Location: 150 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
Price range: $165 – $379
The space: Get ready to hula like a little dashboard doll with excitement when you see the view from this hotel’s pool. Half a block from Waikiki beach with unsurpassed views of Diamond Head, this hotel also looks over the Honolulu Zoo and the ‘Queens’ end of Waikiki beach. With its island-royalty-themed décor the hotel looks like something straight out of Hawaii 5-0, but that’s half the charm – who doesn’t love a bit of Hawaiiana-retro? It’s faded grandiose styling makes it appear as if it’s one of the handful of remaining original Waikiki hotels, but the building itself was only constructed in the 70’s – it’s just let itself go a tad. But for the price it’s a steal – in Waikiki terms, that is. If you’re looking for rooms that could potentially accommodate two adults and two kids, this hotel is one of the more affordable options along this world famous beach strip.
The room: Seeing as we’re outdoor people (see: not in our room much) and Australian (see: tightarses) we opted for one of their cheaper family options, a City View Lanai Room which gave us two double beds and partial ocean views – we figured we’d get to take in those gorgeous Diamond Head views on the other side of the building from the pool deck anyways. As far as doubles go, it was neither the largest or smallest hotel room we’ve stayed in and was well appointed, cosy and suited our purposes ( see: being close to the beach, beach and more beach without breaking the bank). The furnishings were high quality, the beds comfy, and we enjoyed the little touches like lovely Hawaiian-themed toiletries, free Wi-Fi, a mini refrigerator, in-room safe, coffee maker, air conditioning, LCD TV, telephone, voice mail, hairdryer, iron and ironing board.
The facilities: A beautiful big old foyer welcomes you on your arrival, and even though we arrived at midnight the check in staff were chirpy and friendly. Like many of the hotels along the Waikiki beach strip, the Queen Kapoilani charges a resort fee even though it offers very few actual resort style facilities. Your fee does however get you free use of beach chairs and beach towels to take over the road to laze on, and the hotel also boasts magnificent views from the pool deck. The pool itself however is small and in full view of the restaurant – I have to admit I felt pretty conspicuous diving in there with the kids at breakfast our first morning there, fellow diners staring at our every move. Fish in the nearby Waikiki Aquarium would probably get more privacy while swimming. There’s shops downstairs in the lobby and on the streets surrounding the hotel, so everything is at your fingertips. Our faves? Legendary waterman Hans Hedemann’s surf school has an office in the hotel’s foyer where you can pick up any forgotten beach items or book the kids in for surf lessons, while on the corner of where Kapahulu Ave meets the beach you’ll find the cutest little cafe called Tucker & Bevvy where you can grab pre-made picnic items and coffee to take to the beach/park.
Nearby things to do: Naturally there’s the beach, which for most visiting Waikiki is the main attraction – a short stumble across the street and you’re at an area of Waikiki called Queen’s. There you’ll find beach hire (for surfboards, paddleboards etc) and a swimming enclosure perfect for little kids, as well as a short pier that serves as a great vantage point for taking photos.
Step outside the hotel and you’re also basically at the carpark for the Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Aquarium is just a short stroll away and between the two there’s a massive gorgeous beachside parkland to play/picnic in called Kapiolani Park, the largest and oldest public park in Hawaii. This lush, green recreation area sheltered by big banyan trees nestled beneath Diamond Head is awesome if you have kids who need lots of room to run and move. The park is also home to the Honolulu Shell concert space, the Royal Hawaiian Band Stand, archery targets, sports fields and public tennis and basketball courts. FYI: depending on where you come from, the amount of homeless who frequent all the Waikiki beachfront park areas can come as a surprise – we don’t see many near our home so our kids found it a little eye-opening at first, but it allowed us to have good chats about homelessness as a topic.
Pros: Have you seen our photos of the pool at this place? Best view from a pool, seriously. It was also one of the most affordable hotels we could find that offered family rooms along that beach strip so that we could just fall out of bed and be exactly where we wanted to be – handy to the beach, surf hire, park and casual dining options. Staff were lovely and full of Aloha spirit, and always made us feel welcome; the kids especially felt like they were mini royalty. And who could forget the zoo being so close. I mean people travel to the tropics to feel like they’re in an exotic place, yeah? The kids thought floating around in the pool at sunset whilst being serenaded by monkey chatter and tropical bird song was especially awesome.
Cons: Our lania (balcony), like most highrise hotels, wasn’t childproof – I just made sure to secure the safety latch and was vigilant in keeping the door closed whenever we weren’t using it. That’s not a swipe at the hotel itself, just the usual peril of staying in a high rise with kids. Overall though we couldn’t fault our room or the service.
The verdict: The hotel has a great location for families. Half a block from the beach, on the edge of Waikiki, right by the zoo and parks, away from the bustling center of Waikiki yet close to everything. When I was researching our stay I saw lots of reviews complaining about the price or the fact the rooms weren’t brand new – basically it’s an older hotel, and pretty well priced for Waikiki. Those who don’t like hotels with a dash of old-worldly character or prefer more resort facilities in-house would be better served staying at the big chain hotels like Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott, Outrigger (all excellent choices with amazing locations) or the dozens of other comparatively new and more expensive resort options nearby. Indeed, those who like character-filled historical buildings should be headed straight to amazing old dames like The Royal Hawaiian or The Moana Surfrider. But if you’re looking for a lovely, entry-level glimpse of what it’s like to wake up and gaze into the mesmerizing waves of Waikiki, all hail the Queen.