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!
The Hilton Waikoloa Village is part of the Waikoloa Beach Resort. They offer an interactive Village tour
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 good news is that if you are a Hilton Gold member they will give you free continental breakfast coupons for every day of your stay. And the food is actually pretty good.
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
Ok, if golf is not your game… no problem! Everyone can play Putt Putt Golf! And they’ve got the nicest mini-golf course I’ve ever seen. The whole thing is real grass, and it’s a real putting green.
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
Sunny T says
What a crabby old man you are – you’re the kind that gives travelers a bad name – This place is wonderful – first you didn’t like the “LOOK” of the valet’s you thought they were too young so chose to take your luggage carry them yourself and yes the boat is not for that it is to transport tourist for fun and relaxation something I’m sure you can’t do – So all the problems you had at the check in were caused by your dumb choice. – Also this is the most expensive place on the big island you’re paying to stay here – you didn’t do your research obviously – you kept complaining about the prices – the prices are SO worth all the items to see, do there and the property itself – if you could afford it you should have booked it ! People who only can complain about the different things when traveling should stay home and eat your cheap TV dinners
John P. says
Dear Sunny T – F’ YOU!
Lets address your moronic points shall we:
1) I said the valets looked young and UNPROFESSIONAL. I’ve got nothing against young people – but they can’t be cracking jokes including the Fucking F-bomb in front of guests whose bags they are about to disappear with for half an hour! Especially when I carry bags of gear that cost more than your car.
2) I said the TRAIN was broken so we had to carry our own bags all the way to the room like a MILE away. I know these are big words… TRAIN and BOAT… so they can be confusing. Especially for someone who thinks this is an expensive resort. I guess you also missed the part where the front desk personnel said “you can take either the train or the boat to your room”.
3) I am currently writing this comment from my 2,000 sq ft. private condo on the Big Island. When I leave here I’ll go home to ONE of my homes. So if you’re gonna insult someone by calling them poor – do your research first. PS – If you want to stay somewhere really expensive, give the Four Seasons a try. I mean, since you’re so rich and all the $800 per night will be a drop in the bucket for you.
Finally, I dinged them on the swarming birds during the open-air breakfast, LONG walks that pissed off ALL the other people staying in the hotel, Non-existent internet connectivity, and other things – while complimenting the property and things to do on it, and all you came away with was somehow that I couldn’t afford to stay here?
Obviously you are a TROLL. And probably one that is working for the hotel. Why else would you go searching for a review for a place you seem to have visited only to take pot shots at the person who wrote it?
Guess what – not one person from Hilton has ever contacted me to apologize for the experience we had, offer to make amends, or anything else. But it doesn’t matter because for 6 years this post has been doing its job explaining what its really like.
The dolphin “habitat” disgusts me. These are healthy captured dolphins living in a very small space. You typical tourists enjoy this crap. It outrageous that hilton makes money from this. You can swim with wild dolphins, now that’s an experience not to be missed.
Hilton Waikoloa Village Hotel: I have stayed here seven times over the past 20 years starting back when this was a Hyatt property. In Dec 2012 I had a Hilton reservation, but unfortunately changed them at the last minute to stay in the Kona Marriot hotel for ½ the price. Literally every day we drove our rental car from Kona to the Hilton Waikoloa Hotel (Approx 25 miles) in order to enjoy their abundant and delicious breakfast buffet (now located in an air conditioned glass walled room overlooking the lagoon and thus no birds anymore). After breakfast we would spend the balance of the day sitting out by the beautiful pool and enjoying lunch before returning to our Kona hotel. Valet: I always drop my wife off with the luggage at the lobby and then park the car. Tram: Unfortunately things break occasionally but I have never experienced any lack of transportation service. Bellman: While we generally travel with “roll- on” suitcases, I would not hesitate (if required) to tip the bellman a few dollars to deliver our “locked and secure” suitcases to our room. Walking the grounds: I’m a slightly older big guy (60’s and 300+Lbs) but I have never regretted taking the leisurely stroll (great exercise) along either the open air corridors or along the ocean front paved walkways to visit the main pool, pool restaurants and/or lobby area. My next visit to Hawaii will definitely include at least 5 nights at the Hilton and (for the first time) I will forget the rental car and those associated expenses, so I can “chill” at the hotel and take the little bus shuttle (around $1 each way) from the hotel to the two local shopping areas (King’s Court and Queen’s Court).
First off this is a great report. we stayed here last year and are heading back next week, i wanted to comment on you saying “This means that if you forget something in your room and want to just run back and get it, itâ€™s going to blow your whole schedule.” This resort makes you go on island time. That is a good thing, sometimes we need to slow down, I made a deal on the first day with my 3 year old son that we would never be in too much of a hurry to wait for the boat, sometimes that ment waiting 20 minutes while we looked around and enjoyed the rest. If one wants to go go go on vacation I would suggest HNL.
This review is outdated. Gold/Plats get $10 certs now, not free breakfast (which is better) and the place has been much improved.
John P. says
The review was posted three years ago. I’d welcome an updated review here on the blog if anyone would do as thorough of a job as I did originally.
My sister, her husband, and her kids are taking me for my college break 2 this hotel. We heard great things, but now reading the review, is it to late to cancel the reservation? i read the pools were really cold, and the staff was so unfriendly, and the food was terrible. Is it really that bad? We r going 2 go soon, so I really need help….thnx :)
vikki <3! :D
Giana Connors says
Dear John – thank you for a very informative blog. We are going to Kona for 8 days during Thanksgiving. We are staying at the Hapuna Prince Hotel for 4 days and at the Sheraton Kona for 3 days. We typically stay at Turtle Bay on Oahu so we are not afraid of the solitude and lack of nightlife many people complain about Hapuna Prince. We also have a 10 year old daughter. I do like the Hilton because there is so much to do but don’t like it to be a Disneyland type experience. This is our first time to go to Kona. We are from LA and are looking to relax but have a good and unique experience. Would you recommend we switch to the Hilton instead of Hapuna Prince? If we stay at the Prince, can we visit and swim at the Hilton just for the day to see what the much talked about lagoon is all about? I really appreciate your input. Thanks a lot.
We just had a mishap [understatement] with Hilton. We had booked a Disney hotel on Disney property when Hilton called with an offer to stay with them at this hotel which was “on” Disney property since that was our requirement. They promised a two-bedroom suite with complimentary breakfast each day. We were told we had to visit one of the Hilton time-share properties in the Orlando area during our stay to take advantage of their offer. My wife spent almost two hours on the phone with them and even put them on hold to call the Disney hotel we already had a reservation with to cancel it to take advantage of what seemed like a good deal. We were given a confirmation number and told that within five days we’d receive a letter and a phone call confirming our visit. Two weeks went by and no one contacted us so my wife called them. They told her they could not honor our reservation because what we were promised they had no authority to sell us. And apparently that piece of information wasn’t something they thought should be communicated to their customer! They behaved unscrupulously and rude, accepting no responsibility for their “mistake.” They offered to refund our money. What about the plane tickets? Our planned vacation they ruined? They offered to put us in a hotel 10 miles away and give us a rental car. When they originally called we said we wanted to be on Disney property and would not take advantage of their offer unless they could provide us with accommodations on property. I guess, even after two hours on the phone, no one really listened or cared what we asked for, they just wanted to make a sale, even if they had no authority to sell what they sold. Seems to me it’s as if the sales staff “stole” rooms from this hotel in order to get closer to a possible time share sale. Hilton ought to rethink their customer service values. Part of me can’t help but think this all wasn’t a “mistake” but they train their sales staff to offer anything a customer requests and then just never contacts them and do a “bait and switch” when they arrive at the hotel. What’s unfortunate is that we recently had a great stay at the Hilton Torrey Pines, but now won’t ever trust Hilton again.
Murali Divi says
John, i really appreciate your review. I am planning for my vacation at Hilton. Certainly you gave me very good idea about this place, which did not find in any other reviews. Now i know what to expect out this hotel.
John P. says
When we were there the place was not very busy, so I don’t think you’ll have any problem with the pools, etc. But you will probably want to swim in their beach area and the water is reasonable, but not warm.
As far as the bus is concerned, I don’t think that it’s going to go to Waikoloa, and even if it did I don’t think that it’s going to get you where you want to be. The Big Island is so spread out and things are very far apart (several miles apart at least) that you can’t just walk from place to place. If you are going to be there for a whole week I think you are going to find that after a few days at Waikoloa it’s going to get a little old. I HIGHLY recommend that you rent a car for the week while you are there, and then go to see some of the other sights.
For example, drive over to Akaka Falls, and go see the Wind Generation farm, and the sanctuary areas… Exploring the Big Island is one of the greatest memories I have. But you can’t stay at Waikoloa the whole time and do that, so bite the bullet and get out and about!
Guy Langman says
My girlfriend is a Diamond member and we are going on January 3rd. We ended up getting 7 nights for free with her points. Hopefully the fact we aren’t paying for the room will make our stay better than average. Do you have any commments on the pools? too cold? Too hot? Too crowded? Also, do you know if “The Bus” runs thru the area so that we may visit a few miles south of the hotel. Thanks for all your info and Happy holidays!
Marc Sims says
The Hilton Waikoloa Village looks really nice. I’m going this summer but won’t be staying at a plush resort like that. I’m sure i couldn’t afford it. I enjoyed the article on it though. I can still dream. Lol
Terrie Ventrelli says
Thanks for all your hard work. My husband likes the disney affect with lots to do. We want to visit Hawaii for our 15th aniversary and were considering this property. I noticed in your blog that you visited the property in 2007. Any update on your likes/dislikes? I really appreciate having the heads up as money is an issue for us, this is a once only/dream trip for me and I am trying to keep hubby happy with lots of activities. I would prefer an ocean view, any other hotel recommendations that would make us both happy?
I stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa Village about 1 1/2 years ago and loved it. It is large, but using the trains and the boats are really quite fun.
I thought the rooms were really comfortable and plenty big enough.
The Dophins are amazing! You’re right, watching them is just plain fun!
The vacation club (timeshare) stuff is just annoying! I did it one time to get tickets to the Jim Nabors show in Honolulu, but never again.
Kids absolutely LOVE the Hilton Waikoloa Village….the water slides, the swinging bridge, the lazy river…all fun.
Thanks for all the tips. Do you really get held hostage to the time share pitch for 5-6 hours? We are going on a “free” hotel stay if we do the sales pitch. We have the option of extending to 6 days from 4 for another 200 dollars. From your blog we are thinking of doing only 4 and staying somewhere else for 3. What is the low season- we are going the second week in March. How crowded do you think it will be? Are there refrigerators in the room? What is your suggestion for breakfast? Buy food and eat in your room? Thanks for all the great information.
John P. says
First of all, do you see how much freaking documentation there is in the article above? Do you really think that someone who would write this much after the fact would fail to do their homework beforehand? Think!
Secondly, price is not the issue here (clearly you didn’t read my bio). I listed quite a few things about the property that I liked. But no matter how you look at it, there were some significant issues. The bird infestation at breakfast was completely unacceptable. As was the fact that the trains were not working 50% of the time.
I’d go back to visit the property, but I’d never stay there again.
T. Norberto says
Regarding the “Blog”:
Before going on vacation and spending the kind of money you seemed to have put out (unless this is a free trip), spend some time researching. Check the rooms, check the activities, the prices, the freebies, the blogs (?), A few minutes of proactivity…………….?
Take charge, acting like a victim and whining does no good. Want a cheap vacation? There are lots of places: Mexico, Novato, Plains, Nicaragua, Brazil, Bahamas, New Orleans, San Juan Island, and more.
Want something worthwhile? Spend some money.
Don’t waste your time going to a Hilton Grand sales pitch.They will lie to you to get you to sign the timeshare documents since their is a high turnover of sales people from the mainland who move back . They will hold you hostage for 5 to 6 hrs by talking you into their presentation shuttle and drive you away from the hotel to a timeshare property far from the hotel. You are held hostage listening to them because you have no other way back to the hotel. Believe it.They will write VIP price just to make you feel good but the sales person will erase it when they turn in your application . You can’t even give the timeshare away if you decide to sell it later because it does not appreciate like a vacation home would. Research it. They will promise you the world so you sign to take out the timeshare loan. You can get the same timeshare units at any discount timeshare place for 65% less with the same points and RCI privileges. Check the Timeshare discount place on Alii in Kona first. The Japanese fall for timeshares sales the most because they don’t read or understand English fully.
Doug Price says
We spent the night a few weeks ago and would not recommend it to anyone. It is very expensive yet poorly maintained. The planters outside our room had dead plants and rotting fruit. The buffet cost us $30 apiece and the food was cold and tasted bad. After staying five nights in volcano and eating in some good and reasonably priced restaurants the Wailkoloa was like staying in a high priced slum. Do yourself a favor and avoid this place.
John P. says
Oh yeah… sorry about that. I learned that the edit script had a memory leak or something and it was taking my server down during Diggs! I had to remove it. :-(
If anyone finds a good WordPress plugin that allows users to edit their post for a period of time please let me know and I’ll put it up!
The editing function doesnt seem to work for me any more… I just see a thin black line where the edit bar was before…
Parking $9 a day and Internet $16 a day…
Only Free Breakfast if you are a gold member…
How much do they charge for the rooms?
It sounds expensive and with all these issues it did not sound like a place you would ever go back to…
John P. says
I know what you mean. That’s kind of why I posted that particular detail about this Hilton… I think some people seem to have a higher level of tolerance for putting up with these sales pitches, but personally I feel insulted that they can’t be content with the money I’m already giving them! Why do they have to try to extract more before they even deliver value on what they’ve got?
It’s just bad business in my opinion.
Now, if they wanted to follow up after my vacation and make sure I was happy with it and then try to sell me another it would be different. But to begin hitting me up at registration is absurd.
Take care, and keep on truckin! ;-)
We went on a Cruise recently and were bothered almost to the point of being harassed about their vacation club. You can’t go anywhere anymore without being upsold in to something else. Kind of ruins the experience.
Wow! It’s so beautiful!