My time on the big island was split between two different resort hotels. The first was the Sheraton Kona Resort, followed by the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort. I wasn’t initially sure what I was going to do for my second night. I’d hoped to burn some Wyndham points at one of their properties, but nothing ever opened up (they like to play games with award inventory). With a chunk of Hilton points at my disposal, they were the best backup option. I would also be able to use my American Express Hilton Aspire Credit to eat for free.
Booking the Resort
The Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort was an easy pick for 60,000 Honors points. Hilton waives the resort fee on award stays, and including that fee and the taxes, I was getting over 0.8 cents per point. All-in cash rates started at about $420. This is an excellent value for Honors points, which are normally pegged at around a half cent each.
I’m not big into resorts, although I’ve only stayed at a few. But they are great family properties, and the Hilton Waikoloa Village is a great candidate for a Hawaii family vacation in the next couple years. We’d have to get us all to the islands, but that’s not a huge issue living on the west coast. The benefit of booking five nights is that you get one free. At a standard award cost of 60,000 points per night, a 5-night stay at the Hilton Waikoloa Village would set us back 240,000 points.
Sure, that may sound like a lot. But we’d be there with just one American Express Hilton card upgrade bonus. Hilton points are quick to earn through spend as well, as the mid-tier Hilton Ascend American Express card earns 6x Honors points at grocery stores. I’d happily burn 240,000 points for $2,100 in room value.
Arriving at the Hilton Waikoloa Village
I spent the morning and early afternoon driving the Saddle Road up between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. My time there is the subject of another post. I’d been planning on driving out to the Keck Observatory on Mauna Loa, but instead I ended up taking a nature hike with protesters. Go figure.
By the time I made it down to sea level again, it was about 1:00. This is earlier than standard check-in time, but I thought I’d give it a try. Parking in the massive Hilton parking lot, I walked to the lobby. The Hilton charges $30 per night for self parking and $37 for valet. I find this outrageous, but there really isn’t anything you can do. If you read my review of the Sheraton Kona, at least that hotel has an easy parking hack.
The lobby is extensive. There is the grand staircase straight in front of you, the concierge to the right, and the front desk to the left. The grand staircase gives you a nice view of the lagoon area of the resort.
There were a few people in the check-in line when I arrived, but it moved quickly.
Fortunately, my room was ready and I was able to check-in. I’d hoped that’d be the case, as I needed to charge lunch to my room. One of the benefits of staying at the Hilton Waikoloa Village is that you can use the resort credit from a Hilton Aspire card to cover charges during the stay. I billed everything to the room and American Express credited the entire amount back. I even still have some of the $250 to spare.
My room was in the Lagoon Tower, which is a decent walk. The Hilton Waikoloa actually has a tram. I walk nearly as fast, so I didn’t find it useful. But for any guests with mobility issues, it is helpful. It’ll take you between towers and the lobby.
The interior area of the Lagoon Tower features a lake. The tower is more central to the resort amenities.
There are actually multiple properties that are all part of the same Hilton Waikoloa Resort complex. Hilton’s website will pull up five different options for Waikoloa Village. There is the Hilton Waikoloa Village and the Ocean Tower “properties”, and then three options that are part of Hilton Grand Vacations. It was confusing trying to decide which to book, but going with the main resort itself seemed best.
The Hilton Waikoloa Resort has two different towers: the Lagoon Tower and the Palace Tower (since I guess you have to specifically book the Ocean Tower if you want it?). I was given a room in the Lagoon Tower, which is the nicer of the two, although I’d booked a Palace Tower King Room. The Hilton website very clearly stated that no complimentary upgrades would be given due to the demand at the hotel, but I’d been upgraded anyway as a Diamond member. It was even an ocean view room.
Makai Ocean View King Room
MAKAI rooms in the Lagoon Tower are a spacious 530 square feet. I don’t know how they compare to rooms in the Palace Tower except based on Hilton’s descriptions, but the first impression was very good.
The bathroom is fairly open with a large double-sink area. There is no door between this section and the rest of the room, which I prefer when traveling with the family, as the whole restroom isn’t occupied when one person needs to use it.
Through the door are the shower and toilet.
All of the bath amenities carry the same room branding as well.
Each room in the resort has a Playstation system for use. Part of the daily resort fee includes rental of games. I didn’t use the system during the stay.
And here we have the closet. The room also has a mini-fridge under the cabinet in the entryway.
One benefit of the room was certainly the lanai. You can enjoy the warmth of Hawaii right from your room.
One of the best features of the room was certainly the view. It looked out over the Dolphin Quest and Lagoon, with the Ocean Tower across the way and the ocean beyond.
The welcome packet I was given at the front desk contained plenty of information on the hotel, including details on departure from the resort, their resort charge, and the breakfast benefit. It amuses me that hotels can bill you a resort fee that gives you a “discount” on beach toy rental. Since the charge is mandatory, it isn’t really a discount at all. Just a different way to still hit you for more money.
The Hilton Waikoloa Resort also offers a number of cultural and other hotel activities. Many are free but require reservations, while a few are available for an additional charge.
Just down the hall from my room was the laundry area. I stumbled across it looking for a second staircase. If you’re here for an extended stay, it’s a nice feature.
Resort Amenities and Activities
The Hilton Waikoloa Village is a massive resort. There are three different towers, multiple pools, several restaurants, and a few other activity sites. Here we have a panorama of the lagoon area.
The lagoon is a saltwater area where you can swim and enjoy the ocean without worrying about the surf. The Hilton offers floaties and boats for rent, but they do need to stay in the lagoon.
Roughly on the other side of the Lagoon Tower are the pools. It is a huge area, including multiple pools, a few man-made waterfalls, and lots and lots of sun chairs.
The pools were obviously very popular. Without much of a beach at the resort, they are the go-to place for most folks.
Between the pool are and the lagoon is Hilton’s Dolphin Quest. While I’m not against animal experiences, as I believe that zoos, aquariums, and the like generally promote conservation efforts and have an ethical purpose, the Dolphin Quest didn’t fit this category for me. I watched the pair swim circles in the shallow pool for a while and it seems like there really isn’t a lot here for them besides people jumping in to “swim” with them each day. I also don’t think something like this belongs at a resort. Just my thoughts after observing for 10 minutes. Definitely a debate for another day.
There isn’t much of a beach at Waikoloa. The coast is very rocky, as is the case on most of the Big Island, where lava flows directly meet the sea. I sat and enjoyed watching the ocean for a while. When it is clear, you can see Maui in the distance.
The Hilton Waikoloa Resort offers their Legends of Hawaii Luau multiple nights per week. This is not included, and it is a significant per-person upcharge. Adults (ages 13+) cost $140 and kids (ages 5-12) cost $75. It’s a 2.5 hour event including everything you’d expect: dining, music, dancing and cultural demonstrations.
The Hilton Waikoloa Village also has a spa, if that’s your main reason for booking a resort getaway. Remember that you can use your Hilton Aspire resort credit to cover on-property charges, up to $250 per cardmember year.
Dining at the Hilton Waikoloa Village
There are several dining options at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, which you’d expect at a resort of this size. Lunch was in order when I arrived, and I headed to the Lagoon Grill. With a $250 credit at my disposal, there was no need to pinch pennies during the stay. Here is a full listing of all the resort dining options, available in your room.
The Lagoon Grill offers burgers and sandwiches, as well as a selection of drinks and desserts. The whole restaurant is open-air, located between the Dolphin Quest and the Lagoon.
The pulled pork sandwich was a decent choice. However, I would find later that I preferred the food selection at the Kona Tap Room. But if you want to eat outdoors, this is a good choice.
You’ll need to make friends with the finches, though. They are all over the place. Judging by the amount of bird droppings, they hopefully clean everything well each day!
The Kona Tap Room is one of the better dining choices within the resort, in my opinion. The atmosphere is laid-back, and there are enough menu options that most people should be satisfied. It’s located between the lobby and the Lagoon Tower, which made it an easy option.
The Kona Tap Room features beer on tap from Kona Brewing Co. and offers an array of other drinks.
As far as food goes, you have a nice array of choices. I went with the Mahi Mahi tacos. The Kona Tap Room also has live music every night.
If you’re looking for fine dining, the Kamuela Provision Company is where you want to be. Reservations are recommended.
Near the Lagoon Grill is Shaka Cones, offering a selection of ice cream. Of course I had to go with the Kona Coffee.
What I wouldn’t do is order in-room dining. You’ll be raked over the coals by Hilton, as they charge a ridiculous $10 deliver fee plus a 22% “gratuity” where 30% doesn’t even go to the hotel employees. If your in-room dinner would cost $50, you’ll end up paying $71 all said and done.
Like I mentioned before, the coast by the Hilton Waikoloa Resort is very rocky. There is essentially one tiny patch of sand if you walk past the KPC and down to the stairs. Even then, it’s mixed with rocks.
It’s certainly pretty, though, with a mix of white and black pumice.
If you’re looking for a swimmable beach, you’ll have to head elsewhere. There are a few nice ones in the area, but I am not aware of one within the resort. No, the lagoon doesn’t count. I’d personally head south along the coast 15-20 minutes to either of the spots north of the airport.
Diamond Breakfast Benefit
The Hilton Waikoloa Village doesn’t have a lounge, so the breakfast benefit as a Diamond member is the continental breakfast offered at the Big Island Breakfast restaurant. True to the terms, it is strictly for the continental breakfast. If you want the full buffet, it is a $12 upcharge.
This benefit is available to Gold and Diamond elite members. Remember, as a Gold elite you’ll have to choose breakfast instead of points. Breakfast is the far better value.
The continental buffet isn’t bad, but it certainly isn’t worth $28. It’s insane that Hilton charges $40 for their full breakfast buffet at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. I cannot imagine visiting this resort and coming away with a positive experience in terms of cost without a) using points to cover the rate and resort fee and b) being a Diamond member where breakfast is free.
I do have another odd complaint: the ridiculous birds that spend the night in the Lagoon Tower area. When I headed back from the watching the sunset to have dinner, there was an odd noise coming from the central space in the middle of the tower. The trees had been invaded, and there was a constant, raucous chatter. The noise is distinctly audible even within the rooms.
The birds eventually quieted down as it got darker and later. But it was the same thing in the morning. The cackles started before 5:00 AM and lasted at least an hour. It is ridiculous.
What’s also ridiculous is the beauty of the sunset. This one beat even the previous day’s lovely sky when I was at the Sheraton Kona Resort down the coast! I suggest heading out to the rocks beyond the Kamuela Provision Company and taking it in from there.
My Take on the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort
My resort experience was certainly rather low-key compared to most. I was there solo, traveling on a whim to take advantage of the Turkish deal between the continental U.S. and Hawaii. I enjoyed a few of the restaurants, swam for a refreshing 30 minutes, and then took a nice evening walk at sunset. Other than that I was back on my computer working.
The Hilton Waikoloa Village is definitely a contender for a 5-night family Hawaii vacation. With fantastic pool facilities, a lagoon where you can enjoy boating, plenty of dining options, and other activities you can enjoy as part of your resort experience, it is a solid pick if you’re visiting the Big Island. It’d be fun to enjoy the luau one evening, but that would set us back $505. I’d only consider this if we can use the resort credit and/or an excellent Amex offer as part of our stay.
The lack of a real beach is definitely a downside, but you can get to a couple by car just down the coast. There is one further south at Kua Bay that I thought was absolutely fantastic. This was my final stop before heading back to Kona Airport.
If given the chance to visit Hawaii for a longer stint, I would certainly consider a stay at the Hilton Waikoloa Resort. At 60,000 Honors points per night, it offers a solid value and excellent experience.