Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
This budget hotel has a fair number of amenities, but keep your expectations reasonable -- the free breakfast is a nice perk, but the pool and spa are small by any standard. The Aston Waikiki Beach is a better all-around value.
The hotel dubs itself a "condotel," which means all of the rooms are privately owned. Of the 202 units, 176 are managed by Aqua and bookable for stays. Rooms in the booking pool were renovated in 2005, but the suede headboards and thin, worn comforters make the rooms feel older than their years.
The Surf in the hotel's name does not refer to a beachfront location -- in fact, this hotel is located on the northernmost edge of Waikiki -- but instead refers to a few surfboards on the walls of the lobby and some flatscreen TVs playing looped surfing videos. Meanwhile, the spa consists of just two small treatment rooms and a tiny waiting area. The hotel also boasts a pool and fitness center, but the pool looks a lot larger on the hotel's website than it does in real life. And the fitness center is nothing more than an old treadmill, an older reclining bike, and a weight machine not-so-tucked-away behind a pane of glass near the check-in desk.
Most people are drawn to the hotel for its affordable rates. But a much better option -- especially for families -- at a similar price is the Aston Waikiki Beach, which is located closer to the beach, has spunkier rooms, a larger pool, as well as free breakfast.
A relatively quiet area between five to 10 minutes from the beach
The hotel is located off a side street two long blocks (or between five and 10 minutes on foot) from the beach and just south of the manmade Ala Wai Canal. Although this section of Waikiki is significantly quieter than most, guests still occasionally complain of street noise. Kalakaua Avenue, the main beachfront drag running through Waikiki, is two blocks away.
Kalakaua Avenue itself is a touristy, milelong stretch of shops, restaurants, and high-rise hotels that offers a curious blend of mainland creature comforts and local flavor. On the sidewalks, Japanese tourists intermingle with tanned locals, surfboards under their arms, on their way to the beach to catch a few waves after work. On both sides of the street, high-end retailers -- Tiffany, Cartier, and yes, even an Apple store -- are interspersed with indoor malls and streetside vendors hawking cheap seashell jewelry and T-shirts. Seemingly every mid-market chain restaurant can be found here -- Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen, Tony Roma's -- along with more than a handful of Starbucks and fast-food joints. And towering above it all: 40-story, thousand-room hotels dotting the landscape like pins in a cushion.
Two long blocks (or between five and 10 minutes on foot) from the heart of the action on one of the most famous beaches in the world.
Loosely speaking, the entire 1.5-mile stretch of sand alongside Kalakaua Avenue is known as Waikiki Beach. In reality, it's more like three separate beaches, the borders of which vary depending on whom you ask. The Aqua Aloha Surf is located two long blocks from the section called Queen's Beach, which is the part you see on postcards of Waikiki: manicured, palm tree-dotted lawns leading to a sunny white-sand beach. Children splash about in the shallow water near the shore, while surfers and standup paddle-boarders (the rad new thing to do) patrol the outer waters.
To summarize Queen's Beach in one word: packed. Packed with energy, packed with activity, packed -- most significantly -- with people. Towels carpet the sand like blankets at a sold-out concert. Families with small children, honeymooning couples, even locals taking lunch breaks -- they all merge here, sunning, swimming, and sandcastle-building, all the while doing their best not to kick sand in each other's faces.
If you're in search of luxury, or even a touch of it, these rooms don't deliver. Noise, both from the street and occasionally from the hallways, is an issue for many guests -- plus the décor is outdated, the beds are uncomfortable, the bathrooms are grimy, and there are occasionally ants crawling around.
The middling rooms with small kitchenettes aren't the most welcoming, but the free breakfast and small pool make this a decent value for families. The Aston Waikiki Beach is a better family value -- 85 percent of the recently renovated rooms have ocean views; it has a kidtastic pool; and it's across from Kuhio Beach, aka "the wall," the most kid-friendly section of Waikiki Beach.
The highlight is the free breakfast, which includes fresh fruit, hot pancakes, oatmeal, and less healthy stuff like mini chocolate glazed donuts served in a small room off the lobby from 7 to 8:30 a.m. every day. The spread isn't gourmet, but the food is fresh and guests come flocking, piling their Styrofoam bowls high with oranges and fresh pineapple and pancakes hot off the griddle.
The hotel won't be winning any cleanliness medals. The bathrooms in particular are grimy. My room had ants crawling around the baseboards, as well as around the TV and microwave area. Public areas are clean enough, though some of the upholstery is stained and worn.
One of the hotel's best perks is the free breakfast, with fresh pancakes, fruit, and donuts; coffee and light snacks are served during the day at the small Internet café.
The free breakfast is a hit: fresh fruit, hot pancakes, oatmeal, and less healthy stuff like mini chocolate glazed donuts served in a small room off the lobby from 7 to 8:30 a.m. every day. The spread isn't gourmet, but the food is fresh and guests come flocking, piling their Styrofoam bowls high with oranges and fresh pineapple and pancakes hot off the griddle. Guests are also welcome to help themselves to the bowl of free apples at the front desk.
The rooms at this 176-room budget hotel, located five minutes from the beach, are fairly spacious -- but also noisy, tired looking, and a bit grimy. The free breakfast is a nice feature, as is the small pool, but the free Internet barely works. A better all-around, comparably priced hotel is the Aston Waikiki Beach.