Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
This small hotel in the heart of Waikiki was rebranded as an Aqua property in December 2012, helping elevate the tired spaces to something a bit more livable. The hotel is definitely striving to cater to guests. From the koi and turtle ponds, to the welcome coupons and the fitness center... You can tell the hotel is trying. This is evidenced even more now that the hotel is an Aqua property. The rebranding included introducing new linens to the rooms, which greatly helped the drab interiors. Aqua also brought in new flat-screen TVs, mini-fridges, and coffee makers, as well as free Wi-Fi (throughout the entire hotel), Bose stereo systems, and Playstations.
The Joy caters to a largely Japanese clientele. With bilingual signage, a lending library filled mostly with Japanese titles, and a Japanese restaurant that doubles as a karaoke bar (plus 16 private rooms upstairs, open until 4 a.m.), the Joy does everything it can to appeal to its Japanese base -- and it does, for the most part.
But American travelers might prefer any one of the following hotels -- all of which have better amenities than the Joy, some of which are comparably priced, several of which are even cheaper: The Park Shore, the Aston Waikiki Beach, Hotel Renew, the Aqua Palms, the Aqua Waikiki Pearl, the Waikiki Parc, the Ohana East, or the Ilima.
On the northwest edge of the busiest part of Waikiki, a block from the main drag
The Joy sits on one of the many side streets that span Waikiki's two major arteries, Kuhio and Kalakaua. So the immediate area is less heavily trafficked (by car or foot) than those main drags, giving it a decidedly suburban feel. Starbucks is across the street. Down the block is a Whaler's convenience store; around the corner, an IHOP. Indeed, were it not for the Nani Aloha Street store next door selling schlocky signs ("NO CLOTHES BEYOND THIS POINT") and Obama bobbleheads, you wouldn't even know you were in Hawaii.
A block away is Kalakaua Avenue, a touristy, milelong stretch of shops, restaurants, and high-rise hotels that runs along Waikiki Beach on Oahu's southeast coast. It 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.
Three blocks from one of the world's most famous beaches; Fort DeRussy Beach 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 Joy is located five to 10 minutes by foot from the Fort DeRussy section, which is far less crowded than its more famous neighbor to the southeast, Queen's Beach. The water is shallow, warm, and calm, making Fort DeRussy a decent place to swim, especially for kids.
Clean and spacious enough, but little charm or style
The Joy's 93 rooms are divided between two buildings. The guest rooms are in one tower, the suites in the other. The main difference is size; either way, you won't be sleeping in luxury. The standard rooms start at about 320 square feet -- pretty, well, standard for Waikiki. They're bright -- credit the large sliding glass doors to the balconies -- and the new white linens that soar above the previous drab florals. But everything about these rooms still screams 1986.
The pool at the Joy is unfotunately very tiny, good for a quick dip to cool off but little else. The gym, meanwhile, is merely a converted guest room with a few cardio machines shoehorned in at odd angles. To be fair, the machines are modern and well maintained. There are no amenity fees.
Not good for adults or kids, but at least you can all share a room
Rollaways cost extra per night and will fit only in superior-size rooms and above. Cribs are free and can fit in any room.
Cleanliness, strictly speaking, isn't a problem.
The hotel is mostly well-maintained, though the older property is showing signs of wear and tear.
The restaurant is a coffee shop/Japanese restaurant/karaoke bar that serves a free breakfast.
The Joy's restaurant, Cappuccinos, an Internet cafe and coffee shop by day, moonlights as a karaoke bar. Cappuccinos is actually a fun place to spend an hour or two in the evening. Even if you don't plan to get tanked and belt out "Livin' on a Prayer," it's entertaining to watch fellow (mostly Japanese) tourists try it themselves.
This 93-room boutique three blocks from the ocean officially became an Aqua property in December 2012. Since its transition, there have been marked improvements to the older hotel, though the tiny pool is depressing. Rooms, however, have taken major steps forward. The previous drab decor was elevated with the introduction of new linens, flat-screen TVs, and Bose sound systems, giving the space a brighter, more modern feel. Rooms also feature free Wi-Fi, Playstations, and jetted tubs. But the similarly priced Aqua Waikiki Pearl, Ohana East, and Hotel Renew all feature better amenities.