by Wendy Irvine
As early as your in-coming flight and drive allow, hit the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront in full vacation mode. Like the vast and gorgeous Atlantic that it fronts, this AAA three-diamond Hilton has so much to do and see and hear and absorb and swim in that losing even a moment to unpacking or flipping through the channels will later be deeply regretted.
Newly opened in 2005, the Hilton is, by far, the nicest hotel on Virginia Beach offering a kaleidoscope of activities including a beautifully groomed, white-sand beach with sparkling surf and personable lifeguards, a three-mile boardwalk great for cycling, running or people-watching, live music in Neptune’s Park, a kid’s play structure sitting right on the beach, rentals galore just a stone’s throw away, a day spa, full concierge services, fine dining and drop-dead gorgeous, rooftop pools.
The Hilton boasts 290 rooms and suites and two award-winning restaurants, Catch 31 and Salacia, Virginia’s only AAA four-diamond steakhouse. On the three top floors of the Hilton is the Empyrean Club with luxurious suites, a continental breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres, a dedicated concierge, a butler and more opulent amenities.
Families with children from ages 2 to 18 will love the Hilton for it’s spectacular beach front and exciting resort atmosphere.
Our Editor Loves
- Large beach play structure
- Lavish beach amenities and rooftop pools
- Central location on Virginia Beach strip
- Water Sports
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The Hilton offers three room choices designed with ocean-inspired blue and green colors: the standard two bed, a King, or at the luxury level, the Empyrean club rooms on the three top floors.
We stayed in the room with two beds and a gorgeous city and ocean view. I was surprised that a two-bed room at a Hilton meant two full-sized beds instead of queen beds. Kind of small, and let's just say, Lucy and Ricky's beds sprung instantly to mind.
The standard two bed and king rooms include a 32-inch flat-screen color television with premium cable channels, high-speed Internet access (with a fee of $10 a day), two telephones and a desk. All basic rooms also have coffeemakers, hairdryers, newspaper delivery and robes.
Aside from the small beds the room was comfortable and very clean. Our balcony with two chairs and a little table (perfect for holding a glass of wine or, in the morning, a cup of coffee) faced the north side of the property giving us both a city view (a brilliant orangey, pinky sherbet sunset) and an ocean view. We were on the 16th floor, but I've heard that if you're on one of the lower floors and face the ocean, you'll have no trouble catching glimpses of playful dolphins.
It's important to know that if you get a guest room facing the north side of the Hilton, you'll hear the music from Neptune's Park every evening until 10:00 p.m. (May through October). We love live music and requested the north side specifically for it. The nights we visited a soloist was playing a keyboard and singing reminding me of Karen Carpenter. But if you'd prefer silence, request a room on the south side.
The bathrooms are small with a one-sink vanity and a regular tub. Some rooms come with only a shower, so if you prefer a tub, be sure to request a room with one. The double-headed showers were a surprise and fun for everyone.
You can request a microwave or a refrigerator at a fee of $10/each per day, but if you get both, the fee is discounted to $15/a day.
The Empyrean Club, offering 51 luxury guest rooms, is like a "hotel within a hotel" with it's own dedicated staff for private check-in and check-out, concierge, butler and a private lounge on the 20th floor with a bar and 60-inch Plasma TVs. The spacious guest rooms come with stunning ocean views, 42-inch plasma television, Bose CD clock radio, 10-inch LCD TV in the bathroom and plush robes.
The Empyrean Club Lounge offers complimentary continental breakfast and evening hot and cold hors d'oeuvres. Guests at the club level also receive preferred seating in Salacia and Catch 31.
The Hilton also has one Presidential Suite and one Coastal Suite which are both lavish with all that the regular suites have including large master bedrooms, living rooms, kitchenettes (or butlers' pantry) and tubs with jets.
I booked two rooms for three nights at the Hilton VA Beach. As a Diamond member I expected to be recognized and given a complimentary upgrade as part of my benefits. They couldn't accommodate me the first night but they were able to accommodate me for the next two nights but was charged $50 for each night. The second stay when we moved I was checked in to an occupied room,Room 716. I also called the front desk and requested towels for room 809 and they never arrived. The bed sheets had yellow stains which I reported but no one cared. Hilton VA beach is a beautiful property but some of the staff are careless. I am a Hilton employee when I am at work but when I am on vacation I am a Guest and should be treated as such. I guess being a Diamond member as an employee means nothing at this property.
Loved the roof top bar and entertainment upon arrival after traveling for about 9 hours. Nice updated, comfortable room and great location. Staff was very accommodating. Only real issue was that there was no accessable outlet at the desk to plug in my curling iron, dryer and laptop. Thankfully I brought an extension cord affording me additional plugs. But, overall, a great experience.
The Hilton's glittering beach is nothing less then perfect with it's beautifully groomed, white sand and friendly life guards. Sick of trudging towels and chairs from home? No problem. The Hilton offers tickets at the concierge desk in the lobby allowing you free chairs on the beach. The umbrellas, cabanas and chaise lounge chairs that the nice, young man sets up for you do come with a fee, but are totally worth it. When you pick up the ticket for your chair, the Hilton's staff will also hand you complimentary large, thirsty beach towels.
The beach also sports super clean, large public bathrooms, shower areas to "de-sand" your feet or entire body in before heading back to your room and a large play structure for kids right on the beach along with a sand play area with buckets and shovels.
My one complaint about the beach is that the surf itself can get a bit rough. Kids, ages 10 and up shouldn't have a problem dealing with the crashing waves, but my husband and I stayed glued to my 7 year olds and encouraged lots of sand castle building.
One last rave: the Hilton's beach is super clean. Maybe that's thanks to the gulls who are constantly patrolling for food, but somebody is working over time keeping this beach spotless.
With the pools and beach attracting the lion's share of attention, cycling along the boardwalk is one of those activities that can fall by the wayside. But don't let it. My 7-year-olds went crazy for the two- and four-person bikes that can be found right next to the Hilton. Bring your camera and have a blast, but word to the wise: plan to bike in the morning or evening on hot days or your ride will be marred by hot, whiny kids.
Music in Neptune's Park
Any evening in the warm season you can sway to live, beautiful sounds emanating from Neptune's Park, shouldering the Hilton, beginning in mid-May and going through October. A different soloist or band play each night.
A toast to the folks who created the Hilton's rooftop vision of architected brilliance. The two pools evoke a parental longing for a good book paired with hours of quiet time to sink into the pages. On the other hand, these pools are like magnets to kids. The outdoor pool is truly a vision with its infinity edge that seemingly cascades over the side of the hotel. The background view is none other then the Atlantic herself looking stunning, blue and panoramic. Yes, this is a view worth paying for. The nice-sized whirlpool sits directly next to the pool and many lounge chairs -- some ultra-cushy -- wreath the entire top floor inside and out.
The indoor pool, kept at a nice 84 degrees, is just steps from the outdoor pool and is also beautifully situated. Surrounded by greens, comfy chairs and (a parent's favorite) large, clean bathrooms! Stacks of rolled, white towels beckon -- no need to cart yours from home.
The indoor pools hours are: 6:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The outdoor pool hours are: 6:30 a.m. 8:30 p.m. (summer) and 8:00 a.m. to 9:30pm (off season). Parents should be aware that the Hilton's Skybar sits between the two pools. In the evening hours, adult guests from the hotel and visitors from outside of the Hilton lounge poolside drink in hand. Not a good place for kids. My suggestion is to let the kids play in the pools during the day and hand the rooftop fun to the adults in the evenings.
Sand Play on the Beach
Next to Neptune's Statue, the Hilton sets up an awesome sand play area for kids with chairs just their size, umbrellas, shovels and buckets. It's too cool. I've never seen such an elaborate beach set up and it's free. Also sitting right next to Neptune's Statue is a beautiful play structure for kids. One side was designed for older kids up to about 10 years of age while the other end was created with toddlers in mind.
Facing both Neptune's Park on one side and the Atlantic on the other, Catch 31 is the Hilton's onsite restaurant and a sparkling, happening, see-and-be-seen spot perfect for everyone wanting a special meal. While pricey, the views, the ambiance and the vibe can't be beat. If you sit on the patio facing Neptune's Park, ask to sit around one of the large fire pits so you can listen to the live music, which is just a feet away. (The music happens May through October.) Or sit on the other patio facing the ocean and the boardwalk and enjoy a great ocean- and people-watching view.
Walk through the giant, blue-glass doors (to match the ocean, of course) and you'll find a cool interior replete with luxurious booths for a snazzy, ultra-modern dining experience.
Catch 31 is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offer a fresh seafood menu.
Salacia's is premier steakhouse tucked inside of Catch 31. Once inside you'll find a quiet, goblet-filled, white-tableclothed room ideal for adults only. I was bemused to discover that kids under 8 years of age are not allowed into Salacia plus they don't offer a kids' menu. So Salacia's is truly not for the still-howling-in-public age folk. (Oh, darn, you'll have to find a sitter.)
Patio seating is also exclusive, beautiful and serenely quiet. Open only during the warm months, the beautiful sofa seating rivals the cuisine.
Open nightly from 5:30 to 10 p.m., the menu offers prime New York strips, filet mignon, lobster, grilled shrimp and more.
Planning & Tips
The Hilton is just 20 minutes from Norfolk International Airport and downtown Norfolk.
All about the Extras
Valet parking at the Hilton is $11. Self-parking is free as long as you have a room key.
The Hilton's fifth floor fitness room is sterile-clean with modern cardio and weight equipment including ellipticals, treadmills, bikes and free weights. The little extras like chilled towels and disposable headphones are not on hand, but the real bummer, considering this Hilton overlooks the ocean, is that the fitness room faces a rather bland city view. However three large flat screen televisions are front and center for company.
On-site dry cleaning (Monday through Friday only) and self-serve laundry are all on site.
The Hilton charges $10/per day for wireless.
The Art of Smart Timing
If you're not wild about crowds, keep a Virginia Beach summer firmly at the top of your to-don't list. Fall or late spring brings beautiful weather, fewer people and better prices. Winter is also great for rock bottom rates. Keep in mind that the day of Thanksgiving and Christmas can get busy.
Summer ranges from hot and humid to stormy. But when the calendar flips from August to September, the weather stays summery but the crowds head home and prices start coming down.
If you'd like to visit the beach in the winter, keep in mind that you might hit a week perfect for hearty, brisk walks along the beach or dismal for any outdoor activity. Pack a board game or two, hot chocolate and a bag of marshmallows and you'll be set.
For Mom and Dad
Recognized by Coastal Living Magazine as one of the "Top 10 Rooftop Bars in North America," the Hilton's Sky Bar is small but beautifully positioned between the Hilton's outdoor infinity and indoor pool all on the 21th floor. The pools close for frolicking kids at 8:30 and 9:30 p.m., respectfully transforming the 21th floor into grown up party central. Order a cocktail from the Skybar's full bar and nosh on small plates. The Sky Bar fills with Hilton guests and visitors from the community. Open May through October 31.
Salon at 31st
The Hilton's day spa is a full-service salon with many spa treatments also available. The menu offers an array of massages including hot stone, pre-natal and four-handed among many more. You'll also find manicures, pedicures, facials and scrubs on the menu. Teens under 18 can enjoy a treatment with a parent's written consent. Open Monday through Sunday.