Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
This 38-story tower filled with time-share condos is for budget travelers who don't mind forgoing maid service and being 10 minutes from Waikiki Beach.
There's no excitement (unless you count the rattling, dusty elevators), at this 1960s-era condo on bustling Kuhio Avenue three blocks from the beach, amid bus stops, chain restaurants, and other cheap lodgings. The clean lobby looks like a dentist's office -- and with an antiseptic odor, it smells like one too.
Chintzy, floral-patterned furniture, dark green rugs, and grandiose chandeliers dot the wide lobby, which takes up only a portion of the ground floor (about a third sits vacant and ominously dark). There's a security desk as well as separate check-in offices (depending which time-share company you book through) off to the left; elevators, mailboxes, and two computers are behind electronic security doors.
Guests -- Japanese families and couples, elderly singles and groups of twentysomething Americans -- are pretty much on their own after check-in (there's no bell desk, front desk or concierge) and they tend to keep to themselves. Maybe it has something to do with the dark hallways lighted by dim fluorescent bulbs.
The only signs of real life are on the 7th-floor, where there's a pool, a gym, a game room, and miniature tennis and volleyball courts. But it's best to venture off the property since there's not much to stick around here for.
After check-in, you're pretty much on your own -- unless you want to spring for a $90 housekeeping session.
Don't expect anything in the way of service at this time-share condo building: there's self check-in, no housekeeping (except at a steep charge), and an indifferent attitude.
With no front desk or bell stand, guests check in at one of two reception offices at the left end of the lobby. These are open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., though guests cannot check in before 4 p.m. (checkout is at 11 a.m.). The only other lobby staff is the 24-hour security desk; the building seems safe enough, but it's good to know someone's there in case you lose your keys or something.
There's no concierge, and the reception clerks didn't all seem too happy to help -- one was quite put out when asked for local breakfast recommendations. The building does have a relationship with Great Life Tours across the street; a tour representative even left a scripted voicemail on my unit's answering machine.
Units are cleaned at the start of a stay, but there's no daily housekeeping service. In order to receive a free "midstay" cleaning, guests must generally stay for nine nights or more. Otherwise, a unit cleaning costs $90 per day. A maintenance staff is on the property from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily; after that guests can call the reception desk or management company for emergency maintenance issues.
Two blocks from the beach and across the street from McDonald's along mildly sketchy Kuhio Avenue
Sun worshippers beware: While the Royal Kuhio is central -- on Kuhio Avenue three blocks from the main shopping drag of Kalakaua Avenue -- it's an almost 10-minute walk from the closest section of Waikiki Beach, Queen's Beach.
In addition, Kuhio Avenue can get a bit scruffy after dark (a male colleague was approached by a few women of the night), and it's packed with budget hotels and cheap chain restaurants like McDonald's (right across the street), IHOP, and Denny's. One of Waikiki's most popular gay bars, Angles, is a block away at Seaside Avenue. The closest ABC convenience store is a block down Kuhio at Lewers Street.
The glitzier Kalakaua, running parallel to Kuhio, is a milelong stretch of shops, restaurants, and high-rise hotels. The street 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 jewelry and aloha shirts. Seemingly every midmarket chain restaurant can be found here -- Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen, P.F. Chang's -- along with more than a handful of Starbucks and fast-food joints.
Queen's Beach is about three blocks and a little under 10 minutes away via Royal Hawaiian Avenue.
Guests receive extra towels in their bathrooms, but the Royal Kuhio does not provide chairs, toys, or floats.
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 Royal Kuhio is located 10 minutes 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. Children splash about in the shallow water near the shore, while surfers and standup paddle-boarders (the rad new thing to do) patrol the outer waters.
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.
The Royal Kuhio is the embodiment of "middling." Compared to other midrange Waikiki time-shares and condos, it's nicer than the nearby Aston at the Waikiki Banyan (which costs $40 more), but a bit more run-down (while closer to Queen's Beach) than the cheaper Outrigger Luana Waikiki. Units are clean, and the full kitchens are functional, but the views, extra features, and location are absolutely nothing special.
All units are one bedrooms with full kitchens, sleeper sofas, and concrete balconies. Rooms are very clean, and modern enough, with GE appliances, bamboo curtains, gray carpets, and tiled entryways and bathrooms. Décor includes colorful palm tree prints, textured white plaster ceilings, beige walls, cheap bamboo chairs and bedroom furniture, and dark-wood lamps. Units range from 600 to 650 square feet-- a good 100 square feet larger than the above-mentioned properties.
Each unit has just one TV -- an old RCA 29-incher in the living room, though they come with an RCA DVD player. My unit's couch was a surprisingly stylish purple chenille, though I found the cushions to be a bit worn and crumb encrusted when I took them off to inspect the pullout mattress. Sheets and pillows for the pullout couch are stashed in the bathroom closet; the mattress itself is covered with a thin mattress pad.
Rooms start on the 8th floor (parking is on the lower floors). Mine faced the interior of the island, with views of parking garages, more high-rises, and the lush hills of the Manoa Valley off in the distance. This side is much quieter than rooms that overlook Kuhio Avenue, which is heavily trafficked at all hours of the day and night.
The clean white kitchens include a dishwasher, microwave, sink disposal, toaster, blender and coffeemaker. Kitchens come stocked with clean plates and glasses, cooking utensils, and somewhat rusty pots and pans. Extra goodies include Tupperware and a hand mixer. The kitchen is far nicer and more modern than at the Aston at the Waikiki Banyan, but smaller and less tricked out than at the Outrigger Luana Waikiki.
Bathrooms have separate sink and toilet/shower areas. Showers include a full-size tub, and the water pressure is fantastic. Toiletries are minimal -- just a bar of Dial soap by the sink and deodorant soap in the shower -- but at least the cupboards are stocked with extra towels.
My bedroom included a queen bed with a cheap-looking bamboo headboard and matching drawers on each side that seemed to take the place of the absent dresser. The bedspread was a cheap, colorful poly-nylon blend with a slight sheen to it, and the basic white sheets were a cotton-poly blend. There was an air-conditioning unit along the wall beside the window, just as there was in the living room. The unit is open-plan, but sliding doors provide privacy between the master bedroom and the pullout couch, though noise from outside carries.
Units do not have Internet, but plug-in modems can be procured from the reception office for $5 a day. Unfortunately the office was out of them when I checked in, so my only choice was to use a computer or pay for wireless (20 cents per minute) in the lobby. TVs get about 75 digital cable channels (Travel Channel, Comedy Central, MTV, etc.), but no HBO, Showtime, or pay-per-view. Rooms also include a portable phone with an answering machine.
The Royal Kuhio offers a better range of features than one would expect, considering it's a self-catering condo building.
A larger-than-average (for Waikiki), L-shaped pool with tons of lounge chairs anchors the 7th-floor recreation deck, although the minimal landscaping makes it look like a concrete jungle. The deck also has vending machines, a shuffleboard court, a small jungle gym, and a miniature tennis/volleyball/basketball court.
All one-bedroom units feature sleeper sofas, so four people can certainly fit, albeit a little snugly. Units range from 600 to 650 square feet, and although sliding doors can separate the living room and bedroom, they don't block out much noise. Furthermore, units only have one bathroom and one TV. So families should definitely get along if they plan to stay here.
The building has a wide variety of kid-friendly activities on-site, including a larger-than-average pool, a jungle gym, shuffleboard, a combined tennis, volleyball, and basketball court, and a game room with pool and pingpong. On the downside, the 10-minute walk to the beach is a hassle for families with toddlers.
The building is clean, if a little worn; there's no daily housekeeping service (guests can pay $90 for a cleaning).
There are worse things than smelling like a sterilized doctor's office but all the same, the Royal Kuhio's smell was a bit off-putting. At least the lobby gleams impressively, and the room was virtually spotless (crumbs in the couch cushions were another matter).
Aside from some wear on the couch cushions, bathroom wall and cooking pots, the furnishings and facilities (including the pool) look well maintained. Too bad guests need to clean up after themselves unless they want to pay $90 for each housekeeping service. If you stay nine nights or longer, there's one midstay cleaning included.
No restaurant on-site, but plenty of options within walking distance
There's no restaurant in the building, but McDonald's is in stumbling distance, right across the street, and an IHOP and ABC Stores -- Hawaii's ubiquitous convenience store chain -- are both a block west down Kuhio at Lewers Street. Local favorites like L&L and Puka Dog are two blocks east. Mall food courts abound three blocks away on Kalakaua, and everything from high-end Nobu to California Pizza Kitchen is within five to 10 minutes' walking distance.
An all-around solid -- but never spectacular -- time-share tower three short blocks from the beach, with generic units equipped with full kitchens, a large pool, free parking, and a gym, but no on-site restaurant and virtually no service.