Aston at the Waikiki BanyanWaikiki, Honolulu, Oahu
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The Aston is a massive, outdated, two-tower condominium hotel that has potential, but not until the rooms are gutted. The last major renovation was in 1997. (Remember that year? Titanic premiered, Princess Diana died.)
Only 263 of the 876 privately owned units are available to hotel guests. Owners are in charge of furnishing and maintaining the units, so the quality can vary room to room. Bedspreads, wall color, and kitchen appliances are largely the same across the board, but some units may have a pullout couch while others might have a regular one. Renovations must be approved by the owner, and they're happening at a glacial pace. Rooms that have been renovated were completely gutted and refurbished with new cabinets, flooring, furniture, appliances, and bathroom fixtures, but only a fraction of them have been finished, and there is no set date for when the rest will be completed. In fact, because the rooms are privately owned, some may not see any renovations for a long, long time. So for now, expect an outdated, run-down room (holes in the furnishings, uncomfortable beds, Astroturf on the balcony) that could use a deep clean, (crumbs in the drawers, and stains on the carpet).
The shoddiness isn't limited to the rooms. Elevators are slow and always packed. The dumpsters on the street outside don't enhance the vacation experience. And if the hallways don't smell of industrial-strength cleaner, they carry a whiff of eau-de-too-flowery air freshener.
Families are drawn to this hotel for its spacious rooms and full kitchens, plus its pool, two Jacuzzis, tennis court, and barbecue pit, which, strangely, is coin-operated. But for a similar price, you'll get a newer room, better service, nicer amenities, and more restaurant options down the street at the beachfront Marriott Waikiki or Aston Waikiki Beach.
Prompt service when you ask, but you have to ask
This is mostly a check-in and checkout kind of place with friendly employees but little else by way of hands-on service. Check-in was quick, but bellmen can be difficult to find. I ended up wheeling my suitcase not only into the hotel, but also upstairs since I didn't want to wait for the front desk to call for help. It took six rings for the front desk to answer my call about bringing up a tube of toothpaste. (Turns out housekeeping doesn't carry those kinds of items.) But when I requested an extra towel, it arrived in just 10 minutes.
- No concierge, no room service, no poolside drinks, and no valet parking
- Self-parking is $10 per car per day
- Daily housekeeping (but mine barged in at 8 a.m. without knocking. Apologetic, she returned at noon as requested.)
Located on Kuhio Avenue only a few minutes from the beach
The Aston at the Waikiki Banyan is located 1.5 long blocks from the beach (about five minutes on foot) on the far eastern end of Kuhio Avenue, which can get a bit scruffy after dark. Kuhio, which runs parallel to Kalakaua, the main beachfront drag in Waikiki, could well be described as Kalakaua's calmer, quieter -- and, down near the Waikiki Banyan, shadier -- little cousin. Still, this is Waikiki, the most heavily touristed neighborhood in all Hawaii. The stretch of Kuhio outside the hotel is a four-lane road, and the street boasts (if that's the word) just as many creature comforts as its neighbor; they are simply lower profile -- Denny's and IHOP instead of Cheesecake Factory and California Pizza Kitchen, hostels and apartment complexes instead of the Hyatt.
A block away is the Marriott Waikiki and Kalakaua Avenue, Waikiki's main drag, a touristy milelong stretch of shops, restaurants, and high-rise hotels that runs along Oahu's southeast coast. 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 "Hawaii 09" T-shirts. Seemingly every mid-market chain restaurant can be found on Kalakaua -- Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen, Tony Roma's -- along with more than a handful of Starbucks and fast-food joints.
- Wide variety of shopping, dining, and drinking -- all within walking distance
- Kapiolani Park, an oasis of (relative) calm for people-watching and local flavor, is five to 10 minutes away by foot.
- Honolulu Zoo, is five to 10 minutes on foot.
- Cheap and easy to get around Waikiki via "The Bus" ($2.25/person to go any distance)
- Honolulu International Airport is a 15- to 20-minute, $35 cab ride.
- Three of the most popular tourist sites outside of Waikiki are all within 45 minutes by car -- Pearl Harbor is a 45 minutes away, Hanauma Bay 20 minutes away, and Diamond Head Crater 10 minutes away.
A few minutes stroll to 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 Aston at the Waikiki Banyan is located a block from the Kuhio section, known to some as "the wall," for the 50-yard concrete pier that juts out from the sand at the corner of Kapahulu Avenue. (The kids who jump off the pier are known affectionately as "wall rats.")
Kuhio Beach is broader and far less crowded than its more famous neighbor to the northwest, Queen's Beach. The water's shallow and warm, and because the wall creates an artificial cove of sorts, it's also calm, making Kuhio the best place for kids to swim, according to the lifeguards there. On the other hand, the ocean bottom is a bit rocky, so tread gingerly.
- 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; chairs are $5 an hour, $20 a day; for two chairs and an umbrella, it's $10 an hour, $50 a day.
- Water sports equipment like surfboards and boogie boards available for rental at the Star Beach Boys stands
- Respected Hans Hedemann Surf School is near the wall, where Kapahulu Avenue meets the sand.
Rooms at the Aston Waikiki Banyan Tree may have ample size and pleasant views on their side, but until renovations are finished, some rooms will remain tired and dated, acquiring more carpet stains, crumbs in the drawers, and musty smells along the way. And because owners must consent to the renovations, not all units will be overhauled anytime soon.
My room was not one of the few that has already been redone (you can request a new room, but it's not guaranteed -- none were available for me to see during my visit.) Mine had a queen bed with an unsupportive mattress, two poly-stuffed pillows, a dirty blanket, and a bedspread just the right shade of beige to hide dirt (unlike the light blue carpet, which was visibly stained).
- Rooms in Tower One have city or oceanfront views; Tower Two faces Diamond Head.
- All rooms are 535 square feet with a full kitchen.
- Appliances vary room to room. Mine included a full-size GE refrigerator, small GE microwave, old electric GE stove and oven, toaster and coffee maker, but no dishwasher.
- Rooms have two twins, two fulls, one queen or one king. Most have pullout couches.
- Bathroom space divided: a cramped toilet and shower space, and another with the sink
- Shower and yellow tile walls were clean, water pressure sufficient
- Hotel-brand toiletries are meager, with just one bottle of shampoo and a full bar of soap.
- Dated tech: a circa 1980s GE alarm clock, 21-inch JVC tube TV in the bedroom, 27-inch Zenith tube TV in the main room with about 30 cable channels, no games, no pay-per-view
- Free wired internet (no Wi-Fi)
- No central air, and while my wall unit looked new, it struggled to cool the big room.
- Cleanliness problems included a stained carpet, crumbs in the drawers, and grime around the toilet -- and what appeared to be flakes of tobacco in the blanket on the bed.
Tower One's 6th floor is kid central, with a pool, two Jacuzzis, a playground, tennis court, small putting green, barbecue grills, snack bar, and ample seating everywhere. But overall the hotel's amenities don't measure up with those at the Marriott Waikiki a block away.
- Pool consistently packed, Astroturf around it always soggy; no shade and no umbrellas.
- Two Jacuzzis on pool deck, one that's hot, another that's so hot I burned my hand.
- Tennis court in good condition, and nearby snack bar rents balls and rackets
- Coin-operated barbecue grills on 6th-floor deck cost $2 an hour.
- No Wi-Fi. Wired Internet in room is free.
- No business center, just computers in lobby café ($2.50 for 15 minutes, $8 an hour (or buy a coffee to get a free log-in.)
- Laundry machines on floors 7 and up, but arrive early to snag one; no detergent provided
The hotel is packed with kid-friendly amenities, but it falls short of the beachfront Marriott a block away.
The 535-square-foot rooms, all with full kitchens and most with pullout couches, have the potential to be good for families. However, the quality and cleanliness just don't measure up to the beachfront Marriott Waikiki a block away, where you'll also get better service and considerably better amenities.
- Pool, playground, two Jacuzzis, snack bar, and tennis court on 6th floor, but expect crowds.
- Cribs are free; rollaways are $30 per night.
- Kids 12 and under receive a beach bucket filled with sunglasses, crayons, and a coloring book.
- The front desk lends out a small selection of well-used games, cards, and children's books.
Public areas may be clean, but the rooms aren't.
Though other guests said that their rooms were clean, mine wasn't.
- Crumbs in the knife drawer, grime at the base of the tub, specks of dirt around the toilet, and small flakes of what appeared to be tobacco in the blanket.
- Faded, worn, and stained carpet in the living room and bedroom
- Equally worn sofa bed and chair
- Public areas like the lobby are better maintained: no visible problems at the pool, playground or tennis court.
Banyan Breeze, a small café on the ground floor, serves light snacks ($4.50 for a slice of apple pie), and guests can pick groceries from the small minimart a few doors down. That's it for food on the property.
- Fully equipped kitchens have six settings of dishes and silverware. The cookware includes two pots (one large, one small), one frying pan, and an assortment of basic utensils.
- Food Pantry, a grocery store, is about five blocks, or five to 10 minutes on foot, from the hotel.
- The nearest restaurants are in the Marriott Waikiki, one block away. Those include Arancino de Mare, an Italian restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, and sushi restaurant Sansei.
- Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen, Senor Frog's, and similar chain restaurants, all on Kalakaua Avenue, are a 10- to 15-minute walk from the hotel.
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Address201 Ohua Ave, Honolulu, Hawaii 96815-3653, United States
Also Known As
- Resortquest Waikiki Banyan
- Resort Quest Waikiki Banyan
- Waikiki Banyan
- Waikiki Banyan Hotel
- One Bedroom One Bath Deluxe Mountain View Suite
- One Bedroom One Bath Deluxe Ocean View Suite
- One Bedroom One Bath Standard Suite
- One Bedroom One Bath Superior City View Suite