Ilikai Hotel & Suites, an Aqua Boutique Rating: 3.0 Pearls
Waikiki, Honolulu, Oahu

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Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators

Pros

Cons

  • 20- to 25-minute walk to central Waikiki
  • On Ala Moana Boulevard, an unsightly, busy road
  • Tennis court closed indefinitely for renovation.

Bottom Line

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.

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Oyster Hotel Review

 Scene

Rooms are huge and pleasant, but the hotel's Hawaii Five-O glory days are behind it.

Hotel faces Ala Wai Yacht Harbor
Hotel faces Ala Wai Yacht Harbor

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.

The hotel also has the bones of a great hotel -- an elegant open-air lobby, spacious rooms, a newly refinished pool, fitness center -- and it's located just a few minutes from the edge of famous Waikiki Beach.

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 Ft. DeRussy Beach, or the Sheraton Waikiki, which is located on the beach in the heart of the action and reasonably priced.

 Location

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.

  • 10- to 15-minute walk to the Hawaii Convention Center
  • 10- to 15-minute walk to the Ala Moana Center, the largest shopping mall in Hawaii
  • 10- to 15-minute walk to Ala Moana Beach Park, a more sedate beach than Waikiki that tends to draw more locals
  • 20- to 25-minute walk (or $5 to $8 taxi ride) to central Waikiki
  • Cheap and easy to get around Waikiki via "The Bus"
  • Honolulu International Airport is a 15-minute cab ride.

 Beach

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 camp on a small section of sand near where the harbor meets the beach.)

Another five to 10 minutes beyond the lagoon is Fort DeRussy Beach, one of the more mellow sections of the famous Waikiki Beach. 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 Fort DeRussy 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.

  • Public beach
  • Ocean bottom is rocky, unlike neighboring Queen's Beach
  • 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
  • For an even quieter beach with calm waters, head to the Ala Moana Beach Park, a 15-minute walk from the hotel. Locals frequent this beach, and you won't find any concession stands.

 Rooms

Rooms are enormous, bright, and well maintained, espcially considering the hotel's age.

The Park View Studio
The Park View Studio

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.

  • Huge rooms: the smallest, the park view studio, is 600 square feet. The massive two bedroom suite is 1,200 square feet.
  • Excellent views of ocean or mountains from both sides of 25-story hotel (except low floors).
  • "Sunset view" rooms face Ala Moana Beach Park.
  • All have kitchenette with a dorm-size fridge and GE microwave, or a full kitchen with a full-size fridge, electric stove with oven, and microwave (full kitchens usually cost more)
  • Spacious bathroom with a separate shower and tub, uncommon for Waikiki hotels
  • The coconut lime verbena toiletries are from Bath & Body Works
  • Soft, comfortable beds with down pillows
  • Standard rooms come with either a king or two double beds
  • Rooms with full kitchens have pullout couches
  • Low tech: all rooms have 27-inch Panasonic tube TV with basic cable, GE clock radio, and safe that holds a laptop
  • Wired Internet wasn't working on visit; still not working when I called in September 2009
  • Not enough outlets by the desk
  • Air conditioners are sometimes positioned so that they blow directly on the bed.

 Features

Standard features, but several closures during August 2009 visit

Well-equipped fitness center
Well-equipped fitness center

The Ilikai has the standard set of Waikiki features.

  • Pool, renovated since Oyster's stay
  • Well-equipped fitness center with three treadmills (with personal video monitors), three ellipticals, two upright bikes, eight weight machines
  • Rooms are wired with Internet
  • Free Wi-Fi in lobby

 Family

Huge rooms, some with full kitchens, but not in an especially kid-friendly part of Waikiki

Full kitchens at The Ocean View Room
Full kitchens at The Ocean View Room

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 Waikiki beach.

  • All rooms come with a small kitchenette with a half-size fridge, coffee maker, and microwave. Some have full kitchens, including a stove and oven.
  • Rooms with full kitchens have pullout couches.
  • Cribs are free; rollaways are charged by the night.
  • Safety netting for balconies available on request
  • Five minute walk to the beach and kid-friendly lagoon at the Hilton Hawaiian Village; 15 minutes to Ala Moana Beach Park
  • Kid-friendly eats in the area are primarily chain restaurants like McDonald's and Subway.

 Cleanliness

Despite the hotel's age, rooms and grounds are very well maintained.

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.

 Food

Sarento's offers 360 degree views from the 30th floor, and Ilikai Bar & Grill has a weekly hula show.

360 degree views at Sarento's Top of the I
360 degree views at Sarento's Top of the I

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.

  • Sarento's Top of the I menu is Italian with an emphasis on seafood.
  • Ilikai Bar & Grill, which opened in 2010, serves more casual fare, and features a hula show and dinner buffet on Friday nights.
  • Restaurants within easy walking distance include the Chart House, as well as chains like Subway, McDonald's, and Red Lobster.
  • A small, but overpriced convenience store on the ground floor
  • ABC convenience store down the street; Foodland, a grocery store, a 10-minute walk away

 Bottom Line

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.

Things You Should Know About Ilikai Hotel & Suites, an Aqua Boutique

Address

  • 1777 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, HI 96815

Hotel Is Also Known As...

  • Ilikai
  • Ilikai Honolulu
  • Ilikai Hotel & Suites
  • Ilikai Hotel Hawaii

Room Types

  • Honeymoon Suite
  • Mountain View 2 Bedroom Suite
  • Mountain View Room
  • Mountain View Room w/Full Kitchen
  • Ocean View 2 Bedroom Suite
  • Ocean View Room
  • Ocean View Room w/full Kitchen
  • Oceanfront 2 Bedroom Suite

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 295
Pool: Yes
Fitness Center: Yes
Internet Access: Yes
Cribs: Yes
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Hotel Information

Location: Waikiki, Honolulu
Address: 1777 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, HI 96815
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