Waikiki is no stranger to high-end hotels, with properties like the Ritz Carlton, the Halekulani, the Royal Hawaiian, and the Moana Surfrider leading the way.
But a newer 5-star hotel, the Espacio, is making its case as the most luxurious and exclusive.
Never heard of it? That wouldn’t be surprising, given the circumstances surrounding its grand opening, its understated exterior appearance, and its ethos in general.
Let’s take a look inside to see what the Espacio’s been hiding:
An Intentional Under the Radar Design
Between hotels, condos, and vacation rentals, Waikiki has hundreds of options when it comes to choosing accommodations. In this way, it’s not exactly a surprise for a property to fly under the radar on Oahu.
But the Espacio’s story is especially curious. It’s one thing for a two-star property to go unnoticed and underappreciated, but a high-end luxury hotel right on the main drag, with room rates of more than $3,500 a night?
Shouldn’t a luxury hotel property that received a 5-star rating from Forbes, with a restaurant that also received a 5-star rating, bring about a buzz?
Part of it was timing. Opened in the fall of 2019, the Espacio was up and running just a few months before it shut down in March of 2020, and it didn’t reopen until more than a year later in May of 2021 amidst a flurry of pandemic restrictions.
Perhaps more to the point, however, is that the property aims to be exclusive and, in a way, wants to fly under the radar for its guests.
For proof, have a look at the entryway in the photo above. It looks like nothing more than the entrance to an apartment building, with a sign so small that it’s hard to see from the other side of the street.
“[The people who stay here] don’t want a lot of fanfare,” one employee said. “They want a space for their family that feels like home.”
Apartment-style living and personable, professional service.
Formerly a hotel with standard-size rooms, Espacio was renovated down to just nine “residence-style” suites so that each one spans an entire floor, with multiple bedrooms and living spaces spread across a whopping 2,250 square-foot floor plan.
This layout ensures the utmost privacy, since there is only one party staying on each floor. It’s rare to even share the elevator with another guest, considering the small number of rooms and that every returning guest is personally greeted by Espacio staff.
Each suite includes a chef-grade kitchen, private hot tub, and balcony overlooking the Pacific Ocean, as well as private butler service for in-room dining (or any other requests you may have).
The kitchen can be stocked ahead of time if desired, or groceries ordered in during your stay. A private chef can also be arranged for fancier feasts. For example, Hawaii’s only private in-suite Kaiseki Experience.
The décor is modern with light, beachy colors – think beige and blue – while amenities are upscale, including Bvlgari bath products, an in-room telescope, and an apartment-wide sound system.
Another surprise is the in-room wood sauna that’s incorporated into the bathroom. Large enough for 4 people, it beckons after a day of exploring.
You can view more details and photos of each of the nine suites here.
Not Your Ordinary Hotel Pool
Just across the street from Espacio is Waikiki Beach and the Pacific Ocean. Whenever you want to go, just let the staff know and they will have beach chairs, towels, and refreshments awaiting your arrival.
There is also an infinity pool and barbecue area on the rooftop, which offers panoramic views of Waikiki Beach.
The views alone make it stand out, but its charm goes further than that. In fact, it is one of the most unique arrangements we’ve seen in some time, once again prioritizing privacy and exclusivity for guests.
Here’s the way it works: The rooftop infinity pool is open all day long, but it is available by reservation only. Guests reserve use of the pool in 90-minute blocks throughout the day, with only one room permitted to use it at a time.
While this setup does take some forethought in reserving a time slot in advance, the payoff is tremendous in that you and your party get access to a private, rooftop infinity pool (sunset is the one exception, when the pool is open to everyone). Snacks and drinks are brought out poolside by staff, who then disappear, leaving you to enjoy the expansive rooftop space.
Espacio often holds events at the rooftop pool, such as champagne and caviar at sunset.
A Nine Course Dining Experience
Who should be surprised that one of the most overlooked hotels in Waikiki also houses one of the most overlooked restaurants?
Downstairs at the main entryway, you’ll find Mugen (pronounced Moog-en), serving a unique arrangement of French-Japanese cuisine.
Offering only one seating per night, the menu is a chef’s choice seasonal tasting menu with 9 courses, each small plate a work of art in itself. Caviar, Ishidai, and Miyazaki A5 are just a few of the treats recently found on the menu. Wine pairings are also available (and recommended!).
The cocktails are also photo worthy. Try the Butterfly Daquiri, made with local Ko Hana Rum and served with a tropical flower frozen inside a circular ice cube.
For its efforts, the restaurant recently received a 5-star rating from Forbes.
Original Island Offerings
The exclusivity of Espacio doesn’t end at the front door. The hotel encourages all guests to explore the island of Oahu, and they offer a variety of original tours available only to guests.
For example, take the Iolani Palace White Glove Chamberlain Tour, which offers access to collections previously closed to the public, or the Honolulu Museum of Art and Bishop Museum tour, featuring exhibit previews, behind-the-scenes tours with museum docents, and special after-hours privileges to view previously unseen royal Hawaii family heirlooms and indigenous art.
You can learn more about the hotel’s experiences and see more photos here.