- 65 acres with pools galore
- waterfalls, grottos, slides
- lagoon with water-toys and snorkeling (-sea turtles swim in)
- monorail and canal-boats to get around
The Hilton Waikoloa Village is one of eight luxury properties on the Kohala Coast of Hawaii's Big Island, where dark lava terrain makes a dramatic background for the lush resorts.
The Hilton Waikoloa Village has been named Top Family Resort in Hawaii by Travel + Leisure Family Magazine readers.
Basically, the resort makes a horseshoe on two sides of the Waiulua Bay, and --with 65 acres, 1240 guest rooms & suites, and nine restaurants-- it's a big place. Guests can get around by a monorail or canalboats, as well as by walkways and bridges. The covered Museum Walkway is a pleasure to walk along: art and artifacts line the way.
The resort opened in 1988, the vision of Hawaii uber-developer Chris Hemmeter (who sketched it on a napkin the resort still has to this day.) It's been a Hilton property since 1993.
Beach, Lagoon, PoolsThere's a whole lotta water, at this resort: 1M gallons in three swimming pools, and 8000 more pumped each minute into the lagoon and canals.
As for beach: the coast in this area is not sand but rather lava fields, so the resort as no real swimmable beach. Guests can swim and snorkel in the ocean-fed salt-water lagoon, where giant green sea turtles swim in. Kids can play in the sand around the lagoon, and watertoys such as kayaks and water-bikes are available. For a beach experience, the resort has a free 5-minute shuttle to Anaeho'omalu Bay (or guests can walk there on a shore-line trail.)
Kohala River Pool: on the east side, near the Ocean Tower, and overlooking the Bay, three pools are linked by short waterslides; kids will like the gentle river current.
Ocean Tower Pool: smaller, adults-only
Kona Pool: On the west side, near the Lagoon Tower, the undulating one-acre Kona Pool is so long it seems like several pools. Duck behind the waterfall to a grotto with hot tub and smaller pool areas. The Kona Pool has flowery landscaping, a rope bridge, a 175-foot waterslide, and a large kiddie pool where littl'uns will play in the sand for hours.
Dolphin Pool: kids love to see the dolphins. Read more, below.
Lagoon: bigger still is the four-acre saltwater lagoon that curves off the Bay. Snorkelers can often see sea turtles who've cruised in. Babies love the sandy beach; parents like the loung-chairs; kids like the water-toys for rent, such as kayaks and water-bikes.
More Features at the Hilton Waikoloa Village:
- Monorail, aka "tram": do kids love this? (See pic.)
- Canal-boats: likewise. Tram and canal run side-by-side, so you can take whichever comes first.
- Museum Walkway: airy covered walkway connecting buildings is lined with art and artifacts.
- golf: two championship courses; 18-hole putting green
- lovely quiet areas with views and cabanas
- Dolphin pool: kids enjoy seeing the dolphins, and several types of interactions are offered by DolphinQuest (an accredited facility that's been at the resort for many years.)**
- free shuttle to nearby sandy beach
- complimentary Hula Class; other Hawaiian classes -- such as Flower Lei Class-- also available (some charges).
- Guided property tours: Wildlife and Chinese Zodiac Tour; Pacific Art Tour; Facility Tour; Back-of-the-House Tour*
- programs with wildlife specialists (such as "Parrot Talks" and "Fish Frenzy")
- Self-Guided Botanical and Wildlife Tour: take a booklet and learn about plants for medicine, adornment, or spiritual use; see flamingos, nene (Hawaii's state bird), tortoises.
- Self-Guided Art Tour: explore a $7M art collection.
Features for Families:
- Camp Menehune kids club: large indoor and outdoor play-spaces; half-day and full-day programs for ages 5 to 12, and plenty of fun and activities (- and not predominant video screens.) Night camp, including dinner, too.
- kids like the 18-hole Seaside putting course.
- Hawaiian storytelling under the stars ($25/adults, $15/kids.)*
- complimentary activities such as "Fish Frenzy"
Keep in Mind about the Hilton Waikoloa Village:
-Beach: the resort has no real beach. (Hence all the pools.) Guests can find sandy areas at the lagoon and kids' pool, or take a free shuttle to a nearby beach. But if "beach" is your dream, this is not for you.
-Getting around the resort: some guests comment about long waits for the tram or canal-boats. I found they ran frequently; also the walk from Lagoon Tower to lobby took less than ten minutes. But parents with young kids may find the walk too far, and will need to allow time to catch the tram or boat.
-Saltwater lagoon can get murky during the course of the day; snorkelers should try the early hours
-Bird sounds, from the treed island at the Lagoon Tower: some people love it (-my vote), some complain... Hey, it's the tropics.
-Food on-property can be expensive. That's the lay of the land... You can save some nickel-'n'-diming for snacks by bringing fruit leather or granola bars, which are always good to have on hand.
- Snorkeling Trips: can be readily arranged, with departures from a sandy beach right by the resort, by Red Sails Sports.
- Hawaii Forest & Trails: awesome adventure outings, combining jeep and hiking
- explore the tiny towns in the north of the island, with a rental car
Note that, if you want off-property restaurants and night-life, the town of Kona is about 45 minutes away; check a map so you understand the distances.
And for an inter-island trip: combine a stay at the Hilton Waikoloa with a stay at the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Waikiki Beach (island of Oahu.) Intra-island flights are cheap thanks to price wars!
* Always check resort sites for updates!
** Parents may want to read more about issues related to dolphin encounters.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary accommodation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.