Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
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.
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.
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.
Fine for a budget hotel
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.
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.
Clean and well-maintained, mostly
Two decent options, Chinese or greasy pub grub, but the hotel is surrounded by infinite restaurants
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.
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.
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