- Dated decor
- No on-site gym
- Little atmosphere or character
- Dirty hallway carpets
- No in-room Wi-Fi
A 40-floor perch on Kalakaua Avenue across the street from Kuhio -- the kid-friendliest section of Waikiki Beach -- means expansive oceanfront views, but also an unfortunate entrance inside what's essentially a parking garage. Guests can either enter through an easy-to-miss gate on Kalakaua, the main oceanfront drag through Waikiki, or through an entrance on a side street -- both lead to a set of etched sliding glass doors that open into a rather drab lobby resembling a glorified doctor's office.
The atmosphere is a little disheartening considering how steep the prices can be. The rooms feel outdated, and there's a rather univiting, 4th-floor pool, Jacuzzi, and sundeck. But what the hotel lacks in outdated décor, it makes up for in highly personalized service and a quiet atmosphere. The staff is astoundingly good at remembering names and faces, and all seem to speak at least conversational Japanese; about half the guests hail from Japan.
Only 102 of the 143 units are in the rental pool managed by Aston. These are privately owned and required to maintain a certain standard of furnishings, and while the units are well maintained and huge, they just don't compare with those at the Hilton Grand Waikikian. The latter may be smaller and lack the same stellar views, but they are also brand new with top-of-the-line fixtures, and guests there can enjoy all that the Hilton Hawaiian Village has to offer.
Highly personalized and friendly
Though you wouldn't expect it considering how minimally staffed the hotel appears, the service is highly personalized and friendly. I never walked in or out of the building without every staff person I encountered addressing me by name, including the valets. A helpful concierge tracked down a rental car during high season at an hour's notice, then printed out a series of Google maps.
In the heart of Waikiki, on Kalakaua
The Beach Tower is located in the heart of Waikiki on Kalakaua Avenue across the street from one of the kid-friendliest areas of the Waikiki Beach. What's especially nice is that the condos are quiet since the building is set just far enough off the street, and rises 40 stories above the action. If you're taking a taxi to the hotel, though, be sure to have the address handy -- the driver initially dropped me off at the Aston Waikiki Beach, the Beach Tower's sister property two short blocks away.
Kalakaua Avenue, a touristy, milelong stretch of shops, restaurants, and high-rise hotels that runs along Waikiki Beach on Oahu's southeast coast, 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.
Across the street from one of the world's most famous beaches; Kuhio Beach, aka "the wall," is the closest subsection.
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 Waikiki Beach Tower is located across the street 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.
Huge, but furnishings feel tired
You're paying for three things at the Beach Tower: size, views, and location. Each two-bedroom unit ranges from 1,196 to 1,310 square feet, but if guests book a one-bedroom, the management simply closes off the second bedroom like so, which lops off a few hundred square feet but not more than that. They feature full kitchens, huge balconies, and all but 13 of the 102 units have open views of the ocean. As expected, the higher up you go, the better the view. Still, these condos are beginning to feel outdated for the price. They just don't quite compare with those at the Hilton Grand Waikikian, which are smaller and lack the same stellar views, but are also brand new with granite kitchen countertops, two Phillips flat-screen TVs, and access to the tons of amenities at the adjacent Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Limited features are surpassed by other area properties
Other than an univiting pool, Jacuzzi, and sauna on the 4th-floor sundeck, and free parking (a rarity in Waikiki), there aren't any other notable features at the Beach Tower. It's far surpassed by the amenities available to condo guests at the Grand Waikikian.
A decent, but not fantastic, choice for families
The biggest selling point for families are the huge accommodations. Each condo is technically a two-bedroom, 1,196-square-foot unit, but if guests book a one-bedroom, they close off the second bedroom. The maximum number of people allowed in a one-bedroom is four; six in a two-bedroom. Although these condos are decent for families, the Hilton Grand Waikikian goes several steps further. Sure, their condos aren't as big and their views aren't as good, but they're brand new, and guests have access to tons of kid-friendly amenities at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Well-kept, but signs of wear and tear
The lobby was renovated in 2007 and looks and feels clean, but some of the hotel's common areas are hobbling along on a renovation from 1999, and it shows.
No restaurant, but lots of nearby options
There's no on-site restaurant, but the Hyatt Regency provides room service for a $35 minimum. Sounds steep, but not when the cheapest entrée is a $25 Italian sausage pizza. You can also order a "honeymoon dinner for two" with three main courses and dessert for an exhorbitant $210 per couple.
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