As part of our Spring Break Hawaiian Adventure we stayed one night at the massive Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort about 20 miles north of the Kona Airport on the big island of Hawaii. We had spent the previous nine nights at a rented condominium nearby, which is our preferred accommodation for an extended stay, but we decided to check out the Hilton for our final night in Hawaii. Some family members had visited the resort a few years earlier and had raved about the pools and facilities and since a night at the Hilton cost approximately the same as the condo we thought we should give it a try.
Overall, we loved the resort. It was enormous and absolutely beautiful with stunning views of the ocean and fine art displayed everywhere. The kids had a blast in the many pools and we’re glad we decided to give it a try. But we were also glad we had spent the majority of the vacation at the condo. Here’s why:
1) The Pools and other Facilities
The Hilton Waikoloa Village had an amazing pool complex with multiple water slides, a grotto like area with waterslides and hidden waterfalls, a zero entry sand bottom pool, a sort of mini lazy river with multi level pools connected by water slides and a protected inlet from the sea with a groomed sand beach. There is also an adults only pool inside the courtyard of one of the larger hotel buildings, a canal running the length of the resort with tropical fish darting around and small boats you can ride, a dolphin enclosure where you have to pay for a dolphin interaction but you can view them for free, tropical gardens everywhere and multiple displays of beautiful Asian art. It’s every bit as huge as it sounds. But don’t worry about getting tired while going from one end of the resort to the other because you can just hop on the monorail. Yes, you read that right, the resort is so huge it has it’s own freakin’ monorail running from one end to the other.
2) The Views
The hotel’s location is amazing. The entrance is pretty bland, just a squat white building at the top of a hill, but once you go inside the resort spreads out down the hill towards the ocean with the water providing the backdrop to every building in the resort. Even though it was quite busy and chaotic at times, the proximity to the ocean provided a sort of calmness to the scene. A lot of work and been put into providing aesthetically pleasing sight lines in every direction and I just wanted to take pictures everywhere I went while I was there.
3) The Rooms
We managed to resist the pressure to pay for an upgrade when we checked in (more on that later) which meant we were placed in the cheapest part of the resort, at the far back of one of the oldest buildings. And I have to say that it was still a very nice room. For one thing it was very large for a standard two queen room. The room had plenty of space for a small couch and the bathroom was a generous size as well. There was even a large walk in closet that would have easily fit a portable crib if we needed it. Even though we still would rather not share a single room when we travel, we found we had plenty of space to spread out. The fixtures and furnishings were a bit tired and dated, but everything was clean and well maintained.
We booked our night well in advance for the AAA rate, which came to $180 for the standard two queen room. To that they add the mandatory resort fee ($25) plus parking ($18) and with tax the total came to just over $250 for one night. I thought it was a pretty good deal for what we got. But I noticed the nickle and diming and upselling as soon as we got there. I was cheerfully informed at check in that an oceanview room much closer to the main pool was available for only $60 more per night. When I asked if the room we booked was ready yet I was told that an oceanview room in the same building as ours was available immediately for only $30 more. On the third attempt I was finally told that yes, the room we booked was actually available now too. As I said earlier, the basic room was more than adequate. The shops seem to take the same pricing philosophy you find at Disneyland; if everything there is about double the price you’d find outside the bubble, people soon get used to it and stop noticing that six dollars is a ridiculous price for a single scoop of ice cream or a glass of coke at the poolside bar.
I guess I can’t really fault them for making money. If someone wants to pay $20 for an 8 by 10 of their kids with a parrot then why shouldn’t the hotel charge that? And those of us who are cheap can watch our kids enjoying the parrots while the photographer snaps away, then thank them and chuck the photo card in the bin as we walk away. In a way, I suppose, all the extra charges can be beneficial since they can sell their rooms for $180 a night knowing that many guests will be spending way more than that every day on $10 drinks, $45 steaks, and many other trinkets and treats. But I really did wish there was some way to at least get a burger for under $20 on the property. At least there was a small fridge in the room so we were able to bring all the leftover food from the condo and continue to eat on the cheap while we were there.
2) The Size
All those facilities at the resort did have a down side. The place was huge to the point of being overwhelming at times. If you were at the pool on one side of the resort and remembered that you had forgotten something in your room at the other end, you might as well give up on it. There was the monorail, which could cut down on the mileage, but it wasn’t much faster than walking speed and by the time you waited for it, got on and arrived at your destination you might as well have walked. And there’s no avoiding the fact that you’re sharing the resort with thousands of others.The crowds did seem to spread out nicely throughout the resort in most areas but there was a bit of congestion here and there. It’s definitely not a place to go for peace and quiet.
Overall, it’s a fun place for a family vacation. I’d definitely go again for a few days, although I think the “fun in the sun” vibe would begin to wear on me fairly quickly. It would be ideal for a family with active teenagers who could be set loose to enjoy the pools and water sports while the parents did their own thing. Some day we may do exactly that!