When in Waikiki, 'Wy' Not?

Travelers who want to be in the midst of Waikiki's bustle without being buffeted by it will be able to stay in a hotel focused on the twin themes of water and art.

The Wyland Waikiki is scheduled to emerge later this month from tens of millions of dollars in upgrades, which took the property's more than 400 rooms down to bare concrete and filled them with artistic touches ranging from a signature giclée image painted by Wyland from one of the hotel's penthouses—more on this later—to custom-made shams and bed scarves with a fish motif.

Travel Agent visited the hotel as work progressed earlier this month. The sense that one has entered the aquatic zone, Wyland style, is apparent from the moment one approaches the main entrance, with a whale's-tail mosaic pathway and four coconut palms, obligingly arrayed in the form of a living W.

Wyland—the artist has long been known by his surname—has been the creative force behind the vision of the hotel, paying several visits along the way. His work accents the public areas and the rooms, and one of the hotel's two penthouse suites is being transformed into an upscale artist's loft that Wyland will use during his visits, but that will be available for booking by hotel guests at other times. They'll even have access to his mountainview studio and see any works-in-progress that he's left there. (The two penthouse units, each with expansive U-shaped wraparound lanai, are slated for completion by year's end.)

Signature touches in the lobby area include floor insets that draw inspiration from the gradated hues of the ocean as it deepens. A Wy-Pod area with large-screen Macintosh computers for guests to use (free wireless is available throughout the lobby and in the pool areas; free wired broadband is available in all the rooms). And a Wy-Bar has floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that open to the tradewinds and the pool beyond.

Just off the lobby is the space set aside for a water-themed spa, which will include signature treatments with a water element. Another venue is a Chill Room with massage chairs, a 65-inch plasma TV and Xbox equipment usable with media guests borrow from the front desk. The hotel also will be adding a fitness center and a restaurant providing breakfast, lunch, dinner and room service.

 Insets add to the lobby's ocean ambiance

Rooms are apportioned among three structures: the KuhioTower, overlooking

Kuhio Avenue
, formerly the Ohana Waikiki Surf; the Royal Hawaiian Tower, formerly the Ohana Waikiki Surf East; and the low-rise Lewers Loft, with 12 units.

Every guest room has a new air-conditioning unit, a 26-inch flat-panel TV, a coffee setup and a refrigerator. Some room categories include a microwave. Every tower room has a lanai. The one-bedroom suite we visited in the KuhioTower had an extensive lanai running the width of the room, from one edge of the living room to the far edge of the bedroom, and accessible from both.

Insider tips are the corner king-bedded units with kitchenette, which provide about the same space as other units in the category, but have a shower/tub combo rather than a shower, and have side windows in both the guest room and in the bath; these rooms end in -02 and -20.

A distinctive category to recommend to clients is the Artist Series one-bedroom suites. The first of a planned six to eight such suites is the Kim Taylor Reece suite, which will be available when the hotel opens. Reece is a noted Hawaii-based photographer. Others in the series will be developed and placed in inventory on an ongoing basis.

Wy-Bar patrons can catch the action on large-screen TVs

The KuhioTower's previous four penthouse units are being consolidated into two units, with lockoff capability. Each will include a full kitchen with a view, as well as the aforementioned expansive lanai. These units are under construction and should be open by year's end. The Wyland Suite measures 1,418 square feet; its U-shaped lanai is 1,989 square feet. The other penthouse suite measures 1,314 and 1,816 square feet, respectively.

For Outrigger Enterprises, managing the hotel is a case of coming full circle, as it previously operated the properties under its Ohana brand before renovations began. "It's a natural alliance," says Barry Wallace, executive vice president of hospitality services for Outrigger Hotels Group. "The property has been infused with a sense of place, and it's much closer to our heart than that of a national chain."

Agents are encouraged to see the hotel for themselves under a preview rate specifically for retailers. The rate is $119 per room per night for travel April 24-November 30 and a stay of at most four nights. To book the travel agent preview rate, call 866-346-4679.

The agent liaison is Alvin Wong, who can help retailers with VIP arrangements, as well as such singular situations as planning a destination wedding in one of the penthouse suites. Reach him at wyl@wylandwaikiki.net.

Essential Links Call 866-346-4679 or visit www.wylandwaikiki.net.