by Lissa Poirot
Upon arrival at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, located in the heart of the Kohala Coast, parents may be overwhelmed by the sheer size of the property. More than 1,200 rooms, spread out across 62 acres and three towers, with both a train and boat service to get guests around the resort, can make the property feel a bit like arriving at Disney World. It certainly is a massive property. But as such, there is a little bit of everything for guests of all ages.
The expansive property also features an interesting art collection in the walkways connecting the various towers, which include the Lagoon Tower, Palace Tower, Ocean Tower and Main Area. The $7-million collection features cultural pieces from around the globe, and makes long walks worth the effort.
Our Editor Loves
- Resident dolphins
- Several onsite dining options
- Multiple pools and a lagoon
- Water Sports
- Family Room 5+
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The resort is divided into three different towers. The Palace Tower is closest to the resort's convention center, and most often used to house business travelers. Ocean Tower is removed from the activities around the lagoon and features an adult pool, making it a bit quieter and better suited to the more adult visitors. Families are best suited to the Lagoon Tower, which is closest to the kids' pools, the lagoon beach and Dolphin Quest. Rooms with dolphin views feature balconies, which overlook the ocean and the dolphin tanks. Watching the dolphins play in the early morning hours can be quite entertaining -- book one of these rooms, if you can!
Ocean and Dolphin Rooms
Located in the newly renovated Lagoon Tower and overlooking the dolphin pool, lagoon and ocean, all rooms face the water and provide two queen beds or one king bed.
Ocean View Rooms
These rooms provide ocean views and private balconies with two double beds or one king bed. Deluxe rooms are the best for full ocean views, as standard ocean views also partially overlook the resort.
Resort View Rooms
The lowest priced rooms feature views of the golf course, gardens or mountains, and include private balconies and two double beds or one king bed.
All rooms feature a mini-fridge, flat-screen TV, in-room PlayStation 3 and high-speed Internet access. The PS3 and Internet are included in a daily resort fee. Cribs and rollaway beds are available.
The resort also features 57 suites, and each come with flat-screen TV's and DVD/CD players. These include the following:
Lagoon Tower Ocean View One-Bedroom Suites
These suites feature a bedroom with a king bed and a living room with a queen sleeper sofa. In the newly renovated wing of the resort, the living area features hardwood flooring. A second connecting room with two queen beds is available. They are Ocean and Dolphin Rooms.
These suites feature a bedroom with one king or two double beds, along with a living room that has a queen sleeper sofa.
Located in the Palace Tower, these large suites feature one king bedroom, 1.5 bathrooms, and nearly 2,000 square feet of living space. Many suites can connect to a second guest room.
Five presidential suites are available, each with more than 3,000 square feet of space. They feature two bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, living and dining areas, kitchenettes with microwaves and mini-fridges, as well as saunas.
Nai'a and Naupaka Suites
Located in the Lagoon Tower, these two suites overlook the dolphin lagoon in split-level suites, with each floor offering more than 1,600 square feet of space. Each suite's private lanai includes an outdoor grill and dining area overlooking the dolphin lagoon. The suites feature one bedroom with one king bed and two full bathrooms with tubs and standing showers. The suites feature a queen sleeper sofa, but rollaway beds are not permitted. A second connecting room is available for each suite.
We got placed in the Ocean Tower (most northern part of the resort) as part of our HGVC package. Our opinion is that this location will ultimately be all converted to timeshare units and to get a substantial difference in experience between the current old rooms and new rooms (as seen on the tour), we got to taste the old rooms. Being here, you need to factor about 30-40 minutes from door to getting to your car (non-valet) and off resort with kid legs. You can walk it or slow-tram it. If you're exploring the Big Island during your stay, consider the Palace Tower (slightly closer) or the Lagoon Tower. Pools are scattered throughout the resort, so each location will have good/close access to them. If you're Gold or Diamond status, you get Continental Breakfast free for two adults and kids 5 and under. Upgrade to full breakfast is $12/pp. This is at the Big Island Breakfast, which opens at 7am. So if you're planning an early start to somewhere on the Big Island, you're out of luck. We had to use Starbucks (opens at 5:30am) off resort, in the Queen's Market area 5 minutes away enroute to the main road out towards Hilo or Kona. Be prepared as the WiFi throughout the resort is very choppy - but we suppose that's a good thing if you're on vacation. We're still puzzled as to where all the money for the resort fees goes towards. A great feature we haven't experienced elsewhere, but will probably become common is the texting concierge.
by Elizabeth W
Ever since I saw Hilton Waikoloa Village featured in one of Samantha Brown's travel episodes about 10 years ago, I have wanted to vacation here with my family. Her descriptions of the protected lagoon where one can snorkel or kayak or do almost any water activity (no surfing or water skiing), the boat rides through the property, the great luau, the fact that it's on the Big Island where the active volcanoes are, made this place rank near the top of my list of dream places to visit. So when Hilton Grand Vacations was offering a promotion for this property, I took the bait. And it was with great excitement that my family and I checked in and eagerly looked for our room.
But I was quickly disappointed. I prefer rooms up high, close to the elevator, and definitely not on the first floor, and as a Hilton Gold Member, I am accustomed to getting high rooms. But not this time. We were assigned to the Ocean Tower, which is the furthest from the lobby, on the ground floor, to a room that is almost as far away from the elevator as you can get. And to get to that room from the elevator, we had to walk through what felt like the longest underground tunnel I've ever encountered at a hotel. Definitely gave me the creeps.
Once we got to the room, it was surprisingly big, with a large bathroom and tub, and a screen door that opened right out to the grass. Although the room felt older, it was comfortable, if one ignores that it's on the ground floor. But the internet wouldn't work, and when I called tech support, they said they couldn't fix it and would have to put in a ticket for an engineer to come by, but they had no idea how many hours, or days, that would take.
I called the front desk multiple times trying to understand why I couldn't get a room not on the first floor, and finally was given a room in the Lagoon Tower for an upgrade fee that I could move into 2 days later. I still don't understand why all this fuss couldn't have been avoided before check in since I'd called the hotel multiple time beforehand for all sorts of planning reasons, but there it is.
And then something I hadn't forseen: since it was now just past 9 pm, all the restaurants in the resort AND reasonably nearby were all closed! So we were stuck ordering room service. I've ordered room service in other Hiltons before, and I know there's a mark-up, but this was RIDICULOUS! An order of very ordinary chicken nuggets, after including the delivery fee plus the mandatory 22% gratutity, came to almost $50!!
Continental Breakfast at Water's Edge (complimentary for Gold members) was very nice, MUCH better than the standard Hilton fare. It included fried rice, and 2 types of Asian rice porridge & Miso soup! And of course, FRUIT: papaya, pineapple, cantaloupe & honeydew, and watermelon as well as bananas, oranges & apples. Full breakfast added the usual breakfast potatoes & meats and waffles & omelettes, as well as some local specialties (like Loco Moco), french toast and biscuits & gravy, and the upgrade fee wasn't bad @ $12. But the quality of the wait staff varied widely, from extremely polite to quite rude.
Once we moved to the Lagoon Tower, the living situation improved greatly. Housekeeping staff were very prompt and friendly - our rooms would be done by the time we got back from breakfast! The room was the same size as the one in Ocean Tower, but with a nicer layout (2 sinks instead of 1; giant shower instead of tub w/shower) although we ended up with a much smaller, single sofabed instead of a queen-sized one. And our room overlooked the lagoon & dolphins, which was great, except we definitely felt sorry for the dolphins.
Valet parking was great as long as you want the car early in the morning. The cars come quick at that time. However, there were a lot of people wanting cars around noon, and that was the only time we had a long wait for the car.
Rental cost for cabanas and water toys is expensive, so I was glad I'd bought my snorkel gear from Costco. And the lagoon water is rather murky, so the snorkeling isn't as clear as when I went on a snorkeling tour, but it was still clear enough to see the wild sea turtles foraging at the bottom of the lagoon!
Tram and boat ran well while we were there, but they are slow. Fastest way to get around the resort is definitely by walking.
Overall, a happy stay. But I don't think I would choose to stay here again. I'd prefer someplace smaller. And someplace where I didn't have to fight so hard to get my room preference.
Dolphin Quest Village
The Hilton Waikaloa Village has been nicknamed by many as the "dolphin hotel," and for good reason. The resort's Dolphin Quest Village provides families with a chance to meet and mingle with dolphins. The educational program is renowned for its treatment of the dolphins, and trainers are happy to teach you about the animals, without asking you to pay to get in the water with them. Plus, rooms in the Lagoon Tower, which overlooks the dolphin center, provide outstanding views of the dolphins at play throughout the day. Experiences range from 45-minute encounters to a full-day Trainer for a Day program and even Trainer for a Week programs.
The resort provides eight tennis courts for all-day play, all nestled between the Lagoon Tower and the parking lot.
The heart of the resort is Lagoon Beach, a man-made beach on the property's lagoon. The small stretch of beach does not provide much room for families to spread out, but the lagoon is ideal for paddle boarding and water sports. Alas, the resort is not situated on an ocean beach, but the resort's shuttle departs throughout the day from the main lobby to whisk guests to a larger public beach down the road. The use of kayaks, boogie boards, paddle bards and floats is an additional cost, and all-inclusive individual and family plans are available.
Perhaps the most kid-friendly area of the resort is the Kona Pool, where a children's sand pool and water slide along a beachfront pool are best suited for families. Located near the Lagoon Tower, the pool is also close to Dolphin Quest Village. The Kohala pool is smaller than the Kona Pool, but often less crowded and better for small children. Located at the Ocean Tower, the pool has a small water slide. An adults-only pool is also offered and can be found in the Ocean Place Tower.
The resort does not have its own golf course, but is connected to Waikoloa Village, which does offer golf on the Waikoloa Beach and Kings' Courses. While the Beach course touts ocean views, the Kings' course actually has better ocean views and is cheaper. Guests of the Hilton can enjoy the Seaside Putting Courses, located near the Ocean Tower. The course is open at 9:30 a.m. and varies its closing times seasonally. Children under age 6 can putt for free with a paying adult. Twilight rates apply after 3 p.m., and Glow Golf night putting are offered, as well.
Open to teens and adults, the 25,000-square-foot Kohala Spa provides a relaxing setting for treatments. Separate men and women's areas feature saunas, steam rooms and outdoor hot tubs built out of lava rock. Hair and nail treatments, massages, body treatments, and facials are all offered. The spa, open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., also houses the resort's fitness center, which is open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. with room key access.
This island company, which is often found at the resorts along the Kohala Coast, provides island excursions, including snorkeling and sunset cruises. Bike rentals are also available through the company, with trailers and connectors for younger children. Cruises depart daily, most lasting an hour and a half, with discounts for children ages 6 to 12 and free cruises for children 5 and under.
Legends of the Pacific Luau
The Hilton Waikaloa Village features a sunset luau in a theater tucked away near the Lagoon Tower. Held seasonally on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as Fridays year-round, the luau provides families with an expansive buffet dinner, as well as a show filled with exotic dance and music from the Pacific Islands.
Daily, supervised activities are offered for children ages 5 to 12. Day camps are available for full days, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., or half days, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Discounts are offered for siblings. Night programs are also available from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Activities include Hawaiian cultural activities, such as hula lessons and lei making.
Dive-In movies, fish feeding, stargazing, teen activities and more can be found throughout the resort seasonally. Pick up a copy of the resort's activity guide at check-in to plan the fun during your visit.
The resort has a number of dining options on property, with many of them getting crowded for dinner -- make reservations early! Children under 4 eat free at the resort, and each restaurant features a kid's menu. The kid's menu comes with coloring books, and children receive rubber bracelets in various colors -- if they collect all seven, they get a free ice cream cone at Shaka Cones!
Kamuela Provision Company
Overlooking the ocean and the Kona Pool, Kamuela Provision Company (or KPC, as it is referred to on the property) is the resort's upscale dinner restaurant, featuring to-die-for steaks and seafood in a more adult setting. Hire a sitter for the kids and enjoy this one on a date night, especially as this restaurant has been voted one of the most romantic restaurants by OpenTable. Dinner is served nightly from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., and reservations are recommended.
Kona Pool Bar
Conveniently located near the kid's pool, the pool bar provides quick bites, snacks or lunch from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Salads, sandwiches and Paninis are offered, as well as a happy hour from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Waikoloa Coffee Company
Offering two locations on the resort -- on the ground floor of both the Lagoon and Ocean towers -- this grab-and-go coffee shop offers muffins and light pastries, while serving locally harvested Kona coffee, smoothies and espresso.
Overlooking the dolphin area, Lagoon Grill is a casual outdoor grill serving snacks and lunch, as well as early dinners. Open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., the grill features burgers, fries and tasty beverages. It becomes a family-friendly happy hour destination from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Shaka Cones Ice Cream
Locally made Tropical Dreams ice cream is scooped up by all ages at Shaka's Big Island Ice Cream. The shack is open daily from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.
This evening lounge serves light fare with live music, and although kids are welcome, it's more of an adult bar than a family place. The lounge serves food from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., but it is open until midnight. Live music begins at 8 p.m. nightly, with the exception of Sundays, when it begins at 7 p.m.
Traditional Japanese dining, including a sushi bar and teppanyaki, can be found at Imari for limited dinners. The restaurant is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., and reservations are strongly suggested.
Big Island Breakfast
The resort's fantastic breakfast buffet is held in this centrally located dining area, overlooking the lagoon. The breakfast can be quite pricey -- $30 per adult -- but offers an early bird deal, if you dine between 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. Many jet-lagged guests make it to this for breakfast time, but it's far less crowded than the later breakfasts. Breakfast runs until 11 a.m.
Kohala Pool Bar
Conveniently located near the smaller family pool, the bar provides quick bites for snacks or lunch from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Salads, sandwiches and wraps are offered, as well as a happy hour from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Boat Landing Cantina
Located near the adult pool in the Ocean Tower, Boat Landing Cantina overlooks the resort's water canals and serves up Mexican food, such as nachos and tacos. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., with a happy hour from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Dona & Toni's Pizza
Very popular for families, Dona & Toni's is located in the Palace Tower, and can include a long wait during dinner hours. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, and room service pizza comes from here. If you don't want to wait for a table, just order your pizza to go, and save on the hefty room service fees.
Kirin Chinese Restaurant
Serving traditional Chinese food for lunch and dinner daily in the Palace Tower, everything from Szechuan to Cantonese food is available from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a regular dinner menu also offered from 11 a.m. to 10:45 p.m.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
One annoying aspect of a stay at the Hilton Waikoloa Village is how much the staff pushes its Grand Vacations program on you. You will be invited at check-in to attend a session in which they will attempt to sell you a timeshare, with promises of receiving $100 Hilton Hawaiian Dollars, 20,000 Hilton HHonors Points or a Holo Holo Activity Discount Card.
A complimentary island orientation is offered in the main lobby daily at 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. The 45-minute presentation explains the island's best attractions and excursions. Free coffee and pastries are provided.
The hotel charges a daily resort fee per room, per night that includes Wi-Fi access, PlayStation 3 access, local telephone calls, Hawaiian Cultural Activities, a 20 percent discount on lagoon beach toys and a 10 percent discount on Ocean Sports cruises. The fee is $25 plus tax.
Coin-operated laundry facilities are offered in both the Lagoon and Ocean Towers.
The resort's SharpShooter Imaging provides chances to get family portraits in private photo sessions, as well as takes pictures randomly throughout the resort at pools, the lagoon, and near the resort's macaws and parrots -- Marley, Flame, Cisco and Zigg.
Car rentals are available through National Car Rental from the resort. Rent a car for two days and receive a credit off your rental to cover the resort's parking fee.
Lagoon Tower Shops provides a variety of on-property shopping opportunities, including Na Hoku jewelers, Sandal Tree shoes, Big Island Marketplace, Things Hawaiian, Kohala Spa Boutique and Journey Boutique.
Free Wi-Fi hot spots can be found throughout the resort at most restaurants, the coffee shops and the resort's lower lobby.
A shopping shuttle to Waikoloa's Queens' Marketplace and Kings' Shop is offered from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, at $2 for adults, $1 per children 5 to 12, and free to children 4 and younger. The shuttle is available in the resort's lower lobby and runs every 10 minutes.
A shuttle transfer to and from the airport can be arranged through SpeediShuttle by calling 877-242-5777 or visiting the lower lobby.
The Art of Smart Timing
The Kohala Coast gets very minimal rainfall and winter temperatures are still in the 70's, making the resort a great year-round destination. The resort is busiest during summer months, school vacations and holidays, and more activities for kids will be held during these times.
The Kohala Coast is about a 30-minute drive from the Big Island's Kona International Airport. Once at the resort, shuttles provide services to shopping options and off-resort dining, and excursions can be arranged through the hotel, making it possible to visit the resort without renting a car.
For Mom and Dad
If you can sneak away from the kids for a few hours, head to Kamuela Provision Company, where you'll enjoy some of the mosh delicious steaks and seafood you've ever had. Make a reservation in advance.