by Wendy Irvine
Paris Hilton knows it as the “hot” crash pad her great grandfather picked up in ’61. Children who play on the famed Waikiki Beach call it “the rainbow hotel.” And parents who love Hawaii consider it Oahu’s sweetest spot for families. Can you hear that collective sigh of relief? That’s legions of parents joyfully exhaling at the thought of a Hawaiian trip brimming with Aloha! and laden with family-friendly activity that’s just plain easy to pull off.
At a whopping 22 acres, Waikiki’s largest resort, sitting smack on the widest strip of Waikiki Beach, offers so much you might never set toe out of this village for weeks — and never even notice. The Village holds six pools, its own post office and 20 eating areas including several full-scale restaurants. It also offers lei making, ukulele lessons, and beautiful wildlife around every lush bend. Parents will love that the children’s program, Camp Penguin, runs every day with half- or full-day programs starting at $60 per child. After a day on the beach, parents and teens can relax in the full-service, insanely wonderful Mandara Spa and Fitness Center.
The Village even has you covered in the shopping arena with a giant and very cool Rainbow Bazaar consisting of 90 shops. The Bazaar’s architecture is very cool with pieces such as the replica of a 50-foot-high Japanese pagoda, disassembled and shipped from Japan.
Once you do leave the main property, you’ll find yourself in the center of Honolulu. The hotel is just a 12-minute walk to the Ala Moana Shopping Center (largest open-air shopping center in the world with more than 200 stores) and a 15-minute walk to the International Market Place. The Hilton also offers several programs including a 30-minute Surfing 101 lesson for guests, an elaborate luau (extra) and a fireworks show (no charge) on Waikiki Beach every Friday beginning at 7:45 p.m.
Want to hear something interesting? Even the locals treat their children to mini-vacations at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. That’s how cool this place is for children and the locals have no intention of letting their keiki miss out.
Our Editor Loves
- Six pools including family activity pool and beach lagoon
- Rainbow Express Keiki Club for kids
- Array of activities for kids, teens and adults
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Kids' Pool
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
It may take a village to raise a child, but the folks at the Hilton seem to understand that it takes a lush, waterfall-studded, beautifully run Village to chill a parent out. The Hilton Hawaiian Village includes seven towers that are home to 3,543 beautifully appointed guest rooms. The seven towers, five of which are for hotel guests include: the Rainbow Tower, the Tapa Tower, the Kalia Tower, the Alii Tower, and the Diamond Head Tower. The brand new Grand Waikikian Tower and the Lagoon Tower are both timeshare properties.
Basic guestrooms provide a view of the resort itself, a peek-a-boo ocean view or a full ocean view. Maid service is daily with turndown service available. You can expect to find a work desk or workspace with lamp. High-speed Internet access is available for a nominal fee. Other amenities include refrigerator, coffee machine, in-room safe (nominal fee), iron and ironing board, and AM/FM alarm clock radio with an MP3 connection. Televisions are 27-inch flat-screens or 30-inch LCD TVs with cable, OnCommand Video and premium channels.
For families preferring a suite, the Hilton offers roomy accommodations with a separate bedroom, all of the amenities and services of the basic rooms and bathrobes and a wet bar. Large suites also include DVD players.
The Rainbow Tower, with its famed rainbow mosaic on two sides, is a great spot for families since its super close to the Super Pool, the beach and the main hotel lobby. Restaurants in the Rainbow Tower include Bali Steak & Seafood and the Rainbow Lanai.
For families wanting a larger suite, the Tapa Tower has spacious one-bedroom suites with a large sitting area, dining area, a sofa bed and a separate large bedroom.
Last, the Ali'i Tower, considered a hotel within a hotel provides the most exclusive accommodations with luxurious amenities and stunning views. The Alii Tower has its own private pool, whirlpool and fitness center with massage treatment rooms and sauna. Alii Tower guests also enjoy private guest reception/registration, exclusive concierge services and a fresh fruit basket on the day of arrival.
The Ali'i Tower is also home to the recently remodeled 2,200 square foot Presidential Suite regally sprawling on the fifteenth floor. With hardwood floors, spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, a freestanding soaking tub (that comes with its own view too!), a mere $4,900 a night is no big deal. Right?
My family and I vacationed at this resort for a week and we had an amazing time! The amenities, staff, room service, EVERYTHING. was absolutely wonderful. We will definitely stay here on our next visit.
by Russ C
Let me start by saying that I'm a loyal Hilton Honors member with nearly 200,000 points. I stay in Hiltons frequently and it's my preferred brand.
There's a lot to recommend this property with multiple pools and its easy access to beaches, lagoons, and Waikiki. The staff is friendly and upbeat. But three things disappointed me. First, it is not the most relaxing or serene place. I was in the Taka tower and every night there is loud music to 11 pm. After 2 nights, I called the front desk and was switched to the quieter Kalia Tower two days later. I had asked for a quiet room at check-in so I'm perplexed that nothing was done to accommodate my request at that time. I get that some ambient music helps to set a mood, but the resort needs to do a better job balancing cover bands with the atmosphere that one might expect from a tropical getaway.
Second, there's a nice pool for lap swimming in the morning. Knowing that families want to use the pool later in the day, I often will do laps in hotel pools at dawn or earlier. So there we were, another guest and I happily doing our laps with no one in sight, when a hotel staff member made us exit the pool because it didn't open until 8:00 am. It's not like a lifeguard was coming on duty at that time. It was just a random rule to enforce that I have never encountered at other Hiltons.
On the last day, our flight wasn't until 5:30 pm. Nonetheless we had checked out by 9:00 am to go hiking and then to the beach. I asked if the hotel had a shower at the gym so that we could clean up before the flight. No shower at the gym but here was one we could use at the spa for $17. Again, not very accommodating.
Youll find both small and large excitement intertwined into life at the Village. For example, kids will love the toy-lending room with toys and games (great for ages 4 to 12 yrs.), complimentary family activities such as hula dancing, lei making, coconut front weaving and ukulele lessons. Then theres the huge fun like playing at the world famous and very exciting Waikiki Beach or in one of the Hiltons sprawling, two-tiered pools.
The name isnt the only adorable part of this program. Camp Penguin is a marvel from every angle for kids ages five to 12 years (and their parents). Think its just fancy day care? Take another look. Your child will spend his or her day immersed in the rich history and culture of Hawaii giving you some much needed R&R.
A team of caring camp professionals leads the children daily through a different Hawaiian theme. Fieldtrips give kids a chance to visit to the Honolulu Zoo, the Waikiki Aquarium, Bishop Museum and Childrens Discovery Center. Themes include: Wild About Hilton, Hawaiian Ocean Explorer, Hawaiian Skies, Treasures of Hawaii, Discover Hawaii, Waikiki Aloha Friday and Hawaiian Safari.
Camp Penguin is located in the Diamond Head Tower in a kid-friendly designed space that incorporates colorful wall murals, fabric-stuffed palm trees, beanbag furniture, lockers, soft-carpeted areas and computer stations.
Both half- and full day programs are available. Offered daily except Christmas and New Years Day.
Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon
This five-acre, saltwater, manmade lagoon, dotted with its very own small island and waterfall, is wonderful for every family ready to enjoy a little more serenity then Waikiki Beach has to offer. The lagoon is a fun place to rent paddleboards or an aqua cycle or even sink into a chaise. The Surfing 101 classes take place here, too.
You realize that youve flown your little darlings to paradise and its really all about the pool for them, right? (Disney once did a study and thats exactly what they learned: kids prefer the pool above all else.). The good news: Hilton Hawaiian Village is awash in what the kids want most.
The Village has a total of six pools: three of which, the Paradise Pool, the Super Pool and the Keiki Pool, will light up every child's eyes.
Boasting the longest slide in Waikiki and overlooking the lagoon, the Paradise Pool offers 5,000 square feet of rip-roaring fun. This aquatic playground consists of a two-tiered pool wreathed in lava rock formations, meandering streams, bridges and lush, tropical flora and fauna. The pool features four slides including the amazing 77-foot lava tube slide, three more waterfalls and two heated whirlpools. Believe it or not, the pool is designed to create poolside privacy for those who want to read or nap. Best of all, the use of the pool is for Hilton guests only. To use it, you must sport a fashionable wristband proving that youre a Hilton guest.
The second beachfront pool made with kids in mind, the Super Pool, is located between the Rainbow Tower and Ali'i Tower. Here you'll find 10,000 square feet of pool fun just steps away from Waikiki Beach. This marvel of a pool is surrounded in waterfalls, tropical plants and flowers and lava rocks.
The Keiki Pool, a kiddie pool, sits next to the Super Pool providing a shallow swimming pool area, especially for the tiny set.
Rockin' Hawaiian Revue and Fireworks
A stunning fireworks display and exciting Polynesian show rocks every Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. in the Village and includes music, singing and dancing. The evening concludes with fireworks that begin at 7:45 p.m.
Kids will love learning this ancient sport that migrated from Polynesia to Hawaii and later onto the Southern California coast. The Village offers two on-site surf schools: the Pure Hawaiian Surf Academy and Hot Spots Surf School. Call the Beach Activities Desk to book beginning lessons at the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon. Highly recommended.
Possibly the most famous beach in the world, Waikiki Beach was once the playground for generations of Hawaiian royalty. This two-mile, white-sand strip is a paradise for extroverted people who love action. Here you'll find canoes, boats, body surfers, snorkelers, kids crunching through shaved ice and maybe even a celeb or two. This is an insanely fun, wonderful beach.
Bali Steak & Seafood
This spot offers sweeping ocean and Diamond Head volcano views to die for. With a top-notch wait staff and a sterling silver menu studded with an East-West fusion of steaks, seafood and elegantly sauced pastas, this is a family favorite. Consider a starters like the Ahi poke with a wonderful wasabi-ginger cream sauce, artfully presented salads as exciting as the main entree, and a long, impressive wine list. So what do you do with the hooligans? Bring them along for an impressive meal if they can hold it together with promises of ice cream later downstairs at Lapperts. Keep in mind that dinner for two with starters, wine and dessert comes to about $100 per person. Arrive early for an incomparable sunset "show." Reservations are a must. Kids and adults will think the complimentary pure chocolate mold of Diamond Head arriving on dry ice is way cool. Photo moment!
Also if you have a party of six or more consider Bali's Sunset Dinner Special offering a 5:30 p.m. seating (not available Fridays and Saturdays). Choose between many incredible cuisine options with the three-course meal: starter, entree and dessert for just $48 per person, excluding tax. Incredible pricing for a memorable meal.
Okay, so its not Chuck E. Cheese, but it offers an amazing, truly family-friendly dining experience for children. I didnt know Benihana had a name for what they do so well, but they call it "eat-ertainment." A personal chef performs for your table chopping, cutting, dicing like a mad man mounds of deliciousness including shrimp, lobster tails, steak, chicken and fresh veggies. Then he artfully avalanches it all onto a communal hibachi table. Wow, this place is a great time. Highly recommended. Open each day from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Lapperts Aloha Ice Cream
The first Lappert's happily appeared on Kauai in the early '80s and was so insanely successful that Walter Lappert decided to bring it's sinful richness to the rest of the islands. Talk about no place for a diet. This ice cream is said to be "super premium," meaning 20 percent butterfat. And the flavors cant be beat with real hunks of candy, Belgium chocolate and peanut butter chunks. My all-time favorite is coconut, but you might love Kauai pie, white chocolate macadamia nut or caramel cashew turtle cluster. For those who prefer the classics, Lappert's also serves chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and Kona coffee. (Check out the Villages fitness room next.)
Waikiki Starlight Luau
I speak from experience when I say that children will never forget the awe of seeing the beautiful Tahitian dancers boom, boom, boom their way onto the stage. And those fire-knife dancers who spin and toss those flames? Should be an Olympic sport.
The luau is one of those Hawaiian experiences that everyone should witness at least once in their lifetime. The feast before the show serves Kahlua pig, poi and many desserts including coconut-layered cake and papaya/mango tarts. And the kids will love that they get their very own buffet line.
The luau takes place on the roof of the convention center so weather is an issue. Bring sunscreen, shades and a sweater in case of a breezy evening.
The Rainbow Lanai is a beautiful spot for families to enjoy a gorgeous Waikiki view and a morning buffet together. The dining is casual, friendly and very pretty, all at the same time. The breakfast buffet absolutely rocks with everything youd expect in the morning: waffles, French toast, an omelet station, fruit crepes, tofu dishes, meats, fresh fruit and good coffee. Open from 5:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Round Table Pizza
Round Table pizza is always the white knight charging to any parents rescue. For parents tired of the same old pepperoni, try the Maui Zowie loaded with pineapple, bacon, Canadian bacon and tomatoes.
Tropics Bar & Grill
The Tropics Bar & Grill sits a toe or two away from the Waikiki Beach, offers beautiful patio seating and a sunset that only the Hawaiian skies can pull off. A red carpet is practically rolled out for kids here. You can expect a menu with games, puzzles and pages to color. The kids will also receive a packet of crayons and a small gift with their kids meal. The children's menu delivers for even the pickiest with pancakes, waffles, cereals and yogurt for breakfast. Grilled cheese, chicken fingers and a cheeseburger for lunch and dinner.
Planning & Tips
All about the Extras
At the friendly Honolulu Airport youll find yourself a mere 20-minute drive to the Hilton Hawaiian Village and youll have a number of rides to choose from.
The Hilton Hawaiian Village does not offer a private shuttle to whisk you to their beautiful slice of Waikiki, but its no matter. So many efficient ways for making it to the Village exist. If you dont want to ride the bus (highly recommended, by the way) grab a Honolulu Airport Shuttle.
The Art of Smart Timing
Its a good rule of thumb to assume that the Hilton Hawaiian Village is busy when kids are out of school or the snowbirds are flocking to Hawaii from December through mid-April. My all-time favorite time to visit? Mid-September (kids back in school) until the second week of November (Thanksgiving crowd hasnt yet arrived). Anything from mid-April to mid-May (before Memorial Day) is also a great time to give the crowds the slip.
Summer scores as the most sun-drenched season of the year at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Spring and fall are mild and simply beautiful, and, of course, in the winter months youll find miles of warm sunshine on Waikiki Beach. (This is Oahu!)
At the Village temperatures range from 70 to 85 degrees, depending on the season. Even if it does rain a bit in the winter, it might add up to a few sprinkles on and off throughout the day (and you were going to get wet at the pool or beach anyway). But it will always be a warm sprinkle then its back to its usual boastful gorgeousness.
For Mom and Dad
Granted the kids might not give the incredible art collection at the Village more then a passing glance with the Super Pool so close at hand but the parents will love the beautiful displays. The collection of exquisite oil paintings and massive sculptures was awarded the 2004 Kahili Award from the Hawaii Tourism Authority for preservation of Hawaiian culture.
Over 200 pieces of art inspired by the ancient Hawaiian culture are on display. Take a leisurely, new self-guided art tour that includes pieces by some of Hawaiis most renowned artists and sculptors.
Mandara Spa & Salon
The Hilton Hawaiian Village boasts a gem of a spa and salon nestled mid level in the Kalia Tower with 25 treatment rooms offering a plethora of chocolate-y, twosome-y, even teenage-y treatments. Selecting which treatment will be your only stressful moment!
My go-to treatment always involves the hot stones (ask for the Mandara Hot Stone Therapy), but here I suggest you try the Mandara's signature Four Hand Massage. Holy-schmoley, Batwoman: four hands kneading in synchronicity your tensions away in sublime silence (a holy word to a mama's ears). Not up for something so different? Youre always safe with the traditional Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage or the Chocolate Macadamia Nut Hawaiian Body Scrub.
The Mandara also offers a variety of sensual scrubs, wraps and pampering "extras" you can add to your main treatment like a Vichy shower (multi-head shower descends from above your treatment bed; super wonderful) or a conditioning foot treatment among others. I love that the Mandara also offers spa services "to go" with in-room or ocean view cabana treatments located throughout the Village.
Also, check out the gleaming fitness center, full service beauty salon, pool deck with whirlpool (blissfully kid-free) and a wonderful gift boutique.
If you prefer to only use the amenities and skip a service, a $24/daily use fee will grant you entrance into the spa kingdom. Enjoy!