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- Booking Hawaii: Part 1 – Flights for 4 to Honolulu
- Booking Hawaii: Part 2 – Using Citi ThankYou Points for Award Flights on Delta and United
- Booking Hawaii: Part 3 – Hilton Hawaiian Village and Tending Reservations
After months of anticipation, the day finally came to travel to Hawaii. I was a Nervous Nelly because of a line of thunderstorms moving through Dallas (where I was) and onward to Memphis (where the fam was).
Thoughts of missed connections, rebookings, and sitting in an airport instead of in Hawaii came to mind. But thankfully, it all came together without a hitch.
I flew over with my Mom, stepdad, and Jay. And my little brother met us at HNL.
We took an Uber to the Hilton Hawaiian Village, about ~20 minutes away. Really, couldn’t have gone more smoothly.
In This Post
Arrival and check-in
Whoa. Prepare thyself. The Hilton Hawaiian Village is no ordinary hotel. It’s a compound.
With 3,000+ rooms, thousands of employees, dozens of shops, restaurants, and bars, and 5 towers spread across 22 acres, it’s legit a village.
Hilton must looove this property, because the occupancy rates here are extremely low.
The check-in area has multiple lines, and is set next to the main service road going through the village.
There are lines for:
- Regular check-in
- Hilton HHonors members
- Digital check-in
The regular check-in line was around 50 deep (!), but the Hilton desk only had about 10 people. I’d already checked-in via the Hilton app and was given a room in Diamond Head Tower, but wanted to see if we could get an upgrade to the Ali’i Tower or Rainbow Tower. After a few minutes, I was up.
The desk agent was very friendly and thorough – impressive given the volume here.
I’d originally booked the cheapest resort view room. But both me and my mom were upgraded to an Ocean View room in Rainbow Tower. I paid for my mom’s 4 nights with Citi Prestige. And my 5 nights were booked with Hilton points (with the 5th night free).
Considering the upgraded rooms often go for ~$400 a night, that’s a great deal. And it means my Hilton points were worth a cent each, which is a good rate.
They also gave us 2 dining credits because I booked as a Hilton Diamond elite member. Both rooms got $20 a day to spend at certain restaurants on-site. You can use them all in one go or spread them across a few days.
My mom got $80 to spend and I got $100. This was instead of getting free breakfast (which I would’ve preferred), but definitely better than nothing. This was also a value-add to the Hilton points booking.
All-in-all, an excellent check-in experience. Hilton really took care of us with the upgrade to Ocean View rooms, dining credit, and quick service.
- Link: Rainbow Tower
I liked being in Rainbow Tower. It’s the one nearest the ocean, and most rooms have spectacular views.
I got room 1524, and my mom got room 2010. Both rooms faced west – with excellent views of the sunset in the evening.
The room was bright, clean, and cozy. Not too big, but not tiny either.
The double beds were a bit on the small side, but nothing unmanageable.
The closet was nicely sized, and there was a fridge to store our drinks and keep them cool.
And the view from the balcony…
Incredible. I spent many moments out there, absorbing the views and feeling the ocean.
I asked my bro what he thought of the view. This was his reaction:
The bathroom was also well-stocked with plenty of towels and bath products.
Each day, the cleaning staff came ’round and stocked us up on everything, replaced the towels, and refreshed the beds.
Like any popular resort, the room had its battle scars: chipped paint, scuffs on the door frames, stains beat into the carpet. That’s not a criticism, so much as a fact of life at places like these. I do think they did a good job of keeping the rooms updated.
Last time, I stayed at the Ali’i Tower. I honestly don’t have a preference between Rainbow or Ali’i. I liked being close to the beach and loved the view from Rainbow Tower.
I suppose the major plus with Ali’i is the rooms are a bit more modern (think more dark wood and white and not beachy-themed colors) and there’s a private pool only accessible to peeps staying there.
But all else being equal, I loved the room and Rainbow Tower this time: clean, quiet, fast wifi, comfy beds, and very close to everything that makes the resort a destination.
What HHV is and what it isn’t
When you stay at a place like Hilton Hawaiian Village, you have to know going into it to expect:
- Lots of crowds
- Long lines
- People everywhere
- Kids everywhere
- Noisy in the common areas
- Long wait for elevators at times
In short, it can be a circus. This isn’t some quaint hotel with a lazy hammock tied around two palm trees with an ocean breeze.
It’s is a full-on resort, and you should expect people to be crawling through every square inch of the place at all times. That’s at its peak during the sunny midday.
All that to say, we had no trouble getting 5 beach chairs IN A ROW, dipping in the pool, getting sat at the restaurants, or getting around in general. In fact, we found ourselves with patches of complete peacefulness around the lagoon and occasionally around the pools.
We also had the screaming babies, pushy people in the elevators, and general tourist malaise – you know what I’m talkin’ about. But taken for what it is, there’s no reason you can’t have a perfectly lovely time here – relaxing, even!
After my last visit there in 2013, I went back again. And after a second go-round, you know what?, I’d go back again… in a few more years.
It’s set up to where you don’t have to leave the premises.
If you want to fly to Honolulu, take a cab in, and plant yourself next to a pool for a few days, it’s totally possible to have that experience. And, if you want to see more of Honolulu, it’s so centrally located that you won’t have trouble doing that, either.
A bit more on the property
We ate at The Tropics and Bali restaurants with our dining credits. And took advantage of the various happy hours throughout the resort.
Grabbed pizza and bought a few trinkets.
Sampled the Super Pool, Tapa Pool, Paradise pool, the lagoon, and of course the beautiful Pacific Ocean.
Even attended the Waikiki Starlight Luau. I could’ve skipped it, but mama wanted to do it, so… can’t say no to mama!
We ate breakfast off-site every day at these places:
All were great in their own way. We took Lyft everywhere because Uber had surge pricing ALL THE TIME. But each time, we were picked up at the check-in area. And the fares were reasonable – about $8 or $9 to most places in town.
And after the first $12 Mai Thai at the Super Pool, we wised up, headed to the ABC Store on-site, bought rum, mixer, and some plastic cups and loaded up with ice from the ice machines and called it a day. Much more economical than paying for each drink.
This is, of course, discouraged, but no one checked and we didn’t hear anything about it. We weren’t exactly flashing it around, either.
There is plenty to do within the resort itself. Try each pool, visit the happy hours, and believe it or not, some of the souvenirs were well-priced. I also love the stretch of Waikiki Beach in front of the property.
I gotta say, Hilton has treated me very well this year as a Diamond elite member.
And even though it’s a little schmaltzy, I think the Hilton Hawaiian Village is a special resort – there’s just nothing else quite like it.
I’ve been to other beach resorts, but none are as well-rounded, affordable, and easy to reach as this one.
My goal was to get to the pool, sip a drink, and unwind for 5 whole days. During that time, I thought of nothing. Nothing! And it was perfect.
Of course, we spent a little time dealing with the crowds and the physical experience of getting around the huge grounds. But all-in-all, it was exactly what I had in mind – but you should be aware of what you’re getting into here.
I’d say if you can find a cheap room (~$200 a night or less), cheap flights, or if you have points (see Part 1 and Part 2 of my Booking Hawaii series) – and you want a dead cheap vacation to Hawaii – it’s hard to top this.
Honolulu is also a great base for island-hopping to see more of Hawaii – and you can get to other parts of Polynesia and even Asia from here.
It’s an easy jaunt from the West Coast, a longer one from other locales, but after visiting the Caribbean for the first time this year, I gotta say: I like Hawaii better.
Yes, I’ll go again in a few more years. And next time I want to revisit Maui and see Kauai for the first time.
Have you stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village or another hotel in Honolulu? How does your experience compare?
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