This luxury time-share tower on the edge of Waikiki's sprawling Hilton Hawaiian Village is a quiet pocket of this frenetic resort.
The all-suite Grand Waikikian tower at the 3,000-room Hilton Hawaiian Village, strives to give guests the best of two worlds: quiet, luxurious condo living close by a full-service resort with restaurtants, pools, a luau, and fireworks. From the Hawaiian artifact-filled lobby to the friendly staff handing out leis at check-in to the modern rooms with soaking tubs and high-end kitchens, the hotel seems worlds away from the chaotic Hilton Hawaiin Village, even if it's only steps away.
While about half the rooms in the tower are used by time-share owners -- about 60 percent of whom are Japanese -- Hilton rents the rest to hotel guests. With the wider amenities and the beach of the Hilton just steps away and large units, the property is best suited to families who will make use of the full kitchens, washer/dryers, and apartment-style setups. Couples could have a quiet, luxurious time in a one-bedroom suite, but the minute they hit the soaring, Hawaiian artifact-filled lobby or take to the grounds, they'll need to watch for darting children. And nightlife options are minimal: The resort is virtually dead by 11 p.m. -- the popular luau runs from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. -- and because the property is on the western edge of Waikiki, most nightlife is about a 10-minute cab ride away. If nightlife is important, try the Outrigger Regency Beachwalk instead.
Service is friendly and helpful, but must be sought out. An army of concierges assist guests.
The Grand Waikikian aims to combine the pampering services of a luxury hotel (a parking valet and bellhop desk, leis at check-in) with the hands-off privacy of a condominium (no turndown service, and no housekeeping number on the in-room phones.) Hotel guests do receive daily housekeeping service, but in general service needs to be sought out -- and isn't flawless. For instance, when housekeeping didn't replace the laundry detergent packet after I used it, I tried calling the front desk at 11 p.m. for more; no one had answered after 15 rings.
4 p.m. check-in is later than most Waikiki hotels, and 10 a.m. checkout is unusually early.
Room service available from daily
Lobby concierge desk arranges tours and activities, books tee times on island golf courses, and makes restaurant reservations.
Drink service available at the Super Pool and Paradise Pool (but not on the beach, due to local law). But with the pools so crowded, servers can be scarce.
On the quiet edge of Waikiki, a 20-minute walk from the heart of the action
The Grand Waikikian is located just off busy Ala Moana Boulevard near the Waikiki Marina. The tower is on the Western edge of the sprawling Hilton Hawaiian Village complex, adjacent to the Lagoon Tower and the Rainbow Bazaar shops. The Ilikai Hotel is across the street. The tower is a five-minute walk from Hilton's man-made lagoon.
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 Hilton Hawaiian Village and Grand Waikikian sit at the edge of a half-mile stretch of Waikiki's beautiful turquoise beach known as Fort DeRussy. Protected by a coral reef, this section is wider and calmer than the main beach, known as Queen's Beach. But the ocean bottom is a bit rocky, so tread gingerly. Unlike Queen's Beach, Hilton's beach tends to have more room for guests to spread out.
The 38-story, 331-room Grand Waikikian has the newest and arguably spiffiest condos in Waikiki. All the rooms are one- or two-bedroom suites with balconies, kitchens, dining and living areas, flat-screen TVs, free WiFi, and soaking tubs in the bathroom. One bedroom suites range from 719 to 839 square feet, two bedrooms from 1,068 to 1,209 square feet. And the beds -- either one king or two doubles in each bedroom -- are high end: Pillow-top mattresses, high-thread-count sheets, and six pillows make for luxurious slumbering.
Décor is elegantly tropical and cheerful. Though suites are luxurious and comfortable, a few flaws prevented a perfect stay.
Views vary widely; from a two-bedroom suite on the 32nd floor, it's spectacular, but the view from my one-bedroom suite on the 9th floor was blocked by the Hilton's neighboring Lagoon Tower.
Guests at the Grand Waikikian have access to all of the amenities at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, including the fitness center and spa. They also get exclusive use of the tower's 8th-floor hospitality lounge, which has couches, flat-screen TVs aplenty, computers with free Wi-Fi, and showers. The tower's concierge staff will arrange golf outings to any course on the island, though guests most frequently play at the Hawaii Prince course because it runs a free shuttle that stops at the hotel twice a day. Equipment rentals are available.
The Mandara Spa, located next to the fitness center, offers a premium Zen experience. It has 25 wet and dry treatment rooms, a full-service salon, and single-sex locker rooms with sauna, steam room, and Jacuzzi. There is a daily fee for resort guests.
The do-it-yourself business center is located in the Diamond Head Tower and offers copy and fax machines.
Post office on the premises
Almost 100 shops at the Tapa Tower Mall
Self-parking in the resort's garage costs and valet parking are both charged.
Hertz car rental counter on the ground floor of the Tapa Tower. Vehicles can be picked up at the hotel.
The health clinic is affiliated with Honolulu's Queen's Medical Center and accepts many insurance plans.
The resort does plenty to entertain guests -- from daily activities to evening musical entertainment, Friday night fireworks, and the resort's legendary Starlight Luau.
The Grand Waikikian hosts free activities like hula dancing, lei making, and bingo from Monday to Friday. (Book early: I tried to sign up for a lei-making session three days in advance, but it had already reached its 15-person capacity.) The neighboring Hilton Hawaiian Village, meanwhile, has much more going on. The most notable attraction is the Starlight Luau, which packs in close to 500 hotel guests and others five nights a week, Sunday through Thursday. This popular luau is a fine choice for first-timers, and one of the few luaus in Waikiki proper, but the locale -- the roof of the Hilton's large conference center -- will disappoint those looking for a more classic beachside experience.
A fantastic option for families: Every suite can comfortably sleep four or more; every unit has a full kitchen, at least two flat-screen TVs, a DVD player, and Bosch washers and dryers; and the resort has tons of activities and amenities that will keep kids busy and happy.
A 2,000-square-foot kids' club called Camp Penguin opened in September 2010 and offers full-and-half-day programs. With parental permission, children can leave the resort and participate on excursions to the zoo and museums in and around Honolulu. Those staying on the grounds participate in activities including Hawaiian crafts, seashell hunts, sandcastle building, swimming, and fishing.
Daily cultural activities like lei making, hula dancing, and ukulele lessons
All restaurants have a wide selection of kid-friendly foods and a separate menu. Room service has a kids' menu.
Cribs are available free of charge; no rollaway beds, but suites have sleeper sofas
Just opened in December 2008 and still sparkling clean
With its carved wood friezes and Hawaiian artifacts, the airy lobby almost feels like a museum gallery. Hallways are clean and free of housekeeping carts. I noticed a few minor scuffs on the wall of my living room, but otherwise my suite was spotless. And the grounds of the Hilton Hawaiian Village are generally spotless.
The 20 restaurants and bars in the Village range from excellent to barely edible.
The Grand Waikikian does not have its own restaurant, but room service is available and guests are just a five-minute walk from the nearly 20 bars and restaurants at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, where options range from fine dining with a view at Bali by the Sea and the theatricality of Benihana to quick sushi, noodles, and deli at the Rainbow Bazaar. (Grand Waikikian guests can charge meals to their rooms at all of these places.)