Hawaii, and Oahu in particular, has seen many new-to-the-islands hotel brands open in recent years. For example, Oahu’s first Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Hyatt Centric, and Hilton Garden Inn opened over the last twelve months. However, one notable luxury brand that used to have a presence on Oahu has remained absent from our lodging options. That will soon change, however, a recently announced development will see Mandarin Oriental returning to Hawaii.
The last time Oahu, and Hawaii as a whole, had a Mandarin Oriental branded property was over a decade ago. But, in 2006, the Kahala Mandarin Oriental (formerly the Kahala Hilton) rebranded as an independent property: The Kahala Hotel & Resort. A new development called the Manaolana Place project will bring the Hong Kong-based luxury brand back to the islands.
Slated for completion in 2020, the Manaolana Place project will consist of 125 hotel rooms and 107 luxury residences in a 36-story mixed use tower. The hotel units will be known collectively as the “Mandarin Oriental Honolulu,” while the residences will be known as the “Residences at Mandarin Oriental.” The project will also include a rooftop restaurant and bar, a sky lobby lounge, an all-day dining restaurant, wedding and meetings spaces, outdoor terraces, gardens, a “Spa at Mandarin Oriental,” a fitness center, and an 80-foot outdoor swimming pool.
The Mandarin Oriental Honolulu will be built on the corner of Kapiolani Blvd. and Atkinson Dr. That places this new luxury hotel/condo next to the Ala Moana Shopping Center, the Ala Moana Hotel, and across the street from the Hawaii Convention Center. To me, this location is a bit puzzling for a luxury hotel in Hawaii. The location is a convenient one, but is an odd mix of commercial spaces, old apartment buildings, bars, restaurants, gentlemen’s clubs, a new workforce housing tower (under construction), and new luxury residences (within Ala Moana Center). But perhaps the most perplexing thing about this location is its not actually in Waikiki or Ko Olina.
This means that rooms at the Mandarin Oriental Honolulu may have an ocean view, but there won’t be a beach view. In fact, the closest and only beach will be Magic Island/Ala Moana Beach Park. Honestly, Magic Island isn’t that far away, at about a 0.75 miles/15 minute walk, but still. This is supposed to be a luxury hotel. In Hawaii. Then again, the Ritz-Carlton Residence in Waikiki is just as far from a beach.
As I’ve said, the Mandarin Oriental Honolulu will be in an interesting location. There are few properties outside of resort areas and/or beaches, especially luxury ones. But, I’m interest to see how this project develops and what the finished tower will look like. Even ignoring other hotels, the Mandarin Oriental Honolulu has tons of residential competition too from Howard Hughes’ Ward Villages project.