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Oyster Hotel Review
Modern hotel in the extremely noisy heart of Waikiki
Other than a decent fitness center and an assortment of shops hawking bikinis and puka-shell necklaces just off the lobby, there isn't much else to Aqua Waikiki Wave outside its clean, modern rooms (last renovated in 2006).
The Wave is located just outside the entrance to the International Marketplace on Kuhio Avenue, where you can find cart after cart of cheap souvenirs like Obama bobbleheads and Hawaii T-shirts. But in Waikiki, a central location often translates into a noisy room -- Wave is no different. It can get so loud in the rooms at night, the hotel provides a set of earplugs in every room.
Despite the noise, most guests leave the Wave happy. One such guest who even asked if we'd keep the hotel a secret, believing it to be "one of the best deals in town." To some extent, he's right. But the Aqua might have one-upped itself when it re-opened the Aqua Waikiki Pearl (one block away) after a yearlong $5.5 million renovation in 2009. Rooms at the Pearl are newer, bigger, much quieter, and its lobby has a little more modern-on-a-budget character, plus a free iMac for guests to use. Also, you can get a quieter night's sleep in an even more charming room at nearby Hotel Renew.
Centrally located on noisy Kuhio Avenue; two blocks from the beach
The Aqua Waikiki Wave is on Kuhio Avenue, which runs parallel to Kalakaua, the main drag running through Waikiki. Kuhio could be described as Kalakaua's calmer, slightly quieter -- if slightly seedier -- little cousin. The stretch of Kuhio outside the hotel is a four-lane road that has just as many creature comforts and just as much local flavor as its neighbor, but they are simply lower profile -- Denny's and IHOP instead of Cheesecake Factory and California Pizza Kitchen, hostels and apartment complexes instead of the Hyatt. And in Waikiki, the most heavily touristed neighborhood in all of Hawaii, personal safety shouldn't be a big concern.
- Two blocks from the popular, and crowded, Queen's Beach section of Waikiki Beach
- Just outside the entrance to the International Marketplace, where you can find Obama bobbleheads and puka-shell necklaces for sale
- 15-minute walk from Honolulu Zoo
- 15-minute walk from Kapiolani Park, an oasis of (relative) calm for people-watching and local flavor
- Wide variety of shopping, dining, and drinking -- all within walking distance
- Cheap and easy to get around Waikiki via "The Bus"
- Honolulu International Airport is a 20-minute cab ride
10-minute walk to the heart of one of the most famous, and most crowded, beaches in the world
The nearest beach, Waikiki Beach, is a five- to 10-minute walk from the hotel. Getting to the beach requires some maneuvering through busy sidewalks and carts selling cheap souvenirs. One of the easiest ways to get there is by walking through the International Marketplace and maneuvering your way through the ground floor of Outrigger Waikiki onto the beach.
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. Aqua Waikiki Wave is located about two 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.
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.
- One long block from Queen's Beach, part of Waikiki Beach (a public beach)
- Hotel provides free beach towels
- 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
- Umbrellas and lounge chairs must be rented from one of the many Star Beach Boys stands; chairs are $5 an hour, $20 a day; for two chairs and an umbrella, it's $10 an hour, $50 a day.
- Water sports equipment like surfboards and boogie boards available for rental at the Star Beach Boys stands
The King Wave Room
Last renovated in 2006, the rooms aren't quite as elegant as those at the Courtyard by Marriott, but they're also much more spacious -- including some room for a small kitchenette area with a microwave and half-size fridge (no stovetop) -- and they have the modern essentials, like a small flat-screen TV, a comfortable bed, and free Wi-Fi (a rare find anywhere in Waikiki). However, for all of these plusses, there is a significant minus: Because of the hotel's central location, noise can be a major problem -- enough of a problem that the hotel offers earplugs. For a little less noise, you can upgrade to a deluxe room on the 8th floor or higher, but abbey-like silence is not guaranteed. For a quieter night, consider the huge rooms at the Wave's sister property, the Aqua Waikiki Pearl, or Hotel Renew.
- Excessive street noise in many rooms
- Starting at 325 square feet, rooms aren't the largest in Waikiki, but they're a comfortable size and all come with a king or two queen beds
- Soft, comfortable beds with waffled blankets, basic cotton sheets, and poly-stuffed pillows -- but beds aren't quite as nice as those at the Courtyard by Marriott Waikiki
- Small balconies in every room with an assortment of views ranging from a parking lot (or what the hotel calls "partial views of Waikiki and surrounding neighborhoods" on its website) to partial ocean views from higher floors
- Half-size fridge, Sanyo microwave, and a four-cup coffee maker in every room
- Electronic safes, big enough for a laptop
- 19-inch generic-brand Niko flat-screen TV (looks more like a computer monitor than a TV) and Coby DVD players -- no DVD rental library, but a small vending machine downstairs rents movies for a reasonable $1.99 a pop
- Bathroom has a shower/tub combo with good water pressure, cheap hotel-brand toiletries; grout between tiles can be a little dirty
- Free Wi-Fi -- a rare find anywhere in Waikiki
Pool tables at Da Big Kahuna
With free in-room Wi-Fi and a business center, the Aqua Waikiki Wave is decently equipped for a budget hotel. But the Wave offers more by way of features than its newly renovated sister property across the street, the Aqua Waikiki Pearl.
- Free in-room Wi-Fi; a rarity among hotels of any price range anywhere in Waikiki
- Small fitness center with one LifeFitness treadmill, one Precor elliptical, one upright bike, an assortment of weight benches, a full set of weights, and a yoga ball -- all in pretty good condition
- 24-hour business center with five PCs and two printers; rates are charged by the minute
- Every Wednesday: free snacks, a deejay or live music, and "Wave Runner" cocktails (the hotel's own electric green signature drink)
Off the beach and too loud for most families
It's not family un-friendly -- rooms are large, at least -- but the off-beach location and all-night noise make the Aqua Waikiki Wave a less-ideal family pick. Be sure to check rates at the Aston Waikiki Beach, which also has newly remodeled rooms, a nice pool, and a great location, just across from the calm, shallow waters of Kuhio Beach, the kid-friendliest subsection of Waikiki Beach.
- Kings, queens or two queen beds in all rooms; no connecting rooms
- Cribs and rollaway beds both charged per night; available in any room type
- No guest laundry
- Tiny pool
- 15-minute walk to Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium
Clean and well-maintained, mostly
Two decent options, Chinese or greasy pub grub, but the hotel is surrounded by infinite restaurants
Da Big Kahuna restaurant
The Aqua Waikiki Wave has two restaurants on-site: the perpetually empty China Garden and Da Big Kahuna, a popular bar and restaurant serving reasonably priced comfort food until 3 a.m. It's not an entirely bad option late night or in a pinch, but for something a little easier on the gut, give Ruffage a try, a vegetarian spot a few blocks away that serves great smoothies and a mean veggie chili.
- Da Big Kahuna is a kitschy, tropical-themed bar and restaurant that serves pub grub in enormous portions at reasonable prices until 3 a.m.; live music starts at about 10:30 p.m. (one of the reasons the hotel provides earplugs in all the guest rooms).
- China Garden restaurant, located on-site, serves primarily Cantonese food.
- Half-size fridge, coffee maker, and a microwave in every room; to save cash, stock up on basics from the nearby ABC convenience store.
- Tons of restaurants within a two-block radius, including Cheesecake Factory and IHOP
- No room service
In the heart of Waikiki, two blocks from beautiful, but crowded, Queen's Beach, the Wave has 247 spacious, modern rooms with free Wi-Fi and balconies. But its central location comes with so much noise the hotel provides earplugs. For a quieter night at a great price, check out the Wave's nearby sister, the Aqua Waikiki Pearl.
Things You Should Know About Aqua Waikiki Wave
- 2299 Kuhio Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815
Hotel Is Also Known As...
- Aqua Waikiki Wave Honolulu
- Aqua Waikiki Wave Hotel
- Aloha Suite Deluxe Wave
- Aloha Suite Partial Ocean View Wave
- Aloha Suite Superior Wave
- Deluxe Wave
- Junior Suite Deluxe Wave
- Junior Suite Partial Ocean View Wave
- Junior Suite Superior Wave
- King Wave
- Partial Ocean View Wave
- Superior Wave