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The largest resort in Hawaii has plenty of choices for sleeptime, mealtime, swimtime, and playtime -- and plenty of lines.
The hotel's penguins and turtles
With five guest towers housing a total of 3,386 rooms, five pools, 20 bars and restaurants, nearly 100 shops, direct beach access, a lagoon, and even a few dozen species of animals in residence (including parrots, penguins, and turtles), the Hilton Hawaiian Village is in a class by itself. Covering 22 acres, it's the largest resort in Hawaii.
The western Waikiki location might seem out of the way on a map -- and in fact the hustle and bustle of central Waikiki is a 15-minute walk -- but it doesn't matter. Because this Hilton is virtually a small town, guests generally stay within the extensive grounds, enjoying the seemingly endless activities (kayaking, hula-dancing lessons) and entertainment (nightly music, Friday-night fireworks, the popular Starlight Luau). For a city hotel, it doesn't feel like you're in a city, especially as you stroll the lushly landscaped grounds. The rooms offer the comforts Hilton devotees expect (like large flat-screen TVs and Hilton Serenity bedding).
Above all, the calm waters, fine beaches, five pools, extensive activities, and reasonably priced rooms make the Hilton a favorite among families. (Vacationing couples and business travelers may want to seek refuge in the luxury Ali'i Tower.) And that family-friendly reputation is well deserved. Just keep in mind that with endless amenities and conveniences come endless lines. Long waits are par for the course throughout the village. Mobs gather every morning at the Rainbow Lanai, the breakfast buffet. Guests seem to stake out poolside lounge chairs at the crack of dawn (by 8 a.m., every chair had been claimed with a towel, T-shirt, or trashy beach read). And the half-hour line for the Starlight Luau snakes up several escalators to the roof of the hotel's conference center.
But for travelers looking for a self-contained resort on Oahu, especially families, the Hilton Hawaiian Village is a top choice. And it's generally a better value than the luxury mega resorts outside of Waikiki, such as the Kahala or the JW Marriott Ihilani at Ko Olina.
It's service for the masses, with staffers sometimes struggling to keep up with the crowds.
The front desk
The service at this hotel depends largely on which tower you stay in. Guests at the luxury Ali'i Tower, billed as a resort within the resort, receive a higher level of service (the tower has its own concierge). But in the other four towers -- as well as in most restaurants, the main lobby, and poolside -- guests are a dime a dozen, just another pair of arms pleading for a cup of coffee or towel.
The main place where service for the masses comes up short is at the front desk. During my visit, the hotel was overbooked, and even with a staff of close to 80 the line wrapped around the the front desk and beyond. A staffer told me that guests staying at any tower can beat the main lobby line by heading to the front desks at the Kalia or Ali'i Towers, but be prepared to drag your luggage across campus if you're booked in a tower at the opposite end.
- Lobby concierge desk arranges tours and activities, like hiking Diamond Head, snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, or snagging tickets for a luau outside town.
- Drink service available at the Super Pool and Paradise Pool (but not on the beach, due to local law). With the pools so crowded, servers can be scarce.
- Room service available, but not overnight
- Guests at the luxury Ali'i Tower get a higher level of service (free fruit basket, separate concierge).
On the westernmost end of Waikiki, a 15-minute walk to the center of town
The Hilton Hawaiian Village lies on the westernmost end of Waikiki, an area known more for its business hotels and shopping malls than its fabled sand and surf. The entrance to the resort is on Kalia Road. Central Waikiki is a 15-minute walk along Kalia Road, though some prefer the more scenic beach route.
A half-mile strip of beach, plus a man-made lagoon with water sports galore
Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Lagoon
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 Hilton Hawaiian Village sits on a half-mile stretch of Waikiki's beautiful turquoise beach known as Fort DeRussy. Protected by a coral reef, this section is wider and calmer than the main beach, known as Queen's Beach. But the ocean bottom is a bit rocky, so tread gingerly. Unlike Queen's Beach, Hilton's beach tends to have more room for guests to spread out.
- Lifeguards monitor the beach all day.
- Activities galore, including surfing lessons (though try nearby Prime Time Sports for better rates)
- The five acre, five-foot deep Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Lagoon, fresh from a $15 million restoration, is a great place to paddleboard, aqua cycle, or kayak.
- Chairs, umbrellas, surf boards, and the like can be rented at one of four kiosks near the beach.
- Boats leave from the resort's dock for the Atlantis Submarine, which dives down 100 feet to artificial reefs, a sunken airplane, and sunken boat.
Rooms in all five towers are comfortable and clean. Price differences mainly come down to location.
The Ali'i Tower Ocean Front Room
The main differences among the standard rooms and suites in the Hilton Hawaiian Village's five towers are the decor (some have been renovated recently, others not) and price (for the most part, the closer you are to the ocean, the more you'll pay; the walk from one end of the 22-acre resort to the other is about 10 minutes). Rooms in the Rainbow and Alii Towers were renovated in 2012, sporting new furnishings, carpet, bathrooms, and decor.
- The Ali'i Tower, with its own front desk, concierge, and pool, is considered the premium tower. Though the rooms are fancier, upgrades seem to be limited to a welcome fruit basket and bathrobes.
- Landmarked Rainbow Tower is a good budget option right on the water.
- Tapa Tower near the entrance offers well-priced and clean standard rooms; renovated in 2008
- The Kalia Tower, also near the entrance, houses the spa and fitness center. More than half the rooms have ocean views. The tower has its own front desk, great for avoiding long lines in the main lobby.
- The least expensive rooms are in the Diamond Head Tower, which is farthest from the beach (about a five-minute walk). The room I saw was clean and simply decorated.
- In all towers, all rooms have a balcony.
- Beds feature Hilton Serenity bedding
- Bathrooms stock Crabtree & Evelyn La Source toiletries.
- Most rooms have either a 27-inch or 30-inch flat screen TV with cable (including HBO), and movies on demand. (The occasional room might have an old tube TV.)
- Mini-fridge and coffeemaker in every room
- No wireless in the rooms, wired internet is available for a daily fee, high for the area.
Guests at the Hilton Hawaiin Village have access to a wide variety of services.
- Large fitness center on the 4th floor of the Kalia Tower has some 20 Precor cardio machines, all with individual video screens, free weights, an assortment of weight machines, and exercise balls; Daily fee
- The Mandara Spa, located next to the fitness center, has 25 wet and dry treatment rooms, a full-service salon, and single-sex locker rooms with sauna, steam room, and Jacuzzi.Daily fee for guests not getting treatments, reduced for Hilton HHonors members.
- The do-it-yourself business center, located in the Diamond Head Tower and offers copy and fax machines.
- Post office on the premises
- Almost 100 shops at the Tapa Tower Mall
- Self-parking in the resort's garage and valet charged.
- Hertz car rental counter on the ground floor of the Tapa Tower. Vehicles can be picked up at the hotel.
- The health clinic is affiliated with Honolulu's Queens Hospital and accepts many health insurance plans.
- The cute Ocean Crystal Wedding Chapel hosts as many as five weddings a day.
The Super Pool can get super crowded.
An impressive array of pools, including the largest pool in Waikiki, the 10,000-square-foot Super Pool.
- The Super Pool overlooks the beach and has tons of lounge seating, food and drinks at the nearby Hau Tree Bar, tropical landscaping, and a shallow kids' area.
- Newly opened Paradise Pool is a two-tiered heated pool with four waterslides, three waterfalls, two Jacuzzis, great views of lagoon and beach, lush landscaping, and plenty of shade -- but not enough chairs.
- Kidney-shaped Kalia Pool, adjacent to the spa, is on the 4th floor of the Kalia Tower and offers views of the ocean, mountains, and city skyline.
- The Tapa Pool is quiet but convenient for Tapa Tower guests.
- Ali'i Pool is exclusively for guests staying in that tower.
- Jacuzzi at every pool
- Unlimited towels available until late afternoon
The resort does lots to entertain guests, from Friday-night fireworks to the legendary Starlight Luau.
The legendary Starlight Luau: fun for first-timers
Like many big resorts, the Hilton Hawaiian Village has plenty going on. The most notable attraction is the Starlight Luau, which packs in close to 500 hotel guests and others five nights a week, Sunday through Thursday. This popular luau is a fine choice for first-timers, and one of the few luaus in Waikiki proper, but the locale -- the roof of the Hilton's large conference center -- will disappoint those looking for a more classic beachside experience. Budget a half-hour slow walk to the luau, via several flights of escalators.
This activity-filled resort is a top option for families.
The Hilton is nothing if not kid-friendly.
Named one of the 10 best beach resorts for families on a budget by Parents magazine in 2008, the Hilton Hawaiian Village excels at keeping kids and adults happy at the same time.
- Four great pools (one with waterslides), plus a lagoon with calm water that's perfect for little ones.
- A 2,000-square-foot kids' club called Camp Penguin for kids ages five to 12 offers full- and half-day programs. Activities include Hawaiian crafts, seashell hunts, sandcastle-building, swimming, and fishing.
- Daily cultural activities like lei-making, hula dancing, and ukulele lessons.
- All restaurants have a wide selection of kid-friendly foods. Room service has a kids' menu.
- Cribs and rollaways are charged nightly. Rollaways are permitted only in one- or two-bedroom suites in Diamond Head Tower and king or two doubles suites in Tapa Tower.
This bustling village is well manicured and clean.
Surprisingly, this resort is littered mainly with people. For such a well-trafficked resort, the Hilton Hawaiian Village is also a fairly clean one. Waikiki is not known for its greenery, but this resort includes impressive landscaping, all of which is well cared for. All rooms in all towers are clean too.
Paella at the Starlight Luau
With nearly 20 bars and restaurants, the Hilton Hawaiian Village offers a huge range of dining possibilities, from fine food with a view at Bali by the Sea and the theatricality of Benihana to quick sushi, noodles, and deli bites at the Rainbow Bazaar.
- The upscale Bali by the Sea is open only for dinner.
- Light options include Onolicious hot dogs by the Tapa Pool, and Hau Tree Beach Bar between the Super Pool and the beach.
- The new Tropics Bar and Grill, featuring 1950s-Hawaiian decor, serves three meals a day on the beach.
- At the Rainbow Bazaar shopping pavilion, international Japanese hibachi chain Benihana anchors a lineup that includes a sushi restaurant, a "New York style delicatessen,", and West Coast pizza chain Round Table. Most are affordable and family-friendly,.
- Skip the Rainbow Lanai buffet, which has average food, high prices, and big crowds. Expect to wait at least 20 minutes on a typical morning.
- Two Starbucks outlets in the Kalia or Ali'i Towers
- Room service available from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
- Several chain restaurants just off the grounds on Ala Moana Boulevard
The largest resort in Hawaii is a veritable village, with five towers, five pools, 20 bars and restaurants, 90 shops, direct beach access, and a separate lagoon. The crowds can get big and the lines long. But for families and other Waikiki vacationers looking for a self-contained resort with loads to do, the Hilton is a top choice.
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Things You Should Know About Hilton Hawaiian Village
- 2005 Kalia Road, Honolulu, HI 96815
Hotel Is Also Known As...
- Hawaiian Hilton Village
- Hilton Grand Vacations Club Honolulu
- Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa
- Hilton Honolulu
- Hilton Hotel Honolulu
- Honolulu Hilton
- Ali'i Tower Deluxe Suite
- Ali'i Tower Executive King Corner Room
- Ali'i Tower Ocean Front Room
- Ali'i Tower Ocean View Room
- Ali'i Tower One Bedroom Suite
- Ali'i Tower Presidential Suite
- Ali'i Tower Resort Room
- Diamond Head Tower Ocean View Room
- Diamond Head Tower One Bedroom Suite
- Diamond Head Tower Resort Room
- Kalia Tower Ocean View Room
- Kalia Tower Resort Room
- Kalia Tower Suite
- Ocean View Room
- Partial Ocean View Room
- Rainbow Tower Corner King Room
- Rainbow Tower Deluxe Ocean Front Room
- Rainbow Tower Deluxe Ocean View Room
- Rainbow Tower Executive King Room
- Rainbow Tower Presidential Suite
- Resort Room
- Tapa Tower Executive Double Room
- Tapa Tower Hookipa Suite
- Tapa Tower Leilani Suite
- Tapa Tower Ocean View Room
- Tapa Tower One Bedroom Suite
- Tapa Tower Resort Room