The Laylow Hotel Honolulu review: Mid-century modern Hawaii design! Kaka’ako murals, The Bishop Museum art.

The Laylow, Autograph Collection waikiki hawaii hotel room

If the tropical leaves and ukulele didn’t give it away… surprise, I’ve been hanging out in Honolulu, Hawaii!

After over a year at home in Canada, I jumped on the chance to be on the paradise island of Oahu.

In Part 1 of my Hawaiian diary, you’ll see how I fit right in at The Laylow, a mid-century modern design hotel by Waikiki beach.

Fort DeRussy Beach Park sunset honolulu

Still dreaming of this sunset… the fashionable Laylow hotel was walking distance from poke cafes and picture-perfect beaches, like Fort DeRussy Beach (above).

Kakaako district street art tour murals

Since we’re taking a look at Hawaiian contemporary design, I’ll also show you the flamboyant murals of Kakaʻako, and a street art exhibit at the Bishop Museum. (Quite a few have a Gothic and kawaii influence, which isn’t a surprise as there is a substantial Japanese population in Honolulu.)

The Laylow hotel is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, a group of unique design properties. My hotel room was made for photography, with statement wallpaper, a colorful midcentury sofa, and a ukulele to strum. (The little guitar-like musical instrument was introduced to Hawaii by Portuguese, where it took off.)

(My long bat print Goth dress is by Sourpuss Clothing.)

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Each of the 251 rooms is filled with retro-tropical touches. All guests receive this Lay Low surfer rubber ducky in a gift basket, as a memento to take home. The shelves contain nostalgic books about surf culture, art, and more. (I was fascinated by the an architecture book about Vladimir Ossipoff, Hawaii’s most renowned mid-century modern architect whose buildings were inspired by his childhood in Japan.)

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I loved “laying low” in my cozy and spacious room, which had a vintage Hawaii color scheme and design accents.

space futuristic round bathroom mirror lights

Snuggling up in this white robe, which every guest can find in the closet. With its round illuminated mirror, the futuristic Laylow bathroom looks like something out of 2001 A Space Odyssey.

laylow hotel room interior single bed suite balcony

In addition, every stylish room has a private lanai, or curved balcony.

You may recall that my own apartment decor is inspired my mid-century modernism — it’s one of my favorite design styles. The Laylow’s custom and refurbished vintage MCM furniture includes a pin-leg lounge chair and curving table reminiscent of a surfboard.

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Everyone who checks in receives a generous “E Komo Mai Basket” of goodies to use and take home as souvenirs. These include Laylow branded flip flops in two sizes, water bottles, snacks, a cute rubber duck and a sanitization kit.

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Be sure to take a photo with The Laylow’s signature monstera leaf wallpaper, which was inspired by vintage bark cloth patterns.

hawaiian hula dancers figurines collection vintage kitsch retro hawaii

The cheerful kitsch extends to the hotel’s common areas. Behind the check-in counter, you’ll find classic hula dancer figurines swaying their hips and strumming ukuleles.

laylow hotel outdoor pool honolulu swimming pools

The Laylow maintains the 1950s/60s vibe with its outdoor saltwater pool framed by foliage. I’m all about the egg chairs and retro bullet planters (I have one myself).

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The Laylow boutique hotel opened in 2017, so everything is brand new — while retaining the sprit of the 1960s-era hotel that it replaced.

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And did I mention the location, location, location? I only had to walk for a few minutes to be at Waikiki Beach! (With all my sun protection, of course.)

waikiki beach water ocean swimming fish

After the past year and more… I couldn’t believe I was in sunny Honolulu, wading in the clear waters and saying hello to the schools of fish that darted about.

honolulu waikiki beach rocks ocean

A moment of Zen, watching the waves roll over the rocks at Waikiki. (Thankfully, I managed not to drop my phone in the ocean…)

waikiki surfboards beach boards japanese

If you’re a sportier type than me, you can take part in water activities like surfboard yoga, paddle-boarding, and sailing. (These bright surfboards lined the walkway to the water.)

lay low hotel exterior logo sign hawaii

The Laylow is located at 2299 Kuhio Avenue, right by International Marketplace and major Waikiki shops/restaurants. Take the long escalator down to the street level, and everything is right at hand — including multiple ABC Stores, the infamous Hawaiian “conbini”!

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The hotel also has a stylish dining space: Hideout at The Laylow. The restaurant that serves modern Hawaiian cuisine with ingredients from the ocean and local farms.

the hideout honolulu cocktails food menu

With outdoor seating and a sandy floor area, Hideout felt like beachside dining. Come for happy hour to try the signature mai tai made with local rum, pineapple, and lilikoi (a fruit similar to the passionfruit).

hawaiian food hideout ceviche poke

The Hideout menu includes poke bowls (I chose ahi tuna, and it came with kimchi and an egg on top). Fresh fish is always a good idea when you’re in Hawaii, and the kampachi ceviche with calamansi hit the spot.

the hideout honolulu review burger

The seared ahi tuna sandwich has a Japanese touch. It’s coated with bubu arare, tiny glutinous rice pops originating from Kyoto.

laylow hotel balcony sunset hawaii

Later, you can grab a bottled cocktail from the ABC Store, and sit on your Laylow private balcony to take in the sunset.

bishop museum castle memorial building

I was inspired to see more of Hawaii’s art — past and present — at the Bishop Museum. Founded 1889, the Bishop is the state’s largest museum and has the world’s largest collection dedicated to the history, culture, and environment of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific.

POW! WOW! Jasper Wong rabbit bunny Bishop Museum

The Castle Memorial Building held a special art show: “POW! WOW! The First Decade: From Hawaiʻi to the World.” The vibrant exhibition showcases some of the most notable local and international street artists, whose works include a big-eyed inflatable bunny.

bishop museum street art murals installations

This exhibit was curated by Jasper Wong, the founder of POW! WOW! (a nonprofit that brings contemporary artists together to enrich neighborhoods with art). The Bishop featured over 160 artists, with 30 creating new murals and installations.

pow wow graffiti jasper wong art gallery honolulu

I walked into what looked like an urban street corner, covered in decals and graffiti tags.

stop asian hate crimes poster art

The creative works included a modified old-school Mortal Kombat arcade game. I spotted a Stop Asian Hate Crimes poster by Lauren YS.

japanese devil street art hannya

The devil is always lurking about, wherever I go…

winnie pooh sculpture bishop museum honolulu hawaii

The Bishop’s gallery space included over 120 new 2’x2’ paintings. In the foreground, Winnie is squatting and straining, and living up to his “pooh” name…

kinetic moving art honolulu modern museum

The kinetic artwork drew my attention. The “”good” and “bad” ideas sway left and right into the empty heads.

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The show brought together contemporary creative expression with traditional and indigenous perspectives.

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Leave it to me to find some cute pastel monsters. Designer and illustrator Kevin Lyons is known for these funky characters.

honolulu natural history bishop museum whale

The Bishop has many other exhibits, as well as a museum of science and nature. Be sure to wander in the impressive Hawaiian Hall, guarded by a 55 foot long sperm whale. It houses thousands of fascinating artifacts about the royal family and Polynesian cultures.

weird hawaiian ancient art sculptures figures

On the first floor, I learned about ancient Hawaiian gods and legends, which are expressed through haunting stone carvings. (They reminded me of my time on Easter Island.)

hawaii tribal native sculptures totems

A few of the many fascinating totems by Pacific Island tribes. Thank you to The Bishop Museum for letting me discover Hawai‘i’s history and living culture.

diamond head volcano lookout viewpoint view

Even for a sun-phobic Goth, spending outdoors is a must in Hawaii. At Diamond Head beach park, you can walk up to a lookout point for this view, or hike up to the summit of the volcanic crater.

honolulu roosters diamond head chickens

You’ll come across hens and roosters roaming about the park. The birds first arrived on the island through Polynesian voyagers in 300 AD, and have stuck around.

Kakaako Waterfront Park ocean rocks

There are endless spots on Oahu to see the waves – this is Kakaʻako Waterfront Park. I would have driven to the North Shore and Japanese temples, had there not been a rental car shortage…. (Something to be aware of when you plan your trip.)

cute kawaii graffiti rainbow colorful Kakaako

Honolulu’s Kakaʻako district has been revitalized with urban street art. I encourage you to come here to see the impressive large-scale works, such as “Aloha Monsters” by Kevin Lyons.

ufo alien mural hawaii honolulu

Most of these were part of POW! WOW!, the festival that brings local and global artists to the neighborhood to paint public murals. 

gorilla street art wall murals Kakaako

Kakaʻako isn’t too far from Waikiki, so you can Uber or Lyft here easily. Set your location to the “Fisher Hawaii” office supply store, and you’ll find tons of murals in the surrounding streets.

gundam robot rabbits Kaka'ako artists

Quite a few had Japanese manga aesthetics. Here’s a gundam robot fist and hopping bunnies.

hawaii Kaka'ako public art festival

I dug this eccentric take on tiki statues.

Kaka'ako murals location street address

Spend some time walking around Kakaako, then end up at the hip Salt retail center for an iced tea.

tokidoki mural japanese characters honolulu

Tokidoki is easy to recognize. Note how the palm trees look like skulls and animals, and a dinosaur is chomping on one!

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Quite a few murals had a Goth or spooky theme, such as this skeleton diver.

japanese devil demon mural art

And the devil is always near.

japanese culture Kaka'ako cute characters

Not surprising to see cuteness like this in Hawaii, as it has one of the world’s largest Japanese communities.

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Waikiki has plenty of great Japanese food options as well as poke, the native Hawaiian dish of diced raw fish. I had this generous selection of spicy salmon and marinated tuna at The Poke Bar, near my hotel. (And I stumbled upon Satan on my walk there.)

musubi waikiki shop japanese rice balls onigiri

Hawaiians also invented spam musubi, or fried canned ham placed on a rice ball and secured with a strip of nori seaweed. (I’m not a fan, but I loved the wide selection of bento boxes and onigiri.)

Mitsuwa Marketplace Hawaii Waikiki japanese grocery store

Stop by Mitsuwa Marketplace to pick up snacks, or to-go dishes like a salmon roe chirashi. And PSA: Honolulu has Coco Ichiban, my favorite Japanese curry chain… Of course, I went out of my way to get my Coco Ichi fix!

waikiki beach diamond head volcano mountain view

After the year and plus we’ve had, it was a dream come true to be in Honolulu. I’ll miss meandering from my hotel to Fort DeRussy Beach, which has this view of Diamond Head volcano.

Fort DeRussy Beach waikiki best sunset spots

Come back to the beach at nightfall, and walk up the jetty pier to see the sunset over the ocean waves.

The Laylow design art hotel honolulu hotels

I have more to share with you from the Aloha State — stay tuned for part two of my dispatches. Thank you to The Laylow for the happy memories here.

airplane wing sunset clouds window flight landing

I leave you with a view from the wing — I’ve missed this! Please stay safe this summer.

Will you be flying somewhere soon, or do you have any road trips or local getaways planned?


1 Comment

  1. Alyssa
    Posted February 27, 2024 at 4:06 am | Permalink


    This review of the Laylow Hotel is spot on! From the vibrant street art to the boutique ambiance, it’s an immersive experience. I’m inspired to explore and discover its hidden gems. Thanks for the insider tips!


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