Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Massive, crowded, and centrally located, this is Hawaii's second-largest hotel. A full renovation concluded in December 2009. Rooms are modern and stylish.
With 1,636 rooms spread across 31 floors, the Sheraton is the largest single-building hotel in Waikiki (it's second in rooms behind the eight-tower Hilton Hawaiian Village). Originally constructed in 1971, the Sheraton wrapped up a five-year, $187-million renovation in late 2009 (during my stay, construction was still underway). This resulted in sparkling new rooms, three new pools, five new restaurants and bars, and an overall hipper approach that Starwood says will set a standard for other Sheraton resorts worldwide. Bland carpets and lobby Muzak will give way to exhibits of Hawaiian art, restaurants emphasizing local ingredients, and "welcome pods," which will replace the current front desk and, the management says, create a more interactive, personalized experience for guests.
The location sells itself. According to the in-house historian, royals used to surf on the section of Waikiki Beach now occupied by the hotel, and King Kamehameha the Great even built his royal residence there. Today, the Sheraton is at the heart of bustling, fronted by a prime stretch of beach and convenient to everything the city has to offer.
The property is so big it can feel like a city unto itself -- and a very crowded one at that. The pool and lobby areas can induce claustrophobia. (Because only one pool was open during my stay, guests were practically tripping over each other, and lounge chairs were extremely hard to come by.) But this didn't seem to bother all the kids running around. No other pool in central Waikiki has a water slide. That, coupled with a convenient location, makes the Sheraton a better family choice than the Marriott and the Hyatt, which are across the street from the beach, and better even than the more staid and pricier Royal Hawaiian and Westin Moana Surfrider, which like the Sheraton are Starwood properties.
It's no surprise that service in a 1,636-room hotel is far from perfect. But when you finally get their attention, the staffers are friendly and reasonably helpful. And the hotel offers a wide array of services.
I spent long portions of my stay standing in line: 25 minutes to check in (though at least I got into my room an hour early) and 20 minutes to speak with a concierge (who was at least thorough and helpful). Food and drink service is available in the chaotic pool area -- but good luck finding a patch of free grass, let alone hailing down a server. My room service breakfast of fresh fruit, cereal, and coffee was pricey, but at least it arrived in 15 minutes.
Because the hotel is so crowded and temporary construction walls have made the lobby a bit of a maze, friendly staff members are stationed strategically to answer questions and point guests in the right direction.
The Sheraton is about as central Royal Hawaiian and a parking garage that separates it from the Halekulani. (Though it's worth noting that part of its frontage isn't actually a beach, but a rocky seawall.as it gets. It has a magnificent oceanfront location between the iconic
The adjacent Royal Hawaiian Center is filled with luxury boutiques, as well as a convenience store and a food court. Nearby Kalakaua Avenue is a touristy milelong stretch of shops, restaurants, and high-rise hotels. On the sidewalks, Japanese tourists intermingle with tanned locals, surfboards under their arms, on their way to the beach to catch a few waves. High-end retailers 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, P.F. Chang's -- along with more than a handful of Starbucks and fast-food joints.
The bus is a great way to get around Waikiki. Honolulu International Airport is a 20- to 25-minute cab ride away.
On the most crowded section of Queen's Beach. Beach chairs and umbrellas cost extra.
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 Sheraton is located on the section called Queen's Beach, which is the part you see on postcards of Waikiki: manicured, palm tree-dotted lawns leading to white sand.
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 water is shallow and warm and reasonably calm, making Queen's a decent place to swim, especially for kids. As a bonus, the ocean bottom at Queen's is sandy, not rocky like its neighbors on either side. Lifeguards monitor the beach throughout the day.
While Royal Hawaiian guests have a private roped-off section with complimentary beach chairs, Sheraton guests must rent chairs, umbrellas, and other accessories. Prices range from $10 an hour for one chair and umbrella, to $45 for both for a full day. Guests can also rent surf boards for a steep hour price.
Bright and renovated in 2009, many with spectacular ocean views.
Renovations on the Sheraton's 1,636 rooms finished in spring 2009, so they are in fantastic condition. Décor is clean and modern, and amenities include wonderful Sweet Sleeper beds and 32" high-def flat-screen TVs.
The plush king beds feature pillow-top mattresses, satiny, oatmeal-colored duvets, a subtle tropical-print bed-runners (mine, unfortunately, had a small stain on it), and a fun seersucker . The high-def TVs get DirecTV with Movies on Demand and about 50 cable channels, including Showtime but not HBO.
Bathrooms are small and beige, but have nice Kohler fixtures and delightful Shine by Bliss toiletries. In Ocean View Rooms, bathrooms feature fun , so you can gaze at the awesome ocean views and Diamond Head even as you brush your teeth.
Spring for one of the direct ocean-view rooms. My 11th floor partial ocean-view room looked out over the roof of the lobby, faced the Waikiki Parc next door, a parking garage to the right and sliver of ocean to the left. A recent Internet search turned up direct view rooms that were just $10 more than rooms. Most rooms have balconies with new furniture.
Rooms also lack amenities like iPod docks and Wi-Fi. Instead, they have dinky clock radios and plug-in Internet that costs an exorbitant daily fee (depending on the speed -- the slowest is a glacial 582 kbps to download).
As Hawaii's second-largest resort, the Sheraton unsurprisingly offers a wide array of features.
The stunning Helumoa Playground pool opened in spring 2009. Beautifully landscaped with palm trees and fake rocks, it overlooks the ocean. It's essentially two connected pools plus a Jacuzzi, a water slide, and shallow areas for in-water lounge chairs. Unfortunately, it's the most crowded pool I saw in Waikiki; the lifeguards must scramble onto rocks to keep watch over everyone because there's no space elsewhere. It doesn't help that the Sheraton shares the pool with its sister hotel, the Royal Hawaiian. When I walked through the pool deck at 7:30 a.m., every chair was already reserved with a towel or a mat. It's nearly impossible to take two steps without bumping into someone, which is hardly relaxing. At least guests can get drink service from nearby RumFire, and there are also tables on an adjacent terrace to order light snacks at lunchtime.
An adults-only pool (under construction during my stay) opened in late 2009. With 225 seats it has hopefully reduced the crowding at Helumoa, which has 325 seats. An adjacent bar, called , also opened after my stay. The 24-hour fitness center has about 20 Life Fitness cardio machines, all with personal video screens and iPod hookups. There are also weight machines, free weights and a stretching area. Unlike at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, where non-HHonors members must pay to use the gym, the Sheraton's is free.
The spa, Khakara, opened in November 2008 in the space formerly occupied by the business center, hence its less-than-inspiring over a parking garage. But it is large, clean, and modern, offering a full complement of treatments. Nail treatments are available at a separate nail salon in the lobby.
There are two guest laundry rooms on the 5th and 18th floors, each with four Whirlpool washers and dryers, plus the requisite change machine and soap dispenser.
Parking at the enormous 7-story parking garage costs $20 per day with in/out privileges.
During my stay Internet service was available in rooms at a steep cost, depending on speed. Free Wi-Fi is available in all public spaces. A lobby lounge calledalso features complimentary computers, printers, and even a Nintendo Wii.
Kids stay free, the Helumoa Playground pool is the best in central Waikiki, and kid-friendly eating options abound. Rollaways are pricey, though.
For parents who want to be in the heart of Waikiki action and don't mind a hotel that can feel very hectic, the Sheraton is a fantastic spot for families. Kids ages 17 and under stay free with their parents. Cribs are free. Rollaway beds cost a steep $80 per night, but plenty of rooms come with two double beds. The Helumoa Playground pool, with water slide and fountains, is the most kid-friendly pool in Waikiki proper.
The kids' camp is run by a Japanese company called Poppins Keiki Hawaii. The camp takes kids to the zoo and the aquarium, and runs activities like lei-making and bodyboarding. Every counselor is bilingual and has a teaching degree. Ages range from 4 months to 12 years. The program is limited to 10 kids per day -- so make reservations.
In terms of kid-friendly eating, it's hard to go wrong in Waikiki. Besides the Sheraton's own fairly affordable grab-n-go style restaurant, Ingredients, a full food court of kid-friendly eats is just across the parking lot at the Royal Hawaiian Center.
Spotless despite the chaotic atmosphere
The Sheraton Waikiki is sparklingly clean. Though the lobby was still under construction during my stay, I never found a speck of dust. The only glitch I found was a small stain on the bed runner in my room. Otherwise the hotel earns high marks for cleanliness.
Part of the Sheraton's $187-million renovation was a restaurant makeover. Other than the Japanese holdover Yoshiya, which focuses on sushi and fresh seafood, the hotel's four other restaurants all debuted since summer 2008. And they serve far better and more inventive fare than typical hotel options.
Twist at Hanohano closed its doors in 2011 and has since been converted into a lounge area. Located on the 31st floor with its own dedicated glass elevator, the area offers stunning 180-degree views of Waikiki Beach and the ocean.
Less expensive breakfasts are found at Ingredients, a cafeteria-style canteen in the lobby that offers freshly prepared food throughout the day.
In August 2009, the Sheraton debuted its buffet restaurant, Kai, which emphasizes fresh ingredients and a local, farm-to-table concept. The night I dined there Kai featured delicious offerings like a trio of pokes (bite-sized pieces of raw fish, including octopus and striped marlin), Molokai crab salad, and Kona coffee-rubbed . With floor-to-ceiling windows, Kai has fantastic views of the water and sunset, which have improved since the completion of the adjacent and .
Sheraton guests also have charging privileges at the restaurants of the Royal Hawaiian and Westin Moana Surfrider next-door. And countless budget options are available steps away in the food court of the Royal Hawaiian Center, and all along Kalakaua Avenue.
A wedding at this massive resort might feel a bit like a convention -- the reception spaces are indoors -- but it can be a convenient choice for especially large weddings.
Legend has it King Kamehameha built his royal bungalow on the site where the Sheraton (renovated in 2009) now stands -- and the location really is that picturesque and convenient. The beach is nice, shopping and nightlife are a minute away, and it has fantastic pools and restaurants on-site. The rooms sparkle, but with 1,636 of them, the service can be spotty and the atmosphere chaotic.