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Stay

I do a lot of traveling sponsored by Hawaii tourism and the hotels themselves. Unless noted otherwise, you should assume that my stay was comped. Keep in mind that parking is often extra — you may pay up to 25.00 US a night for your car.  You’ll be charged at the hotel, it doesn’t show up in the price when you make a  reservation.

Big Island

Hilo Hawaiian Hotel –Hilo

There’s not a lot of selection for hotels in Hilo so you’re sort of stuck if you don’t want a vacation rental or a B&B. The bayside rooms have stellar views, wow, you can watch the cruise ships come in and watch the locals jumping off the rocks on Coconut Island, but the halls are weirdly dreary, the decor very worn, the bedding poor quality, and in the bar, the staffer looked at me like I was crazy when I asked for iced coffee. This hotel badly needs an update. My room was remarkably quiet at night, though, and that’s something I always appreciate.

King Kamehameha Hotel — Kona

Beautifully remodeled rooms, super convenient location right in the Kona-Kailua tourist hub. There are great deals right NOW (May, 2010) while they complete the renovation in the public spaces. The construction work on site isn’t disruptive, but there’s something going in right next door that’s kind of noisy. The breakfast buffet is okay, the poolside cocktails pack a punch. When the work is complete, I think this is going to be a Very Nice Hotel.

Outrigger Keauhou Beach Resort — South Kona

Location, location, location. Perched over a crystal clear lagoon, right next to one of the Big Island’s best snorkel beaches, plus you’d have to make an effort not to have a view.  Did I mention the location? The decor is nothing special, the public spaces are a little worn, but it’s clean and comfortable and the grounds are lovely. The restaurant is fine, and bonus, when the tide is in you could absolutely sit there with a fish spotting card. You’ll need a car if you stay here — there’s not much in walking distance for services. I like the Outrigger properties because they’re locally owned and because their staff are unfailingly charming.

Pahala Plantation Cottages — Pahala (near Volcano)

Vacation rentals are, I think, the way to go. These places are cute, funky, homey, easy to feel relaxed in. Facilities vary, and like any vacation rental, you take your chances on the beds. Mine was fine, I heard complaints from others. This isn’t spectacular luxury, not by a long shot, but it you want to feel like you’ve gone local (and I often do) then this is a fun way to go. Not for the fussy, but totally my style.

Oahu

Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel — Waikiki

There are great deals at the Aston – rates start at 139 for a double — for a hotel that’s on the beach in Waikiki. The decor is cute — bright Hawaiian prints and surfboards — and the beds are comfortable.  A breakfast buffet is included, sort of, you pay extra for the omelet bar or a waffle. The property is a little noisy — it’s popular with families with small kids and there’s a lively party bar (Tiki’s Grill) on the pool deck. The facilities are a little worn, the air conditioner in my room was noisy, and there are add on fees — the folder I received with my keys stated that I had to waive my morning paper if I didn’t want to pay for it, internet is extra, and there’s a two key dollar deposit. My advice? Shop around.

Aqua Hotels — Waikiki

A big fat seal of approval to Aqua for all kinds of things, but mostly for their affordable, detail oriented properties in the heart of Waikiki. I’ve stayed at the Coconut and the Bamboo, I thought they were both comfortable, attractive, conveniently located, had nice amenities… and I’ve heard good things about the Pearl. I wouldn’t hesitate to pick one of their other properties given my experiences with this line so far — they’re really my style, funky, fun to stay in, helpful, likable staff, and walking distance from, well, everything.

Embassy Suites Waikiki Beach Walk — Waikiki

I love a hotel that gets it right.  This property isn’t on the beach though some rooms do have ocean views. There’s a nice, understated tropical decor, good linens on the comfortable beds, and lots of amenities — buffet breakfast on the lanai, internet, good coffee in your room (no Styrofoam, no powdered creamer!), a microwave and mini-fridge for your leftovers… It’s one block to beach and one block to Kalakaua Avenue. Rates start at around 250 a night — a good deal for the standard two room suite.

Marriott Beach Resort and Spa — Waikiki

First things first. I kind of lost my mind over the crab ramen at Sansei, the sushi and Japanese place on site at this hotel. Go eat it. Now, if you can. As for the hotel, I loved the amazing sunrise view from my room, I loved sitting on the little semi-circular balcony, hearing the city far below, and I loved being right across the street from the beach. There’s some good shopping right on site — a minimart, a uke shop (What? That’s important!), a coffee place. I stayed here for a conference and they fed us very well, though I was distracted often by all the Hawaii right outside. Big stars of Hawaiian music play the bar, no REALLY, big stars, like Cyril Pahinui and Led Kaapana, for free. Oddly, I don’t remember much more about this hotel, which, given my critical nature, means it was totally fine, they didn’t charge me for wifi, it wasn’t too noisy, and they had a billion easily reached outlets. Rooms start at around 230 a night.

Moloka’i

Hotel Moloka’i

Given that this is Moloka’i’s  only hotel, it’s not like I can recommend an alternative. There are vacation rentals on the island if the Hotel Moloka’i isn’t your thing. While the beds are good, this isn’t a luxury property and it’s got some flaws. It’s a popular spot for local entertainment and it can be noisy at night — ask to be far away from the restaurant. The rooms aren’t well insulated so you can hear your neighbors. My biggest complaint was the smokers in the unit below me — it’s a non-smoking hotel, but that didn’t stop the other guests from smoking on their patio. The restaurant is mediocre — though breakfast is good. If you can live with the flaws, it’s a great place — it feels more like you’re staying with friends than in a hotel, if you can’t, you might be on the wrong island entirely. The waterfront rooms have views that will leave you speechless and the whole place has a funky local vibe. Pack earplugs if you’re noise sensitive (I am), and spring for the view if you can afford it. A few units have kitchenettes, worth it if you’re planning a longer stay. Rates go from about 160 – 230.

Kauai

Hanalei Bay Colony Resort

Is it wrong to fall in love with a vacation property? It’s a little odd, surely. The pool is kind of funky and the facilities are minimal, there’s no TV, there’s wifi at the office and nearby cafe only, but you’re in an absolute stunner of a location, the staff ar super friendly, and it is a wonder to wake to the sound of the surf every day. I loved this place. There are a few especially choice end units, but really, you can’t go wrong. Don’t be mistaking this for plush luxury, it’s not, but it is a fantastic — and in my mind nearly perfect — getaway.

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