Hilton Hawaiian Village and Playing Tourist For a Day

Moving back to Hawaii has been challenging in many ways. I’ll get to all of that later. I knew it was going to be a bit rough – and I knew that my wife and daughter would only have one chance to see Hawai’i for the first time – so I opted to make our first day and night here as tourists. I knew we were going to need a hotel the first night because even though we had an apartment – it was empty – so I booked us a room far above the crowds in the Kalia Tower at Hilton Hawaiian Village – Waikiki’s most well known tourist resort. Yes, I could have booked two nights in a room a bit farther from the beach and I could have gotten us a full week in a hostel private room – but I wanted them to know what it’s like to be a tourist and to stay in a big, nice, well appointed hotel room in a luxury resort with waterslides, five pools, and no need to go anywhere else.

About a month before moving I’d gotten three new credit cards – a Hilton Honors American Express, a Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard, and an Alaska Airlines Visa. I knew that moving would be expensive and each of these cards offered generous sign up bonuses if you spent a certain amount in the first few months. Using the Hilton Honors American Express, I got a discount but then using the interenet. I found a cheaper rate than Hilton had sold me and I was given that price and a 25% discount as part of Hilton’s price guarantee.  When we checked in, they had a Hilton Honors express check-in – so I was able to zip us right past the massive crowds lined up to check in at 3pm and get us settled right away – at the express check-in, I asked for any available free upgrade (part of the card benefit) and was  upgraded from a partial view on a mid-floor to a full ocean view on a top floor. So, all told, I got the room for less than a third of the rack rate which was right aroung $625 – our room rate was $176 – which almost made me regret not booking more nights – except that $176 is still a lot of money to pay for a hotel room for one night.
We arrived at Honolulu International Airpport at around noon – I’d paid a little extra to have us greeted with flower lei at the gate.  My girls only get to arrive in Hawaii the first time once – so I wanted to make sure they got the treatment. If I were rich, I would have had us met by a hula troop and band. From the gate we had to walk a huge distance to get to the interisland terminal (the Hawaiian Airlines terminal now, I suppose) to pick up our bags. If you fly Hawaiian from the mainland with checked bags – I’m pretty sure you get this lengthy walk now – which is a pretty good reason to not fly Hawaiian.

From the airport, we took a taxi to our new apartment in Salt Lake to drop off our suitcases and pack a simple overnight bag for Waikiki. I knew we couldn’t check in until 3pm – so I wanted us to be light enough to enjoy Waikiki. We were all hungry so I tried to think where the tourists all go that I had never gone – we went to Cheesecake Factory right on Kalakaua Ave. I didn’t know what to expect. I’d had friends that worked there when it opened, but I’d never been there. I knew it was expensive but figured it was the first meal here – frankly, it was a mistake. There was a huge line and it took me twenty minutes to realize that even though we had signed in, they had three types of tables – lots of two-tops and lots of 4-8 tops – since we were three – we were pushed below plenty of people who came in after us because a party of two is easy to seat and a party of six pays more.

After a half hour, I went to return the lifeless buzzer and the hostess apologized and had us seated at a big booth – which hadn’t been cleaned very well. We were ready to order right away and waited and waited finally I flagged a busser and asked her to at least bring us some water – shortly after our waiter came and took our drink order and then the busser brought us water. The food came pretty quickly but our drinks (except the water) didn’t show up until midway through the meal. To be honest, the experience up until the food arrived was so bad that I know I was in hyper-critical mode – otherwise I wouldn’t have noticed the dishwasher-cooked-on-smutz on my fork or the leftover-from-another-diner-pasta on the booth seat. The waiter was nice, reminded me of my friend that used to work there- a surf-flake type, but spent more time sitting in the nearby booth with his friends than taking care of his customers. The food tasted good – in fact, it tasted so good that I immediately knew that it had to be about the most unhealthy thing I’d ever eaten – which was fine. The food was good enough that the girls forgot they had been complaining about the heat (which was fine, it was a muggy day and we’d just arrived from Oregon) and I might have considered going back again until I saw the bill – three lunch pastas, three soft-drinks, and a single piece of cheese-cake and it was over $100! I will pass on that and get something better in the future. If I would have known it would be that expensive – I would have taken us to Duke’s. I should have taken us to Duke’s anyway…but I didn’t think of it.

We walked through Waikiki and back to the Hilton. I was grateful that I’d made us drop off our bags earlier. The lines of people checking in were horrifying and I was incredibly grateful for the experss check-in. Our room was absolutely lovely. The view was wonderful, the wi-fi was complimentary (again part of Hilton Honors).  From this point forward we didn’t leave the resort until we checked out. We swam in three of the five pools, ate Japanese breakfast at the little Japanese restaurant downstairs, and explored the grounds which had a water slide pool,  lots of beautiful Hawaiian plant landscaping, koi, tropical fish, tropical birds and more. I’d been telling Sophia about the penguins that lived there and she didn’t believe me and it turned out that she was right, the penguins had been moved to a mainland zoo.  But they used to be there – it’s probably best for the penguins that they are not there any longer. We swam and played in the lagoon, had ice cream, went to the beach, paid way too much for sunscreen, swam in the waterslide pool, enjoyed the sun and heat with rain and rainbows while swimming in a different pool, and finally went back up to our beautiful room and enjoyed the view from the balcony before sleeping wonderfully in the big plush beds with big fluffy pillows in a perfect climate controlled room.

I apologize for the pictures – my Motorola phone somehow got water in the lense – so now, all the pictures are fogged and slightly out of focus. More soon.

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Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook