Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Picture what would happen if you dropped a standard, upper-middle-range, mid-size Hilton from the sky onto a street corner one block from what the Travel Channel calls the "third sexiest beach in the world" -- that's pretty much what you get at the Hilton Waikiki Beach.
Corporate travelers account for 60 percent of the hotel's guests -- that's pretty high for Hawaii. As such, it's lobby bar and small restaurant are not the places to hang out and party. From the outside, the Hilton looks just like all the other buildings dotting the Waikiki landscape: 601 guest rooms on 37 floors. Once inside, however, you glean the full effect of its two-year (2007 to 2009) $65 million renovation -- like the neoclassical columns and marble flooring in the bright, magenta-schemed lobby. Of course, this is still a huge hotel chain at heart, meaning you can find the exact same furniture and artwork in every hallway. But there's also great value in uniformity -- the spacious, even stylish, redesigned rooms are some of the most comfortable in Waikiki, and a steal for the price.
One block from Waikiki's main drag, Kalakaua Avenue, and the beach
Kuhio Avenue, which runs parallel to Kalakaua, could well be described as Kalakaua's calmer, quieter -- and, alas, shadier -- little cousin. Still, this is Waikiki, the most heavily touristed neighborhood in all of Hawaii. The stretch of Kuhio outside the hotel is a four-lane road, and the street boasts 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 Regency. Unfortunately, the area could also be described as the seedy underbelly of Waikiki. Still, you need not worry about your safety. Violent crime isn't a problem, and plenty of families and unaccompanied women can be seen walking around, even at night.
A block away is Waikiki's main drag, Kalakaua Avenue, a touristy, milelong stretch of shops, restaurants, and high-rise hotels that runs along Waikiki Beach on Oahu's southeast coast, offering 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, even an Apple store -- are interspersed with indoor malls and streetside vendors hawking cheap seashell jewelry and T-shirts. Seemingly every midmarket 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.
A three-minute stroll to one of the most famous beaches in the world. Kuhio Beach, also known as "the wall," is the closest subsection of Waikiki Beach to the Hilton.
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 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 is 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.
Large, clean, comfortable, and quite stylish
The rooms are the reason the Hilton is a good deal. They combine the base-level comforts of a midrange large chain operation -- spaciousness, modern technology, cleanliness -- with the aesthetics of a higher-end hotel and the amenities every room in Hawaii should have (that would be a balcony). The designers eschewed the generic Hilton aesthetics for a sleek yet understated approach: dark-wood furniture, padded yellow headboards, ergonomic office chair in cream-colored leather. The bathrooms are lovely, with large walk-in showers with solid water pressure, and stylish translucent "broken-glass" windows. In short, the rooms at the Hilton Waikiki Beach offer as much princeliness as Hiltonness.
The highlight is the Hang 10 pool, so named because it's (duh) on the 10th floor and (duh) this is Hawaii, dude. It's large and well maintained, and features decent views of the Waikiki skyline along with some pleasant landscaping, well-spaced lounge chairs, and a Jacuzzi.
No activities, no kids' club, no rollaway beds; but the pool is big and the beach nearby.
Business travelers make up 60 percent of the Hilton's clientele (rare for Hawaii), so the amenities and vibe are understandably not geared towards children. Still, there's a lot here to keep the kids happy: the pool, namely, and of course that beach a block away. Plus, cribs are free, and the restaurant, MAC 24-7, offers plenty of things kids will eat.
Not an issue
The entire property was overhauled between 2007 and 2009, and so far the staff has done a nice job maintaining the property, from the lobby and pool area to the rooms. Even the pool chairs are clean and unfaded.
MAC 24-7, the Hilton's open-all-the-time restaurant, is basically a modern take on the classic diner -- red-cushioned booths, fixed stools at the counter, white tiled floors -- yet MAC maintains an impressively high profile. The Travel Channel's Adam Richman made an appearance here for his show, Man v. Food, taking on their "MAC DADDY" pancakes -- three thick 14-inch-wide flapjacks that are free if you can finish them. (In case you want to know: Man lost, food won.) If you're not interested in consuming four pounds of flapjacks, the waffles with strawberries are excellent. It's not cheap, but it is certainly a fun place to grab breakfast or a midnight snack.
Families will find more to do at other, more resort-like places, like the Hyatt Regency Waikiki or Hilton Hawaiian Village. But the Hilton's rooms are bright, spacious, and stylish, and there's a solid 24-hour restaurant and an attractive pool. If you can nab a room for under $200, it's a great deal -- no matter whom you're traveling with.