Spring Break 2022 led us into paradise to the famed sands of Waikiki. It had been quite a few years since I had walked along that stretch of Honolulu, and the first time for both of my boys to visit Oahu. Needless to say, I fell in love with Waikiki all over again, just as I had the first time I visited many, many years ago and my kids were thoroughly impressed.
When planning this trip, I already had a good idea I wanted to stay at the Hilton Hawaiian Village (HHW). I knew it would be just me and the boys, since their Dad wasn’t joining us due to work obligations. Some of the main factors that made it easy for me to make this decision are the location and amenities available at this property. As far as location, it’s super convenient and easy to get in and out of the resort area by foot or by car.
HHW sits ‘at the end’ of Waikiki, so you’re far enough away from the traffic along Kalakaua, but still close enough to walk to it. On the other side of the resort, it’s less than a mile (and an easy walk) to swanky Ala Moana Mall. And, for this getaway I didn’t want to rent a car and drive, or worry about parking, plus knowing it was still close to many shops, restaurants and points of interest, made it an easy decision.
As far as amenities, it is a resort village in every sense of the term. There are numerous places to eat, grab snacks, dine in or take out, to satisfy every appetite. I will admit, I am a fan of hotels/resorts with Starbucks on property, and at HHW, there are 2. That being said, the lines are LONG in the morning and the prices are about double what you would expect on the mainland, but for my family’s taste, it’s worth the wait. Another big draw for us is the numerous pool areas – one with water slides (Paradise Pool), a lagoon perfect for ‘controlled’ recreation and the resort also sits right on the beach. Plus, since we had all three options right there, we could easily spend time at each everyday, to satisfy all requests! We didn’t even get to spend time at all the pools on property. Aside from what I just mentioned, the resort offers free and fee activities on property as well, like morning Yoga, Hula Lessons, Aerobics, etc… There are also several shops including ABC Stores and Louis Vuitton, to pick up both high and low end souvenirs too.
Now as far as our favorites at the HHW, my kids absolutely loved the lagoon. It’s salt-water and very calm, so perfect for all ages. We rented paddle boards, and my boys (along with the rest of the kids) were all about swimming and hunting down the small fish, also in the lagoon. They literally spent hours doing this and playing in the sand.
The lagoon isn’t very shady, but they do have umbrellas and chairs you can rent, which may be a good idea because finding (free) chairs in the pool areas can be tough when it gets crowded, plus the lagoon is situated very close to the Paradise Pool, so it’s easy to go between both, plus Dairy Queen and the “adult” beverage area “bar” are short, quick walks too.
One of the things I wished I had discovered sooner is the garlic shrimp at “Blue Water Shrimp & Seafood,” located in the HHW bazaar area. The shrimp was out of this world good, and I thought the potato salad and steamed rice (yes, I was impressed by the rice) were amazing too! There are places to sit, but it’s more of a counter service restaurant, so I lucked out by calling in my order and easily picking it up in 15 minutes rather than waiting in a long line.
The Tapa Grill next to the Tapa Pool is also another fun spot. This pool stays open into the evening hours and offers more shade from the sun, so this would be our wind down spot after the pool/beach/lagoon, when the boys weren’t ready to call it a night. The Tapa Grill offers smashed burgers, pizza, fries, etc…. and it was easy enough to order and bring the grub poolside. The Tapa Grill also has live music in the evenings, which makes it a very cool hang out and lounge spot.
Outside of the HHW, we didn’t venture out too far. We did walk along Kalakaua and check out the main “strip.” We checked out the new Kuhio Food Hall at the now (high-end) International Market Place, a “slice” of pizza at Aloha Pizzeria was literally 1/4 of a pizza, very cheesy and very yummy. We had some satisfying shave ice from Island Vintage Shave Ice, a shave ice kiosk with fresh fruit. Our first night we were treated to dinenr at Rainbow Drive-In by a friend how lives on the island, they’re known for their plate lunches. Then, for ramen we ventured to Ramen Nakamura, which is a small restaurant where everyone eats at thecounter, my kids gave it two thumbs up! If you head to the mall, the food court at Ala Moana Mall was another favorite, with food and dessert for every taste! One of us had Chinese food, another went for fried chicken, I did Korean BBQ and then for dessert one of my boys opted for rainbow shave ice, while the other had soft serve topped with a nutella-filled taiyaki from Somi Somi.
The one tourist ‘excursion” we did take on was a hike to the top of Diamond Head. This attraction is very close to Waikiki and costs $5 per hiker. We took a ride share to the mountain and did the hike up and back with some friends, then treated ourselves to pineapple whip and shave ice from the food trucks parked at the bottom. It was hot, it was sweaty…but the views were completely worth it.
We followed the hike up by playing in the waves behind the Royal Hawaiian Hotel using boogie board we inherited from a family who left and didn’t want to take the boards with them! The aren’t many waves along the beach at HHW, so it was nice to have a little more “action” for the kids who couldn’t get enough of the ocean. Also, where we sat, near the pink and white umbrellas, was a short walk to the beach entrance to Duke’s, so easy to order food and bring it to the beach.
Many friends and family have asked me for tips for traveling to Oahu and staying at HHW, so here’s what I got:
-We booked a travel package through Costco – Air, Hotel and Transfers. Price was pretty good and included $100 credit on our hotel room for the stay. The shuttle to hotel from HNL was convenient, although you need to pack some patience because they may shuttle a larger group with you, everyone else who booked using Costco, so it’s not an immediate ride once you land. However, the Costco bookings do include a lei greeting.
– If you are a Hilton Honors member, they have separate lines at check in, which may move you through the process faster, although it still needs some work. Also, Silver level (and higher) members are also entitled to complimentary bottles of water at HHW through the concierge desk.
– Wristbands are required to use pools and amenities at HHW. However, these aren’t the kind that you need to wear the entire duration of your stay. You can request more and replace the paper ones given at check-in. My tip is to ask the mail desk clerk around the corner for check-in to avoid waiting in another line.
– Pool towels are provided at HHW, but lines can be very long in the morning and you must have a towel card when you are getting fresh towels or changing them out, so if possible, grab fresh towels the night before and that way you already have fresh ones ready to go in the morning.
– For water play, you may want to have floats, sand toys, boogie boards, etc… These are all available for purchase at ABC Store, Target, etc.. but we lucked out by being gifted some from people who were headed home from vacation.
– The rooms are clean, maybe a little outdated in the older towers, but for my family it was fine. There’s an in-room fridge and our beds were comfy enough. The Hilton wifi works well and they even had playstation’s in room for the kids, although we never even turned on the TV!
– – And finally for more food ideas and spots to try on Oahu, follow my friend @mamarazzieats ..she’s there like 4x a year and finds all the good grub!
All in all, it’s been a Spring Break trip to remember, and we definitely can’t wait to go back!