Where do we start? How about wow! This is the one you’ve probably heard about. This resort spread over 62 acres, is the most elaborate of them all. (By the way, despite its name, it is not located in or next to the town of Waikoloa Village.) Three separate towers are joined by a tram and boat network right out of Disneyland. One swimming pool has a pounding waterfall and an Indiana Jones-type swinging bridge overhead. There is a dolphin pool where lucky guests can get in the water with dolphins. The whole experience is described in Adventures. More than 1,800 pieces of artwork are spread all over the resort and they do tours once week. Parrots and exotic birds are also scattered about. There are multiple concierge desks around to assist in booking activities, making reservations or pointing the way to a particular part of the resort. Large groups will find the meeting facilities superb—from conference rooms to a ballroom the size of Waikiki. The restaurants here are excellent.
The one thing the Hilton doesn’t have is a great beach. They have a manmade inland lagoon instead where guests float around in kayaks, paddle boats and rafts. (‘Anaeho‘omalu Beach is a half-mile walk or drive south.) In terms of amenities, the Hilton Waikoloa is an excellent place for families. Kids will never get bored here. There’s a shallow swimming pool with a sandy beach at one end, a water slide and enough activities to wear out any teen or crumb-cruncher. Consider a ground floor cabana room in the Lagoon Tower in front of the dolphin pool where kids can frolic on the grass. There is also a “Splash & Relax” program, which gets non-overnight guests a room and use of pool for the day (10 a.m.–6 p.m.) for $160/day for up to four people.
The resort might seem overwhelming at first. It cost over a third of a billion dollars back in the ’80s to construct, and a staggering 1,200 employees are needed to run it all. You won’t see all of them running around, however. That’s because they go from here to there via an extensive underground tunnel network. When you’re down there, you’re likely to run into your chef in uniform cruising along on a three-wheeled bike. You may wish you had one to get around the enormous property. This resort is nicknamed Hilton Walks-a-lot for a reason.
The entire resort is oriented inward, resulting in a destination that is self-contained. Some people who visit the Hilton Waikoloa snort that it’s not real. Frankly, they miss the point. It’s not supposed to represent reality. It’s fantasy, escape, a leap into Neverland. The designers did a great job of achieving their objective—making an out-of-this-world playground/fantasyland for adults and kids. If that’s what you are looking for, you will find it here in abundance. If you want to experience a calm piece of authentic old Hawai‘i, you’ve come to the wrong place.
It seems with every review a tower here has just completed new renovations, and this time is no exception. The Makai Palace Tower rooms have been upgraded to a sleek, modern but not overly Hawaiian look. Avoid connecting rooms, unless you need them, as your neighbor can easily be heard through the closed doors—especially in the Ocean Tower. You may feel your pocketbook being emptied at every turn with extra charges—day beds by the lagoon and Kona pool are $208 and come with water and towel service, cabana chairs are $58 per day by the pools (but casabella—two chairs with a retractable cover, are free by the lagoon), and the fitness room is $20 per day unless you are Hilton Honors Silver and above or staying in Makai Lagoon Tower. Rates are very reasonable for Kohala (but the spread is huge). Rooms of 400–530 sq. ft. are $225–$829. The suites (1,060–3,000 sq. ft.) range from $419–$3,500.