I recently went to Hawaii for the first time on vacation. The flights I booked required me to overnight on Oahu on my way to Maui. I didn’t know much about the hotel scene, but I knew that Waikiki was the most popular area for travelers.
Waikiki, as you may know, is a very tourist-oriented area, with a nice (but crowded) beach, and lots of stores, restaurants, and hotels. The hotels range from budget to premium, though it’s not exactly the most high-end destination. Everything’s a bit on the older side; it looks like it might’ve been really nice back when Three’s Company was a top-rated sitcom.
There are a variety of chain hotels adjacent to the beach, including SPG, Marriott, and Hyatt properties. The best deal I found, however, was through Priceline. Priceline seems to be moving away from their original name-your-own-price model, and I booked on the “non-opaque” part of their site (where they tell you what the price is for a specific hotel, rather than you making an offer for any hotel that meets certain criteria).
I had a discount code for Priceline that further reduced the rate. They often send these through emails, as does Orbitz. They’re not valid at every hotel, and usually not valid at the major chains, but when you find a hotel that accepts them, they’ll knock 10-15% off the nightly rate.
The promo code was valid for bookings at Hotel Renew, and made it a considerably better value than other properties: I paid $164, when most comparable hotels were going for over $200. The Hotel Renew is operated by Aston Hotels & Resorts, a small chain of primarily mid-range properties, most of which are located in Hawaii.
Checking in to Hotel Renew
We checked in a little after 4. The check-in agent offered us pineapple juice and cold towels. He also explained the “aroma concierge” to us, where we were given a choice of four scents for our room. We chose one, and they brought it up to our room a few minutes later. (Frankly, the smell was so faint that I couldn’t really detect it in the room. And as long as my room doesn’t smell like feet or a hospital, I’m generally happy. But it was a cool idea.)
The hotel building itself is older (there isn’t a lot of new construction near Waikiki). It’s a 9-story building with maybe 7 or 8 rooms per floor, so it’s not exactly huge. We were assigned a room on the 9th floor, with one king bed.
Our Hotel Renew room
The lobby, common areas, and room all looked as if they’d been renovated not too long ago. The furnishings were contemporary and in good shape. The room felt Hawaiian without having a ton of floral prints and other kitschy stuff (I was a little worried there would be hula skirt wallpaper and tiki lamps everywhere). There was a nice lighting control panel on one side of the bed.
Our room had a king-size bed, which was incredibly comfortable (in the past, I could sleep pretty much anywhere, but as I’ve gotten older, bed comfort has become a much more important factor for me). The bedding was soft and clean.
I do wish they had power outlets on both side of the bed. One side had a spare outlet, while the other didn’t. If my phone isn’t next to me while I sleep, I feel like I’m missing a part of myself. (#millennialproblems)
The bathroom had CO Bigelow toiletries, which were perfectly nice. There was a window in the shower, with a view of Diamond Head.
One thing that I’d never seen in a hotel room before was a PlayStation 3, for which they offered free games. You could also use it as a DVD player, and they would rent free movies to you as well. I think it’s a great idea, though I didn’t get to try it out.
Like virtually all hotels in the area, Hotel Renew charged a resort fee (or “boutique fee,” as they called it). The amount was $25, and included the wifi, “aroma concierge,” continental breakfast, in-room PlayStation 3, beach gear (chair, towels, etc.), and some other stuff.
I appreciate that they list what the fee includes, and I’m glad it includes more than just things you’d normally find at any hotel.
Another nice touch was the list of upcoming local events.
The hotel also offered a free continental breakfast. There were a few pastries, some cereals, juices, and coffee. The area where breakfast was served (which doubles as a bar at night) is small and has seating for only around 1o guests at a time, so it’s not ideal.
In Waikiki, there are few hotels with their own section of direct beach access. Instead, hotels are separated from the public beach by a road. Hotel Renew isn’t directly on that road, but is about a half a block further inland. It takes about 2 minutes to walk to the beach, so it’s still very close.
As I mentioned, Waikiki is an older area. The beach is really pretty, and there is a park with a jogging path that’s nice. But be prepared to also encounter some homeless people, panhandlers, and people trying to sell you stuff you probably don’t need (unless it’s your lifelong dream to own a hastily-drawn caricature of yourself riding a unicycle).
The Honolulu Zoo is also right there (I recommend it, especially for the variety of tropical birds they have), and Diamond Head is a few minutes’ drive away.
There are a few options for getting to Waikiki. You can rent a car, which makes sense if you plan to explore other parts of Oahu (e.g. Pearl Harbor). There’s also the Speedishuttle, a shared van service. Uber estimates that the ride from the airport to Waikiki will cost around $68-90, and a taxi would cost $40-50, depending on traffic.
If you’re traveling alone or with one or two other people, I’d recommend Hawaii 23, which is what I used. For $23, they’ll take up to two people from the airport to Waikiki (or vice versa) in a private car. They don’t have an automated online booking service, but they do have a form you fill out, and then within a day or so they’ll send you back a confirmation. They say you should ideally book about a week before you plan to travel.
If you’re going to travel all the way to Hawaii, don’t spend all your time in Waikiki. But if you’re overnighting on Oahu, Hotel Renew is a decent place to stop over and begin (or end) your vacation.