The Surfjack Hotel was the second mid-century modern hotel to open in Waikiki, following The Laylow. Given how much we enjoyed The Laylow and the cool aesthetic of the Surfjack, I’ve long wanted to give them a try. Too bad many inconveniences hold back the hotel.
I’ve been wanting to stay at the Surfjack since they opened, but never found a reason or rate compelling enough to. However, recently, I had a need for a last-minute, unplanned stay. At first, our stay was supposed to be a one-nighter but ended up turning into a week-long one. As a result, we ended up booking two completely separate stays there, which worked out great from a review standpoint.
Now, before we get into the review, it’s worth noting that, like so many “new” hotels in Waikiki, The Surfjack is a conversion project. This is why, as you’ll see, the hotel has some peculiarities and lacks amenities. It’s also why we likely encountered the issues that we did. These conversions can only go so far – especially on a budget.
Surfjack Hotel Location
Before we discuss booking the Surfjack, let’s talk about its location. Like many of Waikiki’s newer properties, the Surfjack is far from the water. In fact, it’s closer to the Ala Wai Canal than it is to the beach. Specifically, the Surfjack is located along Lewers street right above Kuhio Avenue. That means the hotel is just steps away from the Ritz-Carlton Residences Waikiki Beach, though the area is a bit less nice. Across of Lewers from the hotel sits the Courtyard Waikiki Beach.
While not that desirable of a location, the Surfjack is still fairly central. It’s a five to ten-minute walk to the International Market Place or a 10 to 15-minute walk to Beachwalk and the Royal Hawaiian Center. Kuhio Avenue is also less busy than Kalakaua, making it a bit quieter, but not by much.
Booking The Surfjack Hotel
Unlike The Laylow, The Surfjack Hotel is an actual boutique hotel – it isn’t associated with a more prominent brand. Heck, the hotel isn’t even part of smaller brands such as Outrigger, Aqua-Aston, or Highgate. That said, the Surfjack is available for booking through the travel portals of Chase and Amex, though you won’t get any special benefits, and the rate isn’t much different. For my stays, I booked directly and used their kama’aina rate, which, at the time, waived the resort and parking fees.
It’s worth noting that available room types at the Surfjack Hotel include bungalows (standard rooms), one-bedroom suites, two-bedroom suites, three-bedroom suites, bungalow penthouses, and one-bedroom suite penthouses.
Parking at The Surfjack Hotel
Pre-pandemic, The Surfjack was valet-only. Unfortunately, the hotel hasn’t brought back its valet service and has no parking lot or structure of its own. As a result, guests have to park at a different hotel. Specifically, you need to park at the Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach, about a quarter-mile away. What’s more, both are located on one-way streets. So if you’re dropping your bags off curbside at check-in, you’ll need to loop back around to park your car.
Parking wasn’t usually an issue for us, though it depended on what was going on that day. One day out of our entire stay, I couldn’t park on the fourth or fifth floor and nearly ended up on the roof. Moreover, the elevators here are stupid, as both don’t run on the same system. What I mean by this is that if you press the button for one, it won’t call the other. You have to press the buttons for both or wait and hope that the elevator you selected isn’t busy. STUPID.
Alternatively, you can park on the fifth floor and take the Hyatt Centric’s elevator down.
Note that, despite what the Google Map above says, you cannot walk through the T Galleria by DFS as it has permanently closed. Also, the elevators we used are shared with Nordstrom Rack along Kuhio Avenue.
We opted to park our car and walk over with our bags. While a bit more convenient, just be aware that the sidewalks and roads on Oahu aren’t the best – my luggage got stuck in the cracks a few times. But, again, this was our decision. Would’ve just as easily parked out front to unload and drive the car over to the Hyatt.
Anyway, once we entered the hotel, the front desk was immediately to the right. There was a small line upon arrival, though it moved quickly. The front desk staff were always very friendly and did their best to go over everything, which was a surprisingly large amount of info given the petite size of the property. Parking, by the way, is handled differently depending on your length of stay. For overnighters, they’ll validate your ticket while you get a card key for longer stays. It’s worth noting that the validation stickers are good for 24 hours from the time you pulled your ticket.
Other amenities at the property include free WiFi (more on that later) and coffee, which is available in the shop across from the front desk from 7 am to noon. The shop also sells apparel, such as reusable totes, shirts, and swimwear.
There really isn’t much to see at the Surfjack Hotel. All of the property’s public spaces are on the ground floor, including the central pool, the restaurant, the shop, and the front desk. A water dispenser and reef-safe sunscreen are both available near the pool, while a set of unisex bathrooms are also available, which are shared with the restaurant.
A bank of two elevators services the entire 10-floor property. We never really had an issue with crowding here, though I often left early in the morning to go to work and returned around dinner time. Stairs are available for use too, which was interesting. You see, the set of stairs I used to get down in the mornings lead directly into the restaurant, they are visible from the street, and they aren’t secured on the ground floor. Yet, to use the elevator, you need to tap your card key. Seems a little contradictory, no?
Surfjack Hotel One-Bedroom Suite
On our first stay for one night, we were upgraded to a one-bedroom suite! Nice! The caveat, though, was that our particular room was on the 10th floor. That doesn’t seem like an issue, but the receptionist explained that the elevator only goes up to floor nine. As a result, we’d need to walk the rest of the way up. She asked if we were ok with this and offered to assign us a different room. We declined and kept the suite. We were also offered assistance with our bags, which we declined.
Luckily, the flight of stairs from the elevators to the 10th floor wasn’t too bad. Plus, we were only packed for a night, so our luggage was light. But these corridors are a bit creepy looking, in my opinion.
The full name of the Surfjack is the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club. That should give a strong hint of how the room decor was selected here. There’s definitely an eclectic, beachy, mid-century vibe going on here. For our particular room, just off the entry was the bathroom to the left along with a closet (with a surprise) and the main living room to the right.
The main living room is generously sized and features a sectional that converts into a bed, a coffee table, and a 50-inch TV. It’s a fantastic space to kick back and relax! I also appreciate the use of ceiling-mounted lights controlled by a single wall-mounted switch. The industry standard of having lamps all over the damn room drives me insane!
Now, I’m sure most of you would’ve assumed the mini-fridge would be under the TV, right? You’d be wrong! Instead, it was hidden away in the closets along with a wet bar and our safe. The other doors revealed additional storage space.
As you can clearly see in the above pictures, the bedroom is off to the right of the bathroom. Unlike the tiny bedrooms you get in the suites at the Courtyard Waikiki, the bedrooms at the Surfjack Hotel are reasonably spacious! What you won’t find in here, however, is storage. All of the drawers and closet space are in the living room, though this didn’t bother us at all.
What the bedroom did have in spades are outlets. The clock/radio has USB outlets, as did the lamp (2), as well as a wall outlet next to the TV. The living room? Not so much. By the way, how cool is that headboard? If I’m not mistaken, Honolulu-based Tori Richard designed these, paying homage to their famous aloha shirts.
By the way, the beds here are comfy. The mattress is a little on the stiff side, but I still found it very pleasant. Combine that mattress with the bedding, and I never wanted to crawl out of bed – especially with the a/c blowing cold. This was the case in both our suite and our bungalow.
Conveniently, you can enter the bathroom from the living room or the bedroom. The problem with this, however, is that the door leading to the bedroom is translucent. So if your partner wants to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, the light is going to shine into the bedroom. This was a poor design choice, in my opinion.
That said, the bathroom itself is pretty large by Waikiki standards. The shower stall is exceptionally spacious here, which is nice since I wasn’t constantly banging into the wall as I do at some other hotels. I do wish there was a bit more counter space, though even this is better than many other hotels.
I know this will anger some, but the Surfjack Hotel does use large, refillable dispensers for their toiletries by California-based Byrd. That said, these bottles aren’t mounted to the wall and are made of glass, so they look a bit nicer. What’s more, the Salty Coconut shampoo and conditioner, and Tropical Coconut body wash all have pleasant scents to them.
The handsoap is Pikake-scented, makes use of activated charcoal, and comes in formed to look like the Surfjack Hotel’s signature pool.
View and Outdoor Space
Given the Surfjack Hotel’s location, don’t expect any room to have great views. In fact, desirable views here are of the pool. However, our one-bedroom suite didn’t have any pool views. Rather, we had a great view of the apartment building next door. What caught me off-guard, though, was when I stepped outside onto our balcony. Rather than having a little space right outside the sliding door, our exterior space extended way beyond our room.
Around the corner past the living room’s sliding doors and we found a cool little deck area. I loved the little space, as it made for a great dining area during our stay. Too bad the chaises look so grody. Oh, and we had no lighting out here, either.
Surfjack Hotel Bungalow
After checking out, going home to grab more clothes, and checking back in, we were assigned a standard bungalow room. In this photo, you can see both the validated parking ticket as well as the card key for the parking garage.
Upon entering our bungalow, we found our bathroom to the right and the closet to the left.
No, there wasn’t any wet bar in our closet this time around – just a safe and a mini-fridge.
The bathroom was roughly the same size as the one in our suite.
The rest of the room was a good size too. There’s definitely more space here than in a standard room at the Courtyard! The bathroom is much nicer too. That said, our two double-bed room, had two beds, a dresser with a 40″ TV, and not much else. This isn’t a complaint, just an observation. What I will complain about is the fact that the TV is hilariously small. Seriously. That thing is TINY.
On the single nightstand between the two beds are a radio/alarm clock, a phone, and an outlet panel embedded into the headboard. The switch for the hanging lamp was also here, while the switch for the ceiling fan/light is next to the a/c control mounted to the wall.
Balcony and View
Our bungalow was a pool view bungalow, which is the view type you want at the Surfjack Hotel. Let me tell you, the view we had straight out our window and from our balcony was miles better than what we had in the suite. Sure, looking straight out, we see another apartment complex and its parking, but it’s farther away. What helps too is the park across Kuhio Avenue from us.
We spent every dinner out on our balcony enjoying the live entertainment down below, while I liked to people watch as the world went by on Kuhio. The chairs, though, are not so great. If you have hair that goes down to about your midback, be prepared for it to get stuck in the rivets.
In the above photos, the first is looking straight out; the middle one looks to the right and is of the Surfjack Hotel, the apartment, and the Ritz-Carlton, while the rightmost photo shows the Courtyard Waikiki with the Hyatt Centric peaking out from behind it.
Lastly, we have a view of the pool with the chaises cleared and dining tables added for dinner service.
Surfjack Hotel HVAC + Technology
The air conditioning systems at the Surfjack Hotel are phenomenal! Not only are they silent, but they are highly effective and keep the room at a very steady temperature. These are among the best air conditioning systems I’ve ever experienced in a hotel, which is even more surprising because they’re split units!
WiFi, on the other hand, was atrocious. In our suite, the WiFi signal kept dropping. That happened less in our bungalow, but it was always very slow. On average, we saw speeds fluctuate between 10 and 25 Mbps throughout the day and night. Worse, it boots you off after a few days, forcing you to reauthorize your connection. Only, many of our devices didn’t want to do the reauthorization.
The phones in the room are ancient. Not a problem, right? Well, if you want to use it to order room service – more on that later – it might cause some frustrations. This is especially true during dinner when the live music makes the restaurant LOUD. But they painted the phone! The radio/alarm clock is super plastic and lightweight. Oh, and the most disappointing thing was the fact that the TV doesn’t have any installed apps. I guess Marriotts just spoil me. Then again, streaming here with their awful WiFi is challenging.
Surfjack Hotel Dining
As I mentioned in the previous section, room service is available, as is carryout, and in-restaurant dining. The only restaurant available is, of course, Mahina and Sun’s. I’ve covered their brunch and dinner services before, so I won’t do it again here. Suffice to say, the Surfjack Hotel has excellent dining, though it’s a bit pricy. That said, I did order dessert for takeout once during our stay, and it was frustrating trying to communicate with the staff. Between the crappy phones and the loud music, I had to yell for them to hear me. Maybe they should implement an online system instead?
Issues at the Surfjack Hotel
Up until now, my review makes the Surfjack Hotel sound pretty great. And, up till now, it is if you ignore the parking and the WiFi. However, we experienced other issues and annoyances that pretty much rules out us ever staying here again. The biggest of these issues is noise. The doors at the Surfjack Hotel are so thin that every single sound from the corridors penetrates deeply into the room – even in the suites.
Thin doors alone aren’t an issue worth excluding a hotel over. But they do contribute to an even more annoying issue – slamming doors. Every single person seems to slam their door shut here. And when they do, you can hear it loud and clear in every room. Closer slams even shakes our walls. This happens day and night. Needless to say, despite our comfy beds, we didn’t get much sleep during our stay.
Adding to the noise is the fact that the Surfjack Hotel is dog friendly. Not only that, but there appears to be no size limit too. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it was problematic for us. In fact, when we were in our suite, the suite next to us had their dog out in their outdoor area, which kept barking at us until the owner brought it in. And that dog wasn’t small. To me, the dog looked like it was at least the size of a Labrador Retriever. This issue didn’t get much better in our bungalow, either, as we could hear dogs barking throughout our stay.
Finally, plumbing appears to be an issue here. You see, the shower controls were the same in both of our rooms, but operated differently. In the suite, the main lever that displays temperature markings did absolutely nothing. However, in our bungalow, that main lever only controlled the temperature, while the top lever controlled the water pressure. Speaking of pressure, that was extremely inconsistent throughout our stay. Sometimes the pressure was decent, while at other times, barely a trickle of water would come out. Water temperature also had a tendency to fluctuate widely as well.
Lastly, if you haven’t noticed, the corridors here are open to the elements. That renders their flimsy paper do not disturb signs virtually useless. I ended up bringing some tape and sticking ours to our door. But, kudos to them for offering daily housekeeping for those that want it!
Surfjack Hotel, Final Thoughts
Writing this review bums me the hell out. I really wanted to like the Surfjack Hotel. And in some very important ways, I did. However, the issues it has are far too great to overlook. Not being able to sleep because of the noise and the unreliability of their water service are both inexcusable. Layer these on with more mundane issues like slow/spotty WiFi and inconvenient parking, and I have to draw the conclusion that I’ll never stay at the Surfjack Hotel again, nor can I recommend it to anyone – not even at the $1,200 weekly rate we got. It just isn’t worth it.
I would much rather spend a couple hundred more to get better quality sleep along with status recognition, elite night credits, and loyalty points. Giving up all those perks to save a few coins wasn’t worth it at all given the level of sleep deprivation we experienced here. However, if the Surfjack Hotel can fix my most glaring issues, then I’d wholeheartedly recommend them. But I don’t see that happening. After all, this is a conversion property, which makes fixing many of these very old issues exceedingly difficult.