Ambassador Hotel Waikiki
Money Saver, $ (from $99)
Honolulu's Waikiki neighborhood and pristine, two-mile, white sand beach has long been a destination for travelers, surf enthusiasts, and even royalty. The Hawaiian royal family vacationed here in the 1800s, surfing the "waves of kings" as a pack on longboards. Here's something we were surprised to learn Surfing was exclusive to the alii (Hawaiian royalty) until the late 1890s, when Waikiki beach boy Duke Kahanamoku taught locals and visitors to hang ten and canoe, which may be why he's now known as the father of modern surfing.
Today, newbies are still catching their first wave in Waikiki, drawn, no doubt, for the laid-back surfer culture, good vibes, crystal-clear water, and panoramic views. Cue the Ambassador Hotel Waikiki, an easy-breezy hotel mere steps from the wave break that won't break the bank (rates start at $99). Every room includes a private balcony with beach, mountain, or city views and is equipped with a full-service kitchen and seating area. An outdoor pool has chaise loungers, beach toys, free beach cruiser bikes, 24/7 fitness center, and free parking. The amenities are slim and the decor won't win any design awards, but if you're a low-fi traveler who'd rather catch rays than breakfast in bed, Ambassador is perfect for you.
At a Glance
The Vibe: Easy-breezy and affordable beach hotel.
Standout Detail: The central location across the street from the famous two-mile-wide, white sand Waikiki Beach makes for great spots to tan, cool off in the waves, and watch the sunset over Diamond Head crater.
This Place Is Perfect For: Beach lovers on a budget, laid-back surfers who want easy wave access.
Rooms: Each room includes a private balcony overlooking Waikiki Beach, the volcanic Koolau Mountains, or bustling downtown Waikiki. Fully equipped kitchens (with cookware, stove, and microwave) mean you can stock the fridge with meals, beach-ready snacks, and sundowner drinks when you want them — and also keep your vacation budget in check. Cable/satellite TV, in-room safes, and hairdryers are also in the rooms.
On Site: Outdoor swimming pool with chaise lounge chairs, beach cruiser bikes for rent, water bottle refill stations throughout the hotel, in-house 24/7 fitness center, game room for the kiddos with big screen TVs, video games and interactive games, and a business center with free WiFi.
Food + Drink: There are no on-site restaurants at the hotel or room service. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf is within walking distance for coffee, pastries, and breakfast. The hotel's convenience store sells fresh groceries to stock the in-room fridges and snacks and drinks for the beach.
What to Do Nearby
Because it's located along a protected bay, Waikiki is a great place to learn to surf, as the waves are typically gentle rollers, offering surfers of all levels a long, smooth ride. No need to plan ahead, as many outfitters on the beach offer lessons. Once you're ready for dry land, hike the Diamond Head crater, part of a dormant volcano and the crown jewel of the Waikiki Bay. The hike to the top is about 45 minutes, and, while it's not particularly rigorous, it's a steep incline of 560 feet in a short amount of time. Once at the top, the views of Waikiki Bay and the Pacific Ocean from the observation deck are magnificent.=
In town, check out the official residence of the Hawaiian monarchy, Iolani Palace. Built in 1882, it is home to the golden Throne Room, where King Kalakaua entertained his guests and the resident grounds were an ancient place of worship. Then head to Kalakaua Avenue, the main shopping district, for your fill of restaurants, shops, and Waikiki's historic surfer hotels, like the Royal Hawaiian for their legendary bright pink Maitai Bar.