Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Rooms are huge and pleasant, but the hotel's Hawaii Five-O glory days are behind it.
You may recognize the Ilikai from the opening of the original Hawaii Five-0. When the camera zooms in on star Jack Lord (aka Steve McGarrett) standing on a penthouse balcony overlooking Waikiki Beach, that's the Ilikai. When it opened in 1964, the Y-shaped hotel, designed by John Graham Jr., the architect behind Seattle's Space Needle, was Hawaii's first oceanfront high-rise luxury hotel.
At the height of the Ilikai's fame, presidents (Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford) and celebrities (Elvis Presley, Mickey Mantle) stayed at the hotel, but it's been on a slow descent for some time. Thankfully, the property -- now owned by Aqua Resorts -- is taking strives to update itself. Beginning in June 2013, the hotel will undergo room renovations that will update furntiure, televisions, bedding, and linens. Work should be completed by the end of the year.
If you need to stay near the Hawaii Convention Center, the Ilikai isn't a bad option. But if you want to be closer to Waikiki Beach and its buzzing concentration of shopping and restaurants, check out the slightly more expensive Outrigger Reef, located on , or the Sheraton Waikiki, which is located on the beach in the heart of the action and reasonably priced.
A schlep from the pulsing beaches and heart of Waikiki, close to the Hawaii Convention Center
For Waikiki visitors who want to be in the heart of the action, the Ilikai is not the place to go. Located on a busy, unsightly six-lane street, the Ilikai is sandwiched between the gargantuan Hilton Hawaiian Village and the Hawaii Prince. The Ala Wai Yacht Harbor is next door. Staying at the Ilikai can make you feel like you're hovering on the edge of the party, but missing it. The only nearby attractions are the Hawaii Convention Center and the Ala Moana Center, the largest shopping mall in Hawaii. So unless you're here on business, you might consider staying at a Waikiki hotel that's a little closer to things, like the slightly more expensive Outrigger Reef or the Sheraton Waikiki, which is centrally located but reasonably priced for the area.
Five-minute walk to the nearest stretch of sand, 10 minutes to an ocean beach
Even though many rooms at the the Ilikai have oceanfront views, the hotel isn't directly on the beach (it faces Ala Wai Yacht Harbor). The nearest public beach is the kid-friendly, man-made lagoon at the Hilton Hawaiian Village next door, a five-minute walk past the public parking lot behind the hotel. (On the way there, you might notice vagrants who've set up on a small section of sand near where the harbor meets the beach.)
Another five to 10 minutes beyond the lagoon is Waikiki Beach. In reality, it's more like three separate beaches, the borders of which vary depending on whom you ask. The section, 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., one of the more mellow sections of the famous . Loosely speaking, the entire 1.5-mile stretch of sand alongside Kalakaua Avenue is known as
Rooms are enormous, bright, and well maintained, espcially considering the hotel's age.
Although the Y-shaped building looks massive -- and it is -- only 203 of the 1,009 units are hotel rooms (the rest are timeshares or privately owned). Aside from the lobby, nothing has been renovated by the financially troubled hotel since 2000. But the rooms are surprisingly spacious and well maintained, and all have balconies. Standard rooms are some of the largest, if not the largest, in Waikiki. The décor, light-wood furniture with mother-of-pearl-inlay touches (or something that looks like mother of pearl), is a tad outdated, but everything feels fresh and clean, including the roomy bathrooms. It helps that the rooms are well lit and bright.
Beginning in June 2013 and continuing throughout the year, the hotel is renovating its rooms. New furniture, televisions, and linens are being introduced.
Standard features, but several closures during August 2009 visit
The Ilikai has the standard set of Waikiki features.
Even the smallest standard room is a huge 600 square feet, which leaves plenty of room for cribs, strollers, and other gear. And all the rooms have at least a kitchenette (and many have full kitchens), great for parents who want to avoid three meals a day in a restaurant. However, the Ilikai is on one of the busiest thoroughfares running through Honolulu and Waikiki. It's not on the beach, and it lacks the kid-tailored activities or the pool waterslides you'll find at the Hilton Hawaiian Village next door or the Aston Waikiki Beach on the other side of town, which is across from "the wall," the kid-friendliest section of .
Even though rooms haven't been renovated since 2000, they are immaculately maintained. Tubs look new (even though they aren't), and the white grout in the showers has virtually no mildew. The lobby's floors still gleam, and in 2010, the hotel replaced the furniture in the lobby and added a mural behind the front desk.
Sarento's offers 360 degree views from the 30th floor, and Ilikai Bar & Grill has a weekly hula show.
The hotel's fine dining Italian restaurant, Sarento's Top of the I, offers stunning views from the 30th floor and is reached via a glass elevator. A pianist plays every night from 7 p.m. on, and some of the tables are positioned so that couples can sit next to one another (as opposed to across the table), both facing the beautiful view.
The once-historic Ilikai has the makings of a great hotel -- massive, clean rooms, an elegant open-air lobby, a newly refurbished pool, and a well-equipped fitness center. But the hotel is far from the heart of Waikiki, and it's working to recover after financial problems in 2009.