry is $5/person plus $10/vehicle to park.
Reservations open up 30 days in advance.
Tip: I recommend booking one of the first two time slots because there isn’t much shade on this hike and it gets pretty hot.
Hanauma Bay (Oahu)
To snorkel at Oahu’s pristine Hanauma Bay, you must make reservations in advance here.
Entry times are staggered in 10 minute increments from 7AM to 1:20PM with roughly 1000 slots being assigned in advance every day.
Reservations can be made two days in advance and they open at 7AM HST. They’re usually gone in minutes (if not seconds).
If you’re unable to get an advanced reservation, you can try for a day of, walk in ticket. They open at 6:45AM and they only have a limited number available. Everyone in your group needs to be present when you purchase your tickets in person.
There are no reservations for parking and it’s first come, first serve. $3/vehicle.
It’s $25/person to snorkel at Hanauma Bay (12 and under, active military, and locals with HI ID are free).
The Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is open Wednesday through Sunday (CLOSED MONDAY AND TUESDAY) from 6:45AM-4PM. Last entry is at 1:30PM, the beach is cleared at 3:15PM and you have to leave the facility by 4PM.
Jellyfish patterns can also affect whether or not the bay is open so double check the day before/day of.
USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor (Oahu)
If you want to take the boat tour at Pearl Harbor out to the USS Arizona, it’s recommended to make advance reservations here.
Online reservations are guaranteed a specific boarding time to go out to the USS Arizona. If you’re unable to get an advance reservation, you can wait standby when you arrive. The line could be short (15 minutes or so) or long (hours) and it just depends on the day (if they’re having problems with the loading dock sometimes they don’t take many from the standby line) and the time of day.
Reservations are supposed to open up 60 days in advance, but keep an eye on your exact dates, because lately they’ve actually been opening up about 57ish days in advance???
They also release a small batch of tickets the day before.
The boat ride out to the USS Arizona is free, but it’s $1 to make the reservations online.
They recently started charging $7/vehicle for parking at Pearl Harbor.
Haena State Park / Kalalau Trail (Kauai)
If you want to hike Kauai’s famous Kalalau Trail, you must make advance reservations here.
You’ve got three options here:
1) Parking & Entry: This is the most flexible option and also the most limited. THESE RESERVATIONS SELL OUT IN LESS THAN A MINUTE. There are three time slots available: 6:30AM-12:30PM, 12:30PM-5:30PM and 4:30PM to sunset. You can purchase multiple time slots if you want to stay longer. It’s $10/timeslot (parking) plus $5/person and you have to reserve every person when you initially book. Everybody has to arrive in the same car and your ID needs to match the reservation.
2) Shuttle & Entry: If you can’t get parking at the trailhead, there’s also a shuttle option. Shuttle reservations are $35/person (16+), $25/person (ages 4-15), 3 and under can ride free. The shuttle runs every 20 minutes 6:20AM to 6:40PM.
3) Entry Only: If you’re a Hawaiian resident (with HI ID) or someone WITH a Hawaiian resident, you can purchase entry only for $5/person with no advance reservations. Also, if you’re walking or biking to the trailhead you can do this option. But there is NOWHERE to park in the area to walk in. So this really only works for those with bikes or who are staying close enough to walk. They will tow your car if you park outside the designated areas.
The reservation window opens 30 days in advance at 12AM HST. The parking & entry option usually sells out in a minute, but the shuttle availability will last longer.
There are a TON of FAQs here including the possibility of snagging a canceled reservation.
Other Things to Book in Advance
Hawaii is a busy place these days! Besides the state and national parks above, here’s a handful of miscellaneous things you should make reservations for in advance (if they’re on your radar):
Mama’s Fish House (Maui): The iconic spot is the most popular restaurant in Hawaii and they’ve been opening reservations (and selling out) 4-6 months in advance. You can call and get on the waitlist for one day or you can set notifications on OpenTable to alert you for cancellations every day of your trip. Most people have pretty good success on OpenTable.
Old Lahaina Luau (Maui): Honestly, any luau you’re planning to attend you should book early, but most people are usually shocked how far out the Old Lahaina Luau books out. Book it as soon as you know your dates (I think they open at the six month window). They also have a waitlist.
Kualoa Ranch UTV Tour (Oahu): Everybody loves Jurassic Park so getting to ride UTVs where they filmed the movies is very popular. The ranch offers a lot of different tours but the UTV tours usually book out a couple of months in advance.
Spa Reservations: If you’re staying at a resort with a spa (or planning on visiting one), don’t wait until you arrive to make your reservations. I’d make them at least a month in advance.
Tee Times: Same for golf, reserve your tee times well in advance.
Dining Reservations: Any “fancy” or resort restaurant is likely to be booked up these days so if you like having a nice dinner every night, make your plans in advance.
Want to read more? Don’t miss some of my most popular (and favorite) posts about Oahu:
If you’re trying to figure out where to stay, you’re going to want to look at my favorite boutique resort in Waikiki and the lowdown on where to stay on Oahu besides Waikiki. Plus I’ve got the scoop on how to avoid illegal vacation rentals and a roundup of where to stay in Ko Olina and reviews of the Laylow and Disney’s Aulani Resort. And a LOT more on Aulani like is Aulani worth it?, tips for staying at Aulani, how many days to spend, and the best things to eat and drink at Aulani.
If you’re researching luaus on Oahu, I’ve written quite a bit. First, I’ve got a full breakdown of the best luaus (and the worst) on Oahu. Then I’ve got complete reviews of Paradise Cove, the Polynesian Cultural Center, and Aulani’s Ka Wa’a Luau. And if you’ve narrowed it down to the top two most popular on the island and still can’t decide, here’s Paradise Cove vs Polynesian Cultural Center.
If you’re trying to put together an itinerary full of the best things to do, take a look at my best 5 day itinerary, and roundups of the best things to do in Waikiki, “secret” things to do on Oahu, plus my favorite things to do in Kailua and the windward coast, in Ko Olina, and on the north shore. And if you’re looking for food recommendations, I’ve got the best restaurants in Ko Olina and where locals eat in Waikiki.
And last but not least, some of my favorite things on Oahu like Jurassic Park at Kualoa Ranch, Shangri La and the Honolulu Museum of Art, tips for visiting Pearl Harbor, easy hikes on Oahu, and the best spas on Oahu. And everything you need to know BEFORE you go to Oahu.
P.S. Thanks for sticking around and reading this whole post! If you have ANY questions about planning your trip to Hawaii, you can join my free Facebook group here. I’m there answering questions every day and there are 7500+ other friends who have a ton of Hawaii information to share!
Also, if you want to follow along on my travel adventures in real time, you can follow me on Instagram (@caitylincoln). My post captions are full of travel tips and I have a ton of story highlights and videos with great info. And please share my account with your friends that are headed to Hawaii! Your support really helps me keep this blog running!