Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber Resort Rating: 3.5 Pearls
Waikiki, Honolulu, Oahu

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Pros

Cons

Bottom Line

In 2008, the Beachcomber completed a $21-million overhaul -- so now's the time to go. The rooms are generic and the service can be erratic. But if you're looking for a perfectly decent hotel with some fun extras in the heart of Waikiki, and don't want to overpay for beachfront real estate (that would be the Outrigger Waikiki across the street), the Beachcomber is a solid choice.

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Oyster Hotel Review

 Scene

A midsize, midpriced chain hotel in the middle of Waikiki. But its recent overhaul, along with several unique features -- surfing museum, magic show, happening bar -- saves it from middling status.

The Ohana is the budget brand of Hawaii's Outrigger Hotels group, akin to the Marriott's Courtyard chain. But several Ohanas in Waikiki, including this one, give their upper-middle-range sisters a run for their money. It helps, of course, to have a $21-million renovation going for you, which is what the Beachcomber completed in 2008. Each of the 495 rooms has been overhauled, and while they can't compete, style-wise, with those at Waikiki's luxury hotels (the Royal Hawaiian's newly redone rooms come to mind), they still sport that fresh new look only a renovation can provide.

Meanwhile, the old standbys that make the Beachcomber unique remain. Most notably, John Hirokawa's "Magic of Polynesia" show, which has been a Beachcomber mainstay for 10 years and, if the crowd the night I went was any indication, has more than a few good years left. Same goes for the Beachcomber's enormous restaurant and bar, Jimmy Buffett's, which was still hopping at midnight in the middle of the week when I was there.

The Beachcomber's greatest draw, though, might well be its most constant standby: its location. There isn't a more centrally situated plot of land on Kalakaua Avenue in all of Waikiki. Only the hotels across the street, right on the beach (the Royal Hawaiian, the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach, the Moana Surfrider, etc.), boast more enviable addresses, and you pay a hefty premium for the right to stay there. If you don't mind being across the street from the beach -- it's two minutes to the sand, max -- the Beachcomber is one of the best values in the heart of Waikiki.

 Service

What you'd expect for the midrange price: competent and efficient but not terribly warm, and never above and beyond.

My experience with the staff could best be described as hands-off. When I tried to check in early and my room wasn't available, the woman at the front desk offered me the chance to check out a less expensive room (a Partial Ocean View) than the one I was booked in. Being an undercover hotel reviewer, I naturally jumped at the chance to see another room type. The woman gave me the room key, told me to leave my bags with the bell staff, and sent me on my way. Very laid-back, very Hawaiian.

After 20 minutes in the room, still no bags. A little too Hawaiian. Same goes for the front desk's "oh well" response to the broken computer system that same day. Overall, though, the service is fine.

  • Bell staff to help with your bags
  • Several activities desks (outsourced to outside agencies) in the lobby to help book snorkel trips or Pearl Harbor tours
  • No room service; no poolside service
  • Service at Jimmy Buffett's is particularly warm and attentive, especially at breakfast.

 Location

Right in the heart of the Waikiki action, across the street from the beach

The Beachcomber is ideally situated for those who want to stay at the epicenter of Waikiki's famed shopping, dining, and drinking scene. It sits right on the busiest part of the main drag, Kalakaua Avenue, a touristy milelong stretch of shops, restaurants, and high-rise hotels that runs along Oahu's southeast coast. Cheesecake Factory is across the street. Sprawling outdoor markets -- Duke's Market Place on one side, the International Market Place on the other -- flank the hotel. Beyond those, indoor malls galore.

Waikiki 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 even an Apple store -- are interspersed with indoor malls and streetside vendors hawking cheap seashell jewelry and "Hawaii 09" T-shirts. Seemingly every midmarket chain restaurant can be found here -- Red Lobster, 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 like the Hyatt Regency and Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, dotting the landscape like pins in a cushion.

 Beach

Not quite beachcombing. It's across the street from the most famous stretch of one of the most famous beaches in the world.

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 Ohana Waikiki West is located across the street 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 fastest way to the beach is to cut through the Royal Hawaiian across the street. (Don't be shy -- no one will stop you.) Or use the beach-access alleyway, about a block east on Kalakaua.
  • Public beach
  • Warm, shallow water -- a decent place to swim, especially for kids
  • Sandy, not rocky, ocean bottom -- unlike neighboring Fort DeRussy to the west and Kuhio to the east.
  • Lifeguards monitor the beach throughout the day.
  • Free towels provided by the hotel
  • Umbrellas and lounge chairs must be rented from one of the many Star Beach Boys stands.
  • Water sports equipment like surfboards and boogie boards available for rental at the Star Beach Boys stands

 Rooms

Generic decor and few amenities, but they're clean, comfortable, relatively spacious, and newly renovated in 2008

The Beachcomber's rooms are like the hotel itself: They won't blow you away, but they get the job done. About the size of most midpriced hotel rooms in Waikiki -- 350 square feet -- they are big enough for a king bed or two doubles, a small desk, several chairs, and a dresser, with plenty of room left to maneuver about. If you're looking for style or originality, the seashell-and-tropical-print decor of the Beachcomber rooms isn't for you. But in this price range, they're a great value -- at least while they're still new.

  • Balconies in three of the four room types -- Ocean View, Partial Ocean View, and Kalakaua Ocean View -- that, for a few extra bucks, gives you a pretty cool view of Kalakaua Avenue and beyond.
  • No suites, and the only difference among the four types of rooms is the view (tack on about $40 a night for an ocean view)
  • Beds' mattresses (indeterminate brand) are soft yet firm but a bit springier than truly high-quality mattresses.
  • Sheets are mediocre (55 percent cotton, 45 percent polyester blend), typical for non-luxe hotels in Waikiki.
  • The TVs, 32-inch LG flat-screens, show about 35 channels of basic cable, none in high-def, and a few in my room came in a bit staticky.
  • Free wired Internet mini-fridge, and coffeemaker plus free coffee in every room
  • Zenith alarm clocks with iPod hookups
  • Bathrooms are small.
  • Mediocre water pressure in showers, hotel-brand bath products
  • Noise from Kalakaua Avenue, right below, isn't a problem.

 Features

The standard Waikiki selection -- pool, gym, business center, parking -- all shiny and new.

The Beachcomber's most unique features are its surfing museum and magic show (see Entertainment, below). The rest comprise the standard array (with the exception of the room near the gym labeled "Hawaiian Massage to Go,", which confuses me as much now as it did then.)

The small but pleasant pool is not much bigger than a suburban backyard pool, but that's typical for densely packed high-rises in downtown Waikiki; the lounge chairs are nice.

  • The restaurant's outdoor patio abuts the pool deck.
  • Small but well-equipped fitness center has Precor cardio machines -- two treadmills, an elliptical, and a bike -- with personal video monitors and headphones, a perk you usually see only at luxury hotels.
  • The business center is just five computers against a wall off the lobby.
  • Internet is 20 cents a minute, which seems to be the standard for the area. No Wi-Fi anywhere on the property.
  • Parking is charged nightly at standard Waikiki prices.
  • Free morning newspaper delivered to room
  • Free tote bag at check-in

 Entertainment

A surfing museum and nightly magic show add a dose -- two doses, actually -- of fun to the Beachcomber experience.

For the past 10 years, the Beachcomber has played host to the Magic of Polynesia, a 75-minute magic show conceived by renowned illusionist and Hawaii native John Hirokawa. Assisted by a cadre of comely young ladies in coconut bras and their beefy, loinclothed male counterparts, Hirokawa performs a dozen or so dramatic tricks, many of the make-a-person-or-large-inanimate-object-disappear-and-then-reappear-in-a-different-place-onstage variety. The flair is Copperfield-esque.

 Family

A fine, though not exceptional, place for the kids

The Beachcomber does little to cater to children -- no kids' club, no organized activities -- but at least the young ones will dig the surfing museum and magic show, which has reduced rates for children ages four to 11 (see Entertainment, above). And I saw plenty of kids splashing around in the pool.

  • Cribs are free, and fit in any size room.
  • Rollaway beds cost $30 a night, and fit in most rooms.
  • Despite all the happy hours and drink specials, Jimmy Buffett's is a perfectly fine place to take the kids (no kids' menu, though).

 Cleanliness

Not a problem. Aside from a few small lapses, everything was clean.

The Beachcomber was fully renovated in 2008, and thus far the staff has done a nice job of maintaining the property. I noticed a few things you don't generally find at more expensive hotels -- traces of litter in the hallways, smudged windows, sticky balcony floors -- but overall, everything was functional and hygienic.

 Food

A popular bar and restaurant, Jimmy Buffett's, that also serves a pretty good breakfast for Beachcomber guests

The Beachcomber's restaurant, Jimmy Buffett's, rivals Duke's at the Outrigger and the Cheesecake Factory across the street as the most popular restaurant in Waikiki. Gourmet it ain't, but it's hard not to enjoy yourself, especially at night, when the band takes the stage. The act rotates throughout the week, and supposedly Jimmy] himself makes an appearance now and then. When I was there, though, it was a local act doing stuck-in-your-head covers (John Mayer, anyone?). Fake palm trees, sunset hues, quirky signage ("ALL TRESPASSERS WILL BE (OFFERED A) SHOT"), and a video of a remote tropical beach projected onto the wall opposite the real beach add to the cheesi-- er, atmosphere.

  • For the menu, click here.
  • Happy hour every day
  • Super-friendly service, especially at breakfast
  • Decent breakfast buffet with a la carte items also available, including eggs benedict -- "The best on the island," according to my waitress.
  • As for off-campus options, you're right near the epicenter of Waikiki, so you can find pretty much anything within walking distance to match your budget and tastes.

 Bottom Line

In 2008, the Beachcomber completed a $21-million overhaul -- so now's the time to go. The rooms are generic and the service can be erratic. But if you're looking for a perfectly decent hotel with some fun extras in the heart of Waikiki, and don't want to overpay for beachfront real estate (that would be the Outrigger Waikiki across the street), the Beachcomber is a solid choice.

Things You Should Know About Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber Resort

Address

  • 2300 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815

Hotel Is Also Known As...

  • Ohana Waikiki Beachcomber Honolulu
  • Ohana Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel
  • Waikiki Beachcomber

Room Types

  • Kalakaua Ocean View Room
  • Ocean View Room
  • Partial Ocean View Room
  • Standard Room

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Nearby Hotels to Consider

Outrigger Waikiki On The Beach
Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa
Sheraton Princess Kaiulani
The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort

Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 494
Pool: Yes
Fitness Center: Yes
Internet Access: Yes
Cribs: Yes
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Hotel Information

Location: Waikiki, Honolulu
Address: 2300 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815
(See Map)
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