Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
The Aston is a massive, outdated, two-tower condominium hotel that has potential, but not until the rooms are gutted. The last major renovation was in 1997. (Remember that year? Titanic premiered, Princess Diana died.)
Only 263 of the 876 privately owned units are available to hotel guests. Owners are in charge of furnishing and maintaining the units, so the quality can vary room to room. Bedspreads, wall color, and kitchen appliances are largely the same across the board, but some units may have a pullout couch while others might have a regular one. Renovations must be approved by the owner, and they're happening at a glacial pace. Rooms that have been renovated were completely gutted and refurbished with new cabinets, flooring, furniture, appliances, and bathroom fixtures, but only a fraction of them have been finished, and there is no set date for when the rest will be completed. In fact, because the rooms are privately owned, some may not see any renovations for a long, long time. So for now, expect an outdated, run-down room (holes in the furnishings, uncomfortable beds, Astroturf on the balcony) that could use a deep clean, (crumbs in the drawers, and stains on the carpet).
The shoddiness isn't limited to the rooms. Elevators are slow and always packed. The dumpsters on the street outside don't enhance the vacation experience. And if the hallways don't smell of industrial-strength cleaner, they carry a whiff of eau-de-too-flowery air freshener.
Families are drawn to this hotel for its spacious rooms and full kitchens, plus its pool, two Jacuzzis, tennis court, and barbecue pit, which, strangely, is coin-operated. But for a similar price, you'll get a newer room, better service, nicer amenities, and more restaurant options down the street at the beachfront Marriott Waikiki or Aston Waikiki Beach.
Prompt service when you ask, but you have to ask
This is mostly a check-in and checkout kind of place with friendly employees but little else by way of hands-on service. Check-in was quick, but bellmen can be difficult to find. I ended up wheeling my suitcase not only into the hotel, but also upstairs since I didn't want to wait for the front desk to call for help. It took six rings for the front desk to answer my call about bringing up a tube of toothpaste. (Turns out housekeeping doesn't carry those kinds of items.) But when I requested an extra towel, it arrived in just 10 minutes.
Located on Kuhio Avenue only a few minutes from the beach
The Aston at the Waikiki Banyan is located 1.5 long blocks from the beach (about five minutes on foot) on the far eastern end of Kuhio Avenue, which can get a bit scruffy after dark. Kuhio, which runs parallel to Kalakaua, the main beachfront drag in Waikiki, could well be described as Kalakaua's calmer, quieter -- and, down near the Waikiki Banyan, shadier -- little cousin. Still, this is Waikiki, the most heavily touristed neighborhood in all Hawaii. The stretch of Kuhio outside the hotel is a four-lane road, and the street boasts (if that's the word) just as many creature comforts as its neighbor; 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.
A block away is the Marriott Waikiki and Kalakaua Avenue, Waikiki's main drag, a touristy milelong stretch of shops, restaurants, and high-rise hotels that runs along Oahu's southeast coast. 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 "Hawaii 09" T-shirts. Seemingly every mid-market chain restaurant can be found on Kalakaua -- Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen, Tony Roma's -- along with more than a handful of Starbucks and fast-food joints.
A few minutes stroll to 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 Aston at the Waikiki Banyan is located a block from the Kuhio section, known to some as "the wall," for the 50-yard concrete pier that juts out from the sand at the corner of Kapahulu Avenue. (The kids who jump off the pier are known affectionately as "wall rats.")
Kuhio Beach is broader and far less crowded than its more famous neighbor to the northwest, Queen's Beach. The water's shallow and warm, and because the wall creates an artificial cove of sorts, it's also calm, making Kuhio the best place for kids to swim, according to the lifeguards there. On the other hand, the ocean bottom is a bit rocky, so tread gingerly.
Rooms at the Aston Waikiki Banyan Tree may have ample size and pleasant views on their side, but until renovations are finished, some rooms will remain tired and dated, acquiring more carpet stains, crumbs in the drawers, and musty smells along the way. And because owners must consent to the renovations, not all units will be overhauled anytime soon.
My room was not one of the few that has already been redone (you can request a new room, but it's not guaranteed -- none were available for me to see during my visit.) Mine had a queen bed with an unsupportive mattress, two poly-stuffed pillows, a dirty blanket, and a bedspread just the right shade of beige to hide dirt (unlike the light blue carpet, which was visibly stained).
Tower One's 6th floor is kid central, with a pool, two Jacuzzis, a playground, tennis court, small putting green, barbecue grills, snack bar, and ample seating everywhere. But overall the hotel's amenities don't measure up with those at the Marriott Waikiki a block away.
The hotel is packed with kid-friendly amenities, but it falls short of the beachfront Marriott a block away.
The 535-square-foot rooms, all with full kitchens and most with pullout couches, have the potential to be good for families. However, the quality and cleanliness just don't measure up to the beachfront Marriott Waikiki a block away, where you'll also get better service and considerably better amenities.
Public areas may be clean, but the rooms aren't.
Though other guests said that their rooms were clean, mine wasn't.
Banyan Breeze, a small café on the ground floor, serves light snacks ($4.50 for a slice of apple pie), and guests can pick groceries from the small minimart a few doors down. That's it for food on the property.
The spacious one-bedroom condos at the Waikiki Banyan have full kitchens and balconies, but some haven't been renovated since 1997. And even with a pool, Jacuzzis, and tennis court, the amenities fall short. For a similar price (or less), you can find an immaculate room and countless features at the beachfront Marriott Waikiki a block away.