What to expect from a VERY large US Resort

Finally… after about ten years of intermittent dreaming, I am in Hawaii, on the Big Island of Hawaii, to be exact. It is the largest and one of the less densely populated islands of the Hawaii archipelago, and had it not been the corporate hospitality of my boyfriend, chances are I would have chosen it anyway. However… little choice did we have in our accommodations. Having only experienced a smidgen US beach life in Miami some years back while at a conference ( at the back-then amazing Greenview Hotel), I thought a mega-resort couldn’t be that bad, especially when its by the beach, right?

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Entrance to Waikoloa Resort Area – and there’s a long way to go to the hotel. Note zero pedestrians

So, onto the corporate bus, and off to the Hilton Waikoloa Resort.  My accommodation was free, but a quick booking site search showed the Hilton Waikoloa, where we stayed, would cost from 199 USD a night.

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View across the bay from the resorts edge path to the Ocean Tower

So, What is there to expect?

Firstly, its huge. Three mammoth accommodation buildings linked by a tram and, yet, by canal boat. Reception is comparably tiny, so our first activity after travelling for about 24 hours  was to queue for a good 45 minutes.

 

Secondly, its pricey. We got a room in the Makai Rooms , which is allegedly upgraded (well, it has its own pool, and went in search of some food. It was only 20:00, but somehow we only made it was far as the pub – where prices somewhat shocked us. Okay… this was corporate bubble US, but… we quickly learned that Hawaii is pricey, very pricey especially where the touristy side is concerned.

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I failed to get a decent enough picture from our room, so here’s a view  from the balcony instead

The room was large. It was clean, the bed was comfy, it was a bit soulless, but… it had sea views and lots of cackling birds at sunrise and sunset. So far, so good.

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View of the Lagoon Tower from the Ocean Tower (that’s a 15-minute walk across the resort)

However, being this large, it was hugely impersonal. You rarely saw the same people twice. To get to breakfast, you would walk ten minutes or really take that tram.

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Breakfast a the Hilton – sure it’s colourful but is it varied, healthy or of decent quality?

And breakfast was… well, don’t get me started. A huge choice of all sorts of cooked goods of questionable quality. You know when you see a sign for “orange juice” and its more like coloured sugar water? Don’t even ask about the bread, or the eggs. As expected in the US, very little vegetarian options. The saving grace were the fruit, but after five hotel breakfast I ate nothing but fruit and an occasional avocado bagel the rest of our stay.  The restaurants at the resort are very expensive. We fell in love with the ocean terrace dining at the KPC Restaurant. One night, we ate a salad and a starter and a side and paid about 70 USD, the other night,  I had, gasp, a cocktail, we had a salad (me) and a main (him) and we came up to 110 USD. There are certainly cheaper places to eat, but they are not in a resort or at the oceanfront in Kailua.

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So, the beach… um, thats it, folks. Note the dining terrace of the KPC on the right. There is a path, though, you need some rather decent shoes for it, not flip flops.

Next: Beach access. You are in Hawaii, you need a beach, right? Well… at the Hilton, no beach access. The naughty bit is, they don’t really tell you that! Sure, there is a small lagoon incorporated into the resort, and you can sit on the rocks outside the resorts and watch the crashing wave, but even as a strong swimmer, I would not enter the water there. Rocks, sea urchins, rip tides… If you walk about 15 minutes from the resorts edge south, you come to a lovely beach called Anaehoomalu Beach. Its the beach fronting the Marriott, hotel, but all beaches in Hawaii are public, so anyone can dome, and anyone does, yet it never was crowded.

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Interesting plant life along the path to Anaehoomalu

Turn left from there, and you find a cat colony (yes, of course, crazy cat person will run into one on her first day at the end of the world), walk an uncomfortable 10 minutes across a moonscape desert and you come to two shopping malls, the Kings Mall and the Queens Market Place.

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And yes, there are cared-for feral cats – or I think they are cared for – looks like they were fed, and they have all been snipped, it the clipped ear is anything to go by

Perhaps the most high-class shops on the island, but largely unexciting. I got hooked on aloha wear at Reyn Spooner (see upcoming post on aloha wear and useful souvenirs), as well as the supermarket there. The supermarket sells not-so-bad sushi and other prepackaged meals at decent prices, it even has a small area where you can sit and eat. Also, it has the most decent prices on those nuts, Hawaiian Tropic sun screen and Burt’s Bees cosmetics that we tourists may like.

Too bad that the drinks coolers at the hotel were set so high (and un-re-settable by us stupid tourists) that one would not dare to place sushi there for more than a couple hours. Oh yes, and the Kings Mall has Tiffany’s where some very nice saleswomen try to sell you some incredible classy diamonds.

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The life of luxury. But after two days I was a little bored! I thought about joining a lei-making class.

Last not least: You kinda need a car to get anywhere except Anaehoomalu, perhaps the Ala Kahakai Trail and the two little malls. And cough up the 25 USD or so parking fee – per day. Can you do anything? Yes, you can take the bus but its a logistical operation – I will tell you how I managed to travel to Kailua for the day on a small budget and you could even go to Hilo like that.

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The gardens at the Hilton are lush, outside its more moonscape

So, you might say, what is she moaning about, enjoying a free stay at a top class Hilton? Yes, right, but its not Hilton that made the stay free, its my boyfriends employment at a software company and the fact that they offered family members to come along. So, would we stay at a large beach resort like this, in Hawaii, the US, or anywhere?

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Path to Anaehoomalu

You would need to decide whether this is for you, whether you like to stay in a a well-tended bubble, swim in a chlorinated pool, eat hotel food, and take expensive trip to see the countryside around you. Its certainly convenient, but for us it would too expensive, too inauthentic, and well… just a bit too lazy to do again!  So, for the next few nights, we stayed at a small guesthouse in Volcano and a private home in Kailua, booked through Air BnB for less than half the price, and enjoyed the quirks of staying in a private home much more.

If you want to book it, the Hilton website has fairly competitive deals compared to hotel comparison sites.

Coming up:

  • Day Trip to Kona from the Coast
  • Aloha Wear or: useful Hawaiian Souvenirs and where to get them
  • Waikoloa – Mauna Kea – Hilo- Volcano – Kailua-Kona roundtrip, please!
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