Aqua Waikiki Pearl Rating: 2.5 Pearls
Waikiki, Honolulu, Oahu

Oyster Review Summary

Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators

Pros

  • Bright, spacious rooms (renovated 2009)
  • Free Wi-Fi in the lobby and all rooms
  • 5 minutes to the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center
  • Dogs under 40 pounds welcome
  • Free daily newspaper

Cons

  • No gym, no pool, no concierge
  • Two blocks (up to 10 minutes) to the beach
  • No restaurant (but a small sports bar outside the entrance)
  • Rooms on the lower floors can be loud
  • Skimpy service: just one person at the front desk
  • Slow elevator
  • Nightly fee for cribs and cots

Bottom Line

What the Aqua Waikiki Pearl lacks in amenities -- no pool, no gym, minimal service -- it makes up for with clean, spacious rooms. The location just off the scruffy Kuhio Avenue means the beach is a 10-minute walk. Nonetheless, it's a great value if all you want is a comfortable, inexpensive room.

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 Scene

No frills and a bit of a hike to the beach, but one of the best deals in Waikiki if all you need is a clean, spacious room.

Lobby at the Aqua Waikiki Pearl
Lobby at the Aqua Waikiki Pearl

After nearly a year of renovations, the Aqua Waikiki Pearl emerged from its $5.5 million overhaul during summer 2009. The result: The 127 rooms, which were gutted right down to the carpet, the bedding, and the plumbing, are spacious and clean, making the Pearl one of the best deals going in Waikiki.

The trade-off, of course, is that guests get little more than a great room for a good price. Amenities and service are slim: no pool, no gym, no bellmen, and usually only one person at the front desk in the lobby. The location is lacking too. The hotel is just off Kuhio Avenue, a less prestigious address than the parallel, oceanfront Kalakaua Avenue. The 10-minute two-long-block walk to the beach requires passing through the International Marketplace, where hawkers sell puka-shell necklaces, Obama bobbleheads, and Hawaii T-shirts, or taking a longer, slightly less chaotic path around it. Either way, you have to get to the beach through another hotel, like the Outrigger Waikiki, or find a public access point.

Guests from Japan, Australia, and the mainland occasionally congregate in the lobby, which has a modern-on-a-budget vibe, but most use the hotel as an inexpensive base for nearby shopping (the swanky Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center is a few minutes away) and the beach. Also, as there's no in-house dining, guests head elsewhere, but there's plenty of grub on Kuhio, including cheap chains like McDonald's and Denny's, plus one of Oyster's favorites, Puka Dog.

The Aqua Waikiki Wave, the Pearl's sister property less than a block away, offers more in the way of service, but the rooms aren't as fresh and clean -- and the street noise is extremely loud. Hotel Renew, with its charming rooms and great service, is another great budget option in the neighborhood. But it's generally more expensive than the Pearl.

 Location

Located on the slightly scruffy Kuhio Avenue, but near oceanfront Kalakaua Avenue and Queen's Beach.

The hotel is just off Kuhio Avenue, a less prestigious address than Kalakaua Avenue, the buzzing oceanfront artery running through Waikiki that's one long block to the south. Packed with budget hotels and cheap chain restaurants like McDonald's, IHOP, and Denny's, Kuhio can get a bit seedy after dark (a male colleague was propositioned there by a few women of the night). Still, violent crime isn't a problem in Waikiki, and plenty of families and unaccompanied women walk around Kuhio at night.

From the Aqua Waikiki Pearl, it's less than five minutes to Kalakaua Avenue, a touristy, milelong stretch of shops, restaurants, and high-rise hotels that runs along Waikiki Beach on Oahu's southeast coast. 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.

  • Located just off Kuhio Avenue, which can get seedy at night
  • 5- to 10-minute walk to the beach
  • One long block (3 to 5 minute walk) to Kalakaua Avenue via the International Marketplace, where carts hawk cheap jewelry and souvenirs
  • Honolulu Zoo and Kapiolani Park are a 15 minute walk
  • Cheap and easy to get around Waikiki via "The Bus"
  • Honolulu International Airport is a 15-minute cab ride

 Beach

Less than a 10-minute walk to the heart of the action on one of the world's most famous beaches

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 Waikiki Pearl is a 5- to 10-minute walk 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 stand-up 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.

  • Public beach
  • Warm, shallow water -- a decent place to swim, especially for kids
  • Sandy, not rocky, ocean bottom -- unlike neighboring Fort DeRussy to the west and Kuhio (aka The Wall) to the east.
  • Lifeguards monitor the beach throughout the day
  • Free towels, provided by the hotel
  • Umbrellas and lounge chairs must be rented from one of the many Star Beach Boys stands
  • Water sports equipment like surfboards and boogie boards available for rental at the Star Beach Boys stands

 Rooms

The 127 rooms (all renovated in 2009) are a great value: spacious, clean, with flat-screen TVs and free Internet.

The Deluxe Cityview Room
The Deluxe Cityview Room

The large and reasonably priced rooms are the sole reason to stay here. The hotel emerged from a yearlong, $5.5 million renovation in 2009, and it shows. Everything about the rooms is clean and fresh, and it's impossible to pack in much more for the dollar. A 450-square-foot city view room is the best value. The difference between a city view and a standard room is huge, but the upgrade is rather cheap. Standards are half the size, lack a balcony, and feel darker and more cramped because they get less light.

The rub with staying in central Waikiki is the noise. Guests on lower floors will likely to hear traffic in the evenings, though these rooms are quieter than those at the Aqua Waikiki Wave, where they provide earplugs for the guests.

  • City view rooms have either a king, or more likely two beds, a queen and a full bed, a small kitchenette, a spacious bathroom, and a balcony.
  • Beds are firm and comfortable.
  • Cotton sheets and three poly-stuffed pillows per bed are just adequate, but fine for what you're paying.
  • Free Internet (via an Ethernet cord, no Wi-Fi yet)
  • A 27-inch LG flatscreen TV with basic cable (no pay-per-view movies)
  • Kitchenette with a minifridge, a GE microwave, and a 4-cup Sunbeam coffee pot. Suites come with full kitchens, but no ovens. There's a safe in all closets.
  • Spacious bathrooms in the city view rooms have a granite (or granite-looking) counter.
  • The lighting's not great, but the tile in the shower is new -- not a hint of mildew in the grout.
  • Hotel-brand toiletries feel a bit stingy -- just one bottle of shampoo and two bottles of soap.
  • The one- and two-bedroom suites have full kitchens (but no ovens), including dishware, cutlery, and pots and pans (not the case with the kitchenettes), making them very economical for families.

 Features

Free Wi-Fi in the lobby, and free wired Internet in the rooms, but otherwise zero amenities except for a laundry room.

Guest Laundry Room
Guest Laundry Room

Other than free Wi-Fi and an iMac in the lobby with free access, and free Internet in the rooms (via an Ethernet cord), you'll find no extras here, folks: no gym, no pool, no spa, no restaurant. Just clean, spacious, and bright rooms about 10 minutes from the beach.

  • Guest laundry is on the 3rd floor, and it's cheap. But you may have to wait a long time for the glacial elevator to ferry you between floors.

 Pet-friendly

Dogs under 40 pounds are welcome for $35 per day, per pooch.

This is one of the only pet-friendly hotels in Waikiki, and dogs are well cared for.

  • Daily fee for each dog, plus a refundable deposit
  • Canines have to be under 40 pounds.
  • At check-in, the hotel provides a basket with two bowls, a package of treats, doggie bed, blanket, and doggie pads.

 Family

No kid-friendly amenities, but spacious rooms are an especially good value for families.

While the Aqua Waikiki Pearl provides nothing of note for kids to do (no pool, no restaurant), the spacious low-priced rooms make the hotel a good family value. (Just keep in mind that Kuhio Avenue isn't the kid-friendliest area since it's off the beach and can feel shady at night.) Families will want to upgrade from a standard room to a 450-square-foot city view room, which has a king, or more likely a queen and a full bed, a small kitchenette, a large bathroom, and a balcony. Standards are half the size, lack a balcony, and feel darker and more cramped. Upgrades are cheap.

  • Cribs and cots are charged nighly.
  • The one-bedroom suites sleep up to four, the two-bedrooms up to six.
  • Suites have full kitchens, including dishware, cutlery, and pots and pans
  • No more than a 10-minute walk to Waikiki beach
  • 15-minute walk to the Honolulu Zoo

 Cleanliness

Renovated in summer 2009

The hotel emerged from a $5.5 million renovation in 2009, and it shows. Rooms are immaculate, right down to the grout in between the tiles in the shower. All of the public areas are well maintained, and the floors in the lobby gleam.

 Food

No restaurant, but every room is equipped with a fridge and microwave.

Legends Sports Pub
Legends Sports Pub

The hotel doesn't have a restaurant, though there's a small sports bar right outside the front door where a beer is only a couple bucks.

  • All rooms come with a kitchenette with a dorm-size fridge, microwave, and coffeemaker.
  • The one- and two- bedrooms have full kitchens with a stove, dishware, and cutlery, but no oven.
  • Convenience store across the street, and Food Pantry grocery store a few blocks away
  • Nearby cheap eats include Puka Dog, Starbucks, and a Chili's at the nearby Ohana West.

 Bottom Line

What the Aqua Waikiki Pearl lacks in amenities -- no pool, no gym, minimal service -- it makes up for with clean, spacious rooms. The location just off the scruffy Kuhio Avenue means the beach is a 10-minute walk. Nonetheless, it's a great value if all you want is a comfortable, inexpensive room.

Things You Should Know About Aqua Waikiki Pearl

Address

  • 415 Nahua Ave., Honolulu, Oahu, HI 96815

Hotel Is Also Known As...

  • Aqua Waikiki Pearl Honolulu
  • Aqua Waikiki Pearl Hotel Honolulu
  • Aston Honolulu Prince
  • Aston Honolulu Prince Hotel
  • Honolulu Prince
  • Honolulu Prince Hotel

Room Types

  • City View Room with Lanai
  • One Bedroom Suite Full Kitchen
  • Standard Room
  • Three Bedroom Suite Full Kitchen
  • Two Bedroom Suite Full Kitchen

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 135
Pool: N/A
Pets Allowed: Yes
Cribs: Yes
Jacuzzi (in room): N/A
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Hotel Information

Location: Waikiki, Honolulu
Address: 415 Nahua Ave., Honolulu, Oahu, HI 96815
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