Thursday, June 10, 2021

Hilton Hawaiian Village offers the best of Waikiki relaxation

Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Resort evolved from simple beginnings nearly a century ago,
as the Niumalu Hotel.  Now five towers on prime Waikiki real estate compose the famous resort.

Bruce Keller's helicopter view shows the village in all its
spacious splendor, and its sheltered lagoon and beachfront.


two vintage photos courtesy Hilton

A rare vintage photo of the property's 1928 grounds.
IN 1928, A SMALL, charming inn opened on the beach of Honolulu.
The Niumalu Hotel stood on the site where Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort now resides. The beloved Niumalu Hotel on Kalia Road became the nucleus of entrepreneur-industrialist Henry J. Kaiser’s Hawaiian Village Hotel which opened in 1955. Its new buildings replaced quaint clusters of 1900s hales, or cottages, built in the style of the Polynesian people who pointed their boats toward Hawaii. As they settled, they introduced grass huts with thatched roofs, new spices, music, dance and much more. These early cottages were known as Cressaty’s Court and Hummel’s Court at Kalia in the gorgeous, historic Kalia section of Waikiki. A smaller hotel, named the Old Waikiki, was developed in 1900, even before the Niumalu. The later property must have been a treat to guests in post-World War I times. It boasted 70 guest rooms -- compared to today's 3,386 rooms, after several name changes, owners and upgrades.
The Ali'i is booked for its privacy, attentive
concierge and a pool overlooking the Pacific.
By 1955, pampered guests enjoyed the Tapa Room, garden paths and and three swimming pools six years later, in 1961, Hilton Hotels came into the picture when founder Conrad Hilton purchased half of the Hawaiian Village Hotel from Henry J. Kaiser.
THAT SAME year Elvis Presley filmed his movie, "Blue Hawaii" at the resort. Elvis and his entourage stayed on the 14th floor of the Ocean Tower (Ali'i Tower) in the Mahele Suite. The Ali'i Tower remains the   elite choice at the Hawaiian Hilton Village. The accommodations offer pampered service, access to the Ali'i private pool and fitness center. Guests praise its laid-back yet elegant standard, and prime beach views and access.

Elvis Presley based at Hilton Hawaiian Village
in the prestigious Ali'i Tower during the
filming of  "Blue Hawaii" in 1961.

WE HAVE paid several visits to the resort, including the Ali'i (once named Ocean Tower), our favorite Lagoon Tower, and the Grand Waikikian, the latter two offering spacious time-share accommodations with full kitchens. The Lagoon, and as its name suggests, boasts a view of the resort's unique protected pond, named Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon, with a pretty central island.  We snorkeled there with our niece's two youngsters and found it a delightful protected "safe haven." There, 
All hands on deck, for a fun afternoon sail on the resort's
private Spirit of Aloha catamaran. "Thumbs up" for
Hawaiian Nautical sailings with many choices.
youngsters can enjoy themselves and have a sense of freedom.  Meanwhile, adults can relax  on the beach, keeping an eye on their kids' activities in the calm waters without worrying about ocean tides. My partner, Bruce, known by the youngsters as "Uncle KK," spent time with them teaching them snorkeling, paddle boarding and safety in the lagoon, while my niece and I visited.
WE ALL enjoyed our time on Hawaiian Nautical's sleek and comfy Spirit of Aloha catamaran, which zips around the island, offering sunset cruises, nature outings and more. It's convenient and safe and perfect for families, couples or singles looking to meet fellow "boat buffs." On several outings, the crew was friendly and efficient and the outings rated 12 thumbs up from the six of us. 
WHILE WE rented a car during our stay, aside from some shopping, we probably wouldn't have needed it. The resort's Hawaiian Nautical boating activities are right on the beach and easily booked, plus there are many restaurants.  
We strolled twice to the sleek, accommodating Spirit of Aloha, for an afternoon snorkeling cruise and an evening sunset-dinner cruise. The boat is beautifully designed and perfect for convenient family outings, couples or anyone looking for a fun time on the water. If the dock is not at the hotel, the Hawaiian Nautical bus picks up right there and everything is close.
Amarylla and Penelope Ganner
pose with pet parrots at the resort.
AT THE RESORT, five lovely and unique towers are spread out in the artfully designed complex.  It boasts boutiques, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, quick-stop food options, and service desks for foreign customers, including a Japanese and a Korean help desk.  Shuttles, tours, taxi service and a variety of cruise options are available, and a children's day care, Camp Penguin, will entertain your youngsters while you head out on Oahu.
IF YOU'RE feeling flush, you can purchase a special piece of jewelry, purse or shoes for yourself or a friend.  If you're more budget minded, you can shop for basic groceries to cook in your time share, or stock up on Hawaiian cookies to go with your own coffee.  You can also pick up pastries made with local delicacies including the islands' famed macadamia nuts or pose with pet parrots if you like birds. Want to buy a colorful Hawaiian shirt, shop for an extra suitcase, pick up souvenirs to take home? No problem. It's all at the resort.  
Activities are planned daily, including ukulele lessons which we enjoyed, and lei making, ditto.  We even stepped in for a hula class, swaying with the balmy island winds to the "Hukilau Song" made famous by Bing Crosby.

Grand Teton National Park offers a serene get-away
as people recover from the anxiety and isolation of the virus.

 NEXT:  With the veil of COVID-19 slowly lifting, millions of anxious travelers are taking to national parks for relief and inspiration.  Record numbers of tourists are expected in our U.S. parks, with hikers, cyclists and families on holiday heading for stress relief in our varied and welcoming national parks. We visit some of our favorites -- Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Teton and Glacier, with a look at what not to miss. Meanwhile, explore, learn and live and please share the link for a fresh look at travel, the arts, nature and family:


  1. Panama Travel LoversJune 10, 2021 at 10:08 PM

    How fun to visit vicariously with you!

  2. I found a photo of my grandparents taken at this wonderful place in the post-war 1940s. Can imagine what a treat it was to visit in the shadow of Pearl Harbor. Great stuff, old fashioned reporting and delightful photos old and new.

  3. Philly Nature LoversJune 14, 2021 at 8:45 AM

    How lovely to share your current photos with us, and the vintage ones are charming, too.
    Looking forward to the parks story.

  4. What a fun piece. We love Waikiki and the older hotels. This "Village" looks amazing.