Waikoloa Village is basically a subdivision on the Big Island of Hawaii that has a wide variety of housing units ranging from single family homes, to condos, to high end hotels. Among the hotels is the Hilton Waikoloa Village, and this is where I spent the week on my recent trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. (View in Google Earth. What is Google Earth?)
The hotel is ideally located for branching out to explore all the various parts of the island, and the facilities are enormous. 64 acres of highly manicured grounds complete with a private bay, swimming pools, and even a dolphin habitat. With over 1,200 rooms, this is a large hotel by any measure. A local man told me that the property was originally developed by a Japanese company for $360 Million, but later sold at a huge loss for $90 Million to Hilton.
Although the hotel is basically a Disneyland for adults, there are some critical flaws which greatly detract from it as a serious vacation destination. At the same time, there is some great stuff to see and do… like swim with the dolphins!
Here is a short (7 minute) promotional video about the Waikoloa Beach Resort. It covers more than just the Hilton, but it shows the wide range of activities at the overall resort.
The Review Portion of this Review
Before I talk about the good things, I’m going to start off with the bad points:
Issues with Arrival and Check-in
Its never good when you have problems right from the start, but unfortunately we ran into some at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. It started at the front desk when we were informed that the property is quite large, so either a train or a boat will take you from building to building. The agent advised us that we could simply hop on the train and it would take us right to our building. Additionally, we were told we were on the first floor.
Based on this information (and the fact that the valets seemed very young and unprofessional – hence I didn’t trust them with my bags) we decided to self park our Jeep and carry our own bags. However, after unloading everything and parking in BFE, when we arrived at the tram station there was a sign saying it was ‘out of order’. This forced us to pile all of our crap on and off of a tiny little boat that was clearly not designed for ingress and egress with baggage.
After the slow ride to our building (12 minutes) we then had to carry our bags all the way down a hall past 40 other rooms (I’m not exaggerating). This was a long, long way and not the quick easy trek that was described at check-in. (Here is a video I took to demonstrate the distance.) We saw a lot of older people complaining at the front desk over multiple days about this issue.
Which leads us to the second issue…
I’m not exaggerating when I say that it takes over half an hour to take a round trip from your room to the hotel lobby. In fact, it could take up to 45 minutes. This means that if you forget something in your room and want to just run back and get it, it’s going to blow your whole schedule.
There is no way to park even within a half mile of your hotel room. The self-parking lot is $9 per day, and much too small. (We learned it also suffers badly from flooding if it rains hard.) Its at least a block from the parking lot to the lobby alone.
From the lobby you have the option of taking a “boat”, which is on an underwater rail system; or a train which comes by around every 10 minutes or so – but only when the boats and trains are actually working. There were multiple times on three separate days when the train was not working, and even times when neither the boats or trains were working. Clearly you cannot rely on their transportation to be operational.
At these times the only option was to walk upwards of a mile to the room. Now imagine that you had just checked in and had to carry your bags this far! It happened to a lot of people while we were here, and they were all very pissed off. The bottom line is that getting in and out of this property is such a pain it will make you think twice about leaving for any reason – which is, I’m sure, what the designers of the property wanted.
Beware of the Vacation Sales Tactics
One of the little annoyances that begins to get old really quick is that they are trying to sell you on the Hilton Grand Vacations Club.
- On the first morning we woke up to a blinking light on the phone – not because we’d called twice about issues when we checked in the night before… but to invite us to an “island activities briefing”, which would be to sell us activity packages or offer us the afore mentioned vacation club.
- When you arrive in the room there is an envelope saying “Welcome Gift”! And all you have to do is stop by their guest services area within 48 hours… this is the same “requirement” for all of the vacation club announcements.
- In the welcome pack they give you with your room keys there are two different “invitations” to listen to the sales pitch for the vacation club.
The Breakfast Buffet
The bad news is that the open air Palm Terrace cafe, where the breakfast buffet is served, has such a bird infestation problem that it is actually disgusting. Seriously, I can’t believe the place hasn’t been shut down for sanitary reasons. In fact, a bird flying over our heads crapped on our table just inches from our plate. That’s when we stopped eating and never went back. In other words, they couldn’t even give me the breakfast for free!
Here is a short clip demonstrating the swarming bird problem. Now just imagine trying to eat a meal with this going on literally all around you. If you even stand up and walk away for 30 seconds there will be birds all over your table. In fact, they come and bug you even while you are sitting there eating.
And Now The Good Stuff!
One of the best things about visiting this hotel was the fact that there is a highly interactive and personal dolphin habitat. You have the option to suit up and actually swim with and pet the dolphins while getting some first hand training about them.
The other option is just to stand right beside their pool and watch them swim around and generally be awesome. I highly recommend that people visiting the Big Island come here just to see this, even if you don’t stay at the hotel. It’s free to watch, so why not!?!
Oh, and here is a tip… if you are just coming to visit the hotel for the day, don’t pay to park in the hotel parking lot! Right across the street from the Hilton is a public beach access parking lot that is free. It’s basically as close as you’d get by paying the fee to park on property, so don’t do it!
In the private bay, where you can snorkel, kayak, and generally mess around, there are actual Hawaiian Green Turtles. Here’s the video proof! Beware though, these turtles are endangered and protected so don’t even think about getting too close.
World Class Golf
One thing they got here is a beautiful golf course. Now, it’s going to cost you nearly $200 a round if you aren’t staying at the hotel, or over $130 if you are a guest… but hey, if you’re willing to lug your clubs all the way to the middle of the Pacific ocean are you really going to complain about the cost? Didn’t think so…
Mini Golf (Putt-Putt) For Everyone Else
Be prepared to pay $13 per person to go around, but hey that’s 1/10th of what you’d pay to play the big boy’s course so it a fantastic deal by comparison.
World Class R&R
As I mentioned previously, this is one very, very expensive property and as a result the entire thing is beautiful. I highly recommend taking a walk around as much of the property as you can stand to see it all from the outside.
Then after you’re done you can go hang out at one of the pools, lay in a chair on (or near) the beach, or monopolize one of the hammocks strung up between idylic palm trees on the property.
Now, there is a lot more that I could talk about on the property, the restaurants (all overpriced and the ones I ate at were mediocre quality), the spa (extensive menu, but we didn’t partake), the pools, shopping (stores for clothes, shoes, art, etc.) and more… but after a while a review like this gets boring, so if you have questions just ask me in the comments section and I’ll dish out the info.
Ok. Here is the part where I get into my standard hotel Q&A.
- Location: Very good location for branching out to explore the island. But the worst property ingress and egress of any hotel I’ve ever stayed at.
- Cleanliness: Reasonably clean. Carpets and rooms are starting to show some early signs of aging, but not too bad.
- Staff: Average. Some of the staff was friendly, the rest did their best to ignore us. The young guys at the valet were very unprofessional and not confidence inspiring.
- Bed: Very good. Nice and comfortable.
- Internet: Pathetic. One of the worst ever. $16 per day!!! And at times it was as slow as 1990’s dial-up!
- TV: Average.
- Size: Better than average. The room was big enough to be comfortable in for a week.
- Noise: Fairly quiet. Heard very little outside the room.
- Fully Enclosed: Yes. Sink area is also separate from the bathroom, but entire area divided from bedroom by a wall.
- Exhaust Fan: No. But there is a vent which seemed to work OK, just slowly.
- Shower head: Good. Massaging WaterPik showerhead.
- Lighting: Good.
Hilton Waikoloa Village
69-425 Waikoloa Beach Drive
Waikoloa, Hawaii 96738
Phone: (808) 886-1234