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What's New At Waikiki's Famed Outrigger Hotel (PHOTOS)

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Looking down from a balcony of the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach during a visit to Oahu in May, we had a bird's eye view of the ribbon of sand stretched out below us.

From our perch it appeared the sand had a visible divide running through it with one strip bleached white from long-time exposure to the sun, a sharp contrast to the grey of the adjacent section of beach. The contrasting shades are the result of a four-month, $2.3-million project that saw new sand hauled in to widen an eroding stretch of Waikiki Beach, about one-third of a mile between the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the Duke Kahanamoku statue at Kuhio Beach.

According to State of Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources, a recent study estimates the loss of the beach to the state would equal $200 million. On a human note, the loss of the beach would be devastating for locals and visitors like myself, who enjoy Oahu as a favourite travel destination. But with Waikiki Beach widened by 40-feet in some locations, it's looking better than ever.

We weren't staying at the Outrigger Waikiki on this visit to Oahu, but I had wangled a tour during our vacation because I was curious about the end result of the extensive renovations to the resort, which I'd heard so much about. At $20 million, the price tag of the Outrigger renovation cost 10 times that of the beach project, but with the completion of the two taking place so close together they're a perfect complement to each other.

The Outrigger is putting the finishing touches on the extensive makeover to its 525-room property, reclaiming its place as one of the most iconic landmarks along the waterfront of Waikiki Beach.

The "roof-to-sand" project, which began March 2012, includes improvements to the beach-level lobby, a new pool and whirlpool spa, an expanded pool deck and upgraded landscaping. The guest rooms have been refurbished with new carpet boasting pineapple patterns, tropical bedding and Waikiki artwork by underwater photographer Glenn Poulain. New wall coverings, furniture, draperies and glass lanai railings to allow for better views, add to the enhanced look of the resort. New elelctronic locks, in-room safes and sound proofing between walls adds to the sense of privacy.

While at the Outrigger we also enjoyed dinner at the new Hula Grill restaurant, and of course dug into incredibly fresh fish topped off with a stunning view of the sun setting over Waikiki Beach. Make sure, if you're taking a taxi, you don't end up at Hula's Bar and Lei Stand, which is what almost happened to us. Not that Hula's Bar isn't a good time, we know because we've been before, but it's better know for its male go-go dancers and drag shows than its menu.

During this visit to Waikiki we instead stayed at the Outrigger Luana, which is just off the beach and overlooks Fort Derussy Beach Park. It's in a less hectic area at the edge of Waikiki, but still a short walk to the beach and shopping areas, such as Waikiki Beach Walk. The small Protea Café off the lobby was super convenient and we ate there for breakfast each day of our stay before heading to the beach or on an excursion.

I particularly loved the roof-top pool, not only for its park view and cabanas, but also because it was far less hectic than most any other we've visited in Hawaii. Meanwhile my partner's highlight of the hotel was the barbecue area, adjacent to the pool deck. We took advantage of those barbecues to grill fish for dinner.

I have to admit, I had good intentions to use the pool-side exercise/weight room, but somehow never quit made it. I did stick my head in to take a look though and said hello to the more dedicated fitness fans using the treadmill. But seriously, it was hot and there were tropical drinks to enjoy. The staff was also super friendly and helpful, though that pretty much sums up the demeaner of almost everyone we've ever met or dealt with in Hawaii.

The Luana is a great boutique hotel, perfect for families because it offers studios with kitchenettes and rooms with full kitchens. With three grandkids between the ages of two and three, I'm keeping the Luana in mind for some future family travel.

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