During our recent stay in Hawaii we tested out 4 hotels in Waikiki. Each hotel was very different from each other going for a different style of customer. Some have views, other are all about being in the centre of things while others have amazing food and heritage. We test entry level rooms, suites and rooms with a view. Take a peek inside The Laylow, Autograph Collection, Hilton Hawaiian Village, Halepuna Waikiki by Halekulani and the ‘Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach!
The Laylow, Autograph Collection
The Laylow is part of the Marriott chain’s Autograph collection with a distinct tropical theme that touches everything from the lobby with the hula girl figurines behind the reception desk to the decor inside the rooms. It’s described as “Tropical Mid Century”. We are staying in a deluxe room, one of the entry level rooms that is 328 sq ft or 30 square metres. All rooms come with a welcome basket with two pairs of signature “rubbah slippahs” aka thongs, two drink bottles, a chocolate bar, a rubber duckie and Maui onion potato chips.
There’s a king bed and a large day bed in the hotel’s theme colours of peach and blue and Hawaiian touches like pineapple decorations, ukelele and surf books. There’s also a small lanai or balcony (50sqft/5sqm) with a small table and chairs. For a better view you want to pick one of the two highest floors. Internet is fast and free and doesn’t require a login.
There is a coffee shop and restaurant/bar on the main lobby level but we never went there because every time we did they weren’t open for what we wanted (the bar opens strictly at 5pm, coffee wasn’t available after the morning). However the hotel does offer complimentary shave ice at the pool between 1-2pm every day which is a nice touch. The guests skew younger and it seems like a hotel that has parties in the lobby (but the noise doesn’t travel up to the rooms).
The location of The Laylow on Kuhio Avenue is one of the best features as it is quick walk to a lot of shops and restaurants. It is the only hotel that we stayed at without a water view and because of that the rooms tend to be a bit more reasonably priced but the prices here fluctuate a lot. There are also some eateries attached to the hotel including Paia Fish Market, a popular place for fish tacos, burgers and “fresh catch” plates. The original Paia fish market was opened in 1989 in the sleepy fishing village of Paia.
The fish tacos use grilled fish, not deep fried battered fish so they’re a bit healthier. Order it as a meal and you’ll get two fish tacos, fries or rice and potatoes in a massive plate full of food. The herby potatoes are excellent, the rice tasty but the coleslaw is a bit bland and could use some onion or piquancy to it.
Complimentary shave ice
Additional charges: Resort fee $35 USD a night, Valet parking $50 USD a night. Resort fees are often charged in Hawaii and usually charged to cover amenities like wifi and gym access, but are not optional so they are added to room costs. Government taxes also add on 17.962% on top of the room rate.
Pros: located right in the centre of Waikiki, free shave ice and very Instagrammable.
Cons: no coffee machine or kettle, no water view. Bars and coffee shop have set and odd hours. Rooms are a bit snug. I lost my favourite pink dress in the room and it wasn’t turned into lost and found.
Hilton Hawaiian Village
The Hilton Hawaiian Village is one of the multiple Hilton properties on O’ahu but this one is made up of multiple towers set across 22 acres of wide beachfront. There are five towers in total: the Rainbow, Ali’i (the most exclusive) on the beachfront or the Tapa, Kalia or Diamond Head towers also have water views but aren’t beachfront located. As we booked quite last minute we stayed in a Junior Suite in the Tapa tower for a bit of extra space as I need space to work out in the mornings.
Our corner suite is on the 25th floor of the Tapa Tower. It has been renovated and it is approximately 488 sq. ft or 45 square metres with two queen beds. There is a modular sofa, large flatscreen tv and a four seater table and chairs. The lanai or balcony looks out to views of the Pacific Ocean and Waikiki. There is also a wet bar with coffee machine, sink and fridge.
The bathroom has two rooms to it, first a large sink and then another sink and bath tub shower combo. We also have self parking included which makes it easier to come in and out whenever you want. The resort is set at the western end of Waikiki Beach and the 90 or so shops that make up the village are designed so that you don’t have to leave the village and go into Waikiki if you want. It is very popular with families and the hotel grounds are pretty.
One evening we head downstairs to the Bali Steak and Seafood restauant at the mezzanine level of the rainbow tower right on the beach. The restaurant has a view of the beach outside and we are eating at 5:30pm which gives us a lovely view of the sunset outside (there is netting to prevent birds flying in so you do want to go outside for photos). Our server is wonderful and friendly.
Have you heard of the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa? That long word is the traditional Hawaiian name for the state fish as well as being a cocktail on the menu here. This is made with Bombay Dry, Fresh Pineapple, Lemon, Orgeat, Peychaud’s Bitters and is a fruity cocktail without being too sweet.
1/2 Dozen Goosepoint Oysters $35.00USD
We share half a dozen Goose Point oysters. I’ve never quite had oysters this thick and meaty before. They’re about four times the size of a Sydney Rock that slip down the throat; these necessitate a bit of chewing. They are served with a horseradish and tomato cocktail sauce and lemon wedges.
Seared Scallops $35.00USD
We also share the seared scallops that are paired with some cauliflower puree and harissa.
32 Oz. Cowboy Ribeye $160.00USD
It’s a big investment to go for a single dish as your main because we usually like to hedge our bets but we were convinced to try the Cowboy Ribeye which is designer as dinner for two. It’s an enormous 32oz or 900g grass fed ribeye on the bone from Nebraska topped with a generous amount of roasted garlic cloves and shallots. It’s perfectly cooked medium rare as ordered and wonderfully tender and juicy. We tried two sauces, the Maui onion demi glace and the bearnaise although the bernaise only makes this luscious steak richer.
Sauteed Mushroom Medley $18.00USD
The steaks are the only items that don’t come with vegetables so we order a couple of sides. The sauteed mushroom medley has 4 types of mushrooms: alii Mushrooms, shimeji, cremini and button mushrooms.
Smashed Potato $15.00USD
They described the potatoes as boiled, smashed and then deep fried and I think I was expecting them to be much crispier or crunchier than they were. They have the texture of a boiled potato that has a little bit of crunch. They are served with makrut lime dust and gremolata.
Mango Cheesecake $17.00USD
There are three desserts on the menu and since there are four of us we try all three. My favourite is the mango cheesecake whcih is a baked cheesecake topped with fresh mango lime compote, kiwi fruit sauce and vanilla whipped cream.
Waialua Triple Chocolate Crunch Cake $17.00USD
The triple chocolate crunch cake wasn’t quite what I was envisaging but it’s a nice chocolate mousse cake. I didn’t quite get much crunch in it but it’s a lightly textured cake so not too heavy after a steak meal.
Lilikoi Crème Brulée $16.00USD
Mr NQN loves the lilikoi or passion fruit creme brulee with a thin toffee crust and served with buttery house baked tropical fruit shortbread with pieces of mango and pineapple studded through it.
Additional charges: Resort fee $40 USD a night, Valet parking $70.16USD a night or self parking $59.69USD a night. Resort fees are often charged in Hawaii and usually charged to cover amenities like wifi and gym access, but are not optional so they are added to room costs. Government taxes also add on 17.962% on top of the room rate.
Pros: As the name suggests it has a village atmosphere so good for kids and families. Some guests don’t tend to leave the village. 5 different towers-you can choose the tower according to how much of a view you want. You can also check in digitally if you are a Hilton Honours member (free to join) and that saves time queuing during busy periods.
Cons: located a bit further away from the centre of Waikiki. Self parking is $59USD a night. Fairly sparsely decorated room and sheets could have been a bit smoother.
See previous review of the Hilton Hawaiian Village’s Rainbow Tower
Halepuna Waikiki by Halekulani
The Halepuna is the new baby sister to the legendary Halekulani, Waikiki. It was designed as a more affordable alternative to the Halekulani where guests get a taste of the Halekulani’s famous service and food offering. Halepuna is located across the road from Halekulani and guests can charge back all of their services taken there back to their rooms. The Halepuna seemed to be very COVID conscious with all staff wearing masks and lots of sanitizing in the rooms.
The rooms themselves are a little snug but they make up for this with a lot of thoughtful tech touches like easy blinds, easy lights and quality fittings. The bed is also extremely comfortable with noticeably smooth sheets. We spent most of the time at the Halekulani eating at their restaurants.
Halekulani’s famous mai tai
A must visit during anyone’s stay on O’ahu is their waterfront bar House Without a Key during sunset. Each evening there is traditional Hawaiian music and hula dancers and you can sip the Halekulani’s version of a Mai Tai or a coconut cake martini based on their famous coconut chiffon cake (also a must order). Then make your way to Orchids their Italian restaurant that serves up Italian dishes with Hawaiian ingredients by chef Christian Testa. Throw a dart anywhere on the menu and you’ll get a hit – the steak is exceptional as is the risotto with foie gras. And whatever you do, finish with a slice of that incredibly light coconut chiffon cake!
Halekulani’s famous coconut chiffon cake
The Halepuna opened up just before COVID-19 and a lot of the eateries within the Halepuna have not reopened. A more comprehensive review of Halepuna Waikiki is coming up soon.
Additional charges: Resort fee $0 USD a night (yes no resort fee!), Valet or self parking $50USD a night. Resort fees are often charged in Hawaii and usually charged to cover amenities like wifi and gym access, but are not optional so they are added to room costs. Government taxes also add on 17.962% on top of the room rate.
Pros: Halepuna is related to Halekulani so all services and restaurants can be charged back to your room. Great service and quiet, calm atmosphere. Excellent food. Seemed to be very COVID conscious. No resort fee.
Cons: room are a little on the snug side and some with obstructed water views.
‘Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach
View from the beachside tower
The Alohilani is located at the eastern end of the main Waikiki strip but still in amongst all of the action. There are two towers to choose from: the seascape tower has views of Diamond Head while the beachside tower has direct water views and is located on the beach promenade which makes it more sought after with a higher tariff. The newly renovated rooms are decked out in a modern, white plantation style. This resort tended to have a lot of couples rather than families. There were a few issues checking in and we had to change rooms a few times as the rooms weren’t cleaned which took around 2 hours to settle.
There are also plenty of eateries contained within the Alohilani like Morimoto Asia, Momosan and food trucks like Piccola Onda and Double Fat Ice Cream as well as Swell bar and the longboard club lounge where you can get breakfast, dinner and drinks daily. Access to the Longboard club is $155USD per room per night and we did see people eating their dinners there (chef William makes a delicious pink pasta). The Spa U’ilani was absolutely wonderful and I definitely recommend getting a treatment there.
For a more comprehensive review of the ‘Alohilani please see my story here.
Additional charges: Resort fee $48 USD a night, Valet parking $55 USD a night or self parking $48 a night. Resort fees are often charged in Hawaii and usually charged to cover amenities like wifi and gym access, but are not optional so they are added to room costs. Government taxes also add on 17.962% on top of the room rate.
Pros: beachfront rooms has amazing water views. Good restaurants and coffee nearby. Resort fee includes up to three rental including Surfboards, Paddleboards, Beach Chairs. Free activities like pool deck yoga, pilates, lei making, hula lessons and Hawaiian story time. Spa is wonderful.
Cons: reception and check in or queries can be a bit slow. This hotel seemed the most affected by staff shortages.
Longboard club lounge
So tell me Dear Reader, what do you look for in a hotel? Which hotel would you pick to stay at of the four and why?
NQN was a guest of Hawaii Tourism Oceania and flew to Hawaii as a guest of Hawaiian Airlines but all opinions remain her own.
Hawaiian Airlines service from Australia – www.HawaiianAirlines.com.au