Updated: December 2017

Hilton Waikoloa Village - Big Island of Hawaii:

I will admit that when you get off the airplane in Kona it's easy to say to yourself "This is not the Hawaii I've seen in photos". Yes, there is lots of ancient (and new) lava flows throughout the Big Island of Hawaii. The Hilton Waikoloa Village is one of those mega resorts that is huge - 62 acres that are oceanfront along the Kohala Coast. The big drawback to the Hilton is that there is no actual beach for swimming or even sunbathing. The black rocky shoreline does offer some interesting tide pools and looks great at sunset, but don't expect to jump into the ocean water at the resort itself (we go into nearby beaches down below). We made a recent visit in December 2012 to the Hilton resort and wanted to give our readers information on amenities, rooms, activities, pools, restaurants, ... you name it. We have tried to cover as many details as possible without boring you. The Hilton Waikoloa Village is beautiful and unlike any other hotel we have stayed at in all of the Hawaiian islands. It's so vast that they have a tram and boat system that takes you around the resort. You could walk, but trust me after 5 days with 2 kids, we ended up on the tram more often than not.

Hilton Waikoloa Village Property Map:

We suggest that everyone start by looking at the map of the Hilton Waikoloa Village (SEE RESORT MAP HERE). The PDF file shows a great overhead view of where everything is located with really good details. It's a good idea to review this map before booking a room - some people prefer to be near the Dolphins while others like the ocean views offered at the Ocean Tower. There really are enough options that everybody should be able to find a location that they like. We stayed in the Ocean Tower and managed just fine with getting around the resort. The map shows the main lobby, tram route, boatway, Grand Promenade, swimming lagoon, tennis courts, pool complexes, luau location, parking, and more. After you check into the resort, the tram or boat can take you to your specific tower. Lots of reviews on Tripadvisor 'bash' the tram system, but we found it to be ok. Yes, if you are in a hurry it can be a bit tiresome waiting 10 minutes for a tram. From the Ocean Tower stop to the other end of the resort at the Lagoon Tower, the tram took about 10 to 15 minutes. You will definitely need to set aside time whenever you want to go from your hotel room to another spot on the resort grounds. For a change of pace, we would often walk from the Ocean Tower down to the Kona Pool instead of hopping on the tram. The tram takes a roundabout way and isn't the most direct route, so we found that walking made sense sometimes if we had the extra energy. The boatway goes along a similar route as the tram and is a relaxing ride on the water, but not something you are going to do every day. The tram makes stops at the Lagoon Tower, main lobby, Grand Promenade (where the Big Island Breakfast is located), Palace Tower and Ocean Tower. In front of each stop there is a map of the resort with estimated wait times for the tram and boats that are shuttling people around. Just look at the screen/display and you will see a simulated picture of the tram moving along it's route. They are well marked and easy to follow. We carried a little map of the resort around for the first day or 2 to get our bearings. The kids loved the tram and the boat rides. The tram runs nearly all day, while the boat usually started operating at 2 PM in the afternoon.

Hilton Waikoloa Village Rooms - Which Tower is best?:

The majority of the rooms are 530 square feet and that is pretty large given Hawaii standards. The Ocean Tower oceanfront rooms are listed at 340 square feet so you sacrifice a bit on the size for the view. Our room was plenty big with a nice view of the resort and there were 2 double beds and a small sofa. My 7 year old son was able to sleep on the couch a few nights which made it easier on the rest of us. The rooms have flat panel TV's with with all the channels you find on cable. The small refrigerator was perfect for storing drinks, snacks, and even leftovers. There is wireless Internet access available in the rooms - for a fee - but we had it as part of our package with Costco Travel. The balcony was nice during the warm evenings, but they didn't have a light out there so it was almost too dark to see the person next to you. There is daily maid service. Rooms start at about $190/night and work up to $400+. The Lagoon Tower is probably your best bet (most expensive too) in terms of being near all the major amenities like better pool, lagoon, breakfast, tennis, etc. The Palace Tower is next in line, although it seemed like no one was staying there when we were at the resort. The Ocean Tower, furthest from the main lobby, was lively and has the Boat Landing Cantina for food and drink. It takes about 10 mintes to walk from the main lobby to get to the Ocean Tower, maybe 6 minutes via the tram. Either way, you are looking at a major distance when just coming or going from your room. God forbid you forget your car keys on your way out, you'll waste 10 or 15 minutes backtracking to the room. I was always taking note of what we had in our possession before leaving the room (sunblock, car keys, drinks, hats) so that I wouldn't have to return at all during the day. I thought the Ocean Tower was fine for our needs but take a good look at the resort map before committing to a room or location. Also, there are myna birds that are quite loud outside the main areas of the Lagoon and Ocean Towers (not sure about the Palace Tower) and they can be noisy at around sunset and sunrise. We heard them through our door in the morning and it did wake us up a few times.

Hilton Waikoloa Village Restaurants - Best Places for Food:

The resort is large and therefore has several restaurants located around the grounds. As mentioned above, the Ocean Tower has the Boat Landing Cantina - a Mexican themed restaurant with tacos, fresh gaucamole, quesadillas, churros, etc. The food was decent and the service here was always good. As you head from the Ocean Tower back to the main lobby you first come across Dona & Toni's Pizza (on the 1st floor). We had dinner on the back patio one night and it was gorgeous. Right next to the boat canal with boats floating past and the pizza was better than average. Upstairs at this building is the Kirin Chinese Restaurant - we never ate there but heard good things. The Big Island Breakfast is next in line (closer to the main lobby) and it was fabulous. We had 2 free buffet breakfasts each day with our package and we enjoyed fresh omeletes, french toast, fresh fruit, toast, pastries, juice, coffee, and more. Down by the Dolphin lagoon is the Lagoon Grill which serves up lunch and dinner (burgers, hot wings, calamari, chicken sandwich, etc.). The food was only ok, not the place you want to eat everyday. Good location for watching the dolphins. Next door is the Lagoon Spoon - a spot only open for breakfast as an alternative to the buffet mentioned above. The Lagoon Spoon features cereals, bagels, baked goods, and malasadas. Down by the main pool complex is the Orchid Marketplace which we ate at several days for lunch. You can grab fresh sandwiches, paninis, burgers, pizzas, hot dogs, nachos.. pool food pretty much. Prices are high but convenience is worth it. Up above the Kona Pool sits the high end Kamuela Provision Company which overlooks the ocean with great views for diners. We had dishes like the shrimp cocktail, risotto, mahi mahi, and seafood linguine. It's an expensive spot and you are probably paying for the atmosphere more than the food. The food was just ok. We never did get to Imari - the Japanese restaurant with teppanyaki dining. The menu looked great, but we ventured off sight several times and missed out. It's located between the Grand Promenade and the Palace Tower. We suggest buying some light snacks and drinks to keep in your room. The refrigerator will hold enough supplies for a day or 2 and you can save on having to buy $10 beers or $15 cocktails all the time. Just down the road is Sansei - a sushi spot. Also there is Roy's about 2 minutes down the road and just north at the Mauna Lani Shops is Tommy Bahamas (we had a great meal here). Only once did we go down towards Kona for dinner. The drive seemed a bit far for what you get. All the menus are listed on the main website for the resort at http://www.hiltonwaikoloavillage.com.

Ocean Tower - just some of the beautiful grounds at the resort.

Kona Pool waterfall and poolside area with lots of space to sit.

Small Kona pool where the waterslide comes down into. Fun spot for kids to play.

The turtles in the lagoon area are amazing and each day at about sunset they rest on the rocks.

This is the view from the lagoon and Dolphin Quest side of things looking back at the Ocean Tower.

Lagoon view - great spot for snorkeling and seeing fish, turtles, and eels.

The Kona Pool waterslide - fun for the entire family.

Kona Pool - elevated rope bridge is nice and pool was beautiful.

If you are up for a massage, the views don't get much better.

The activity rental hut. Stand up paddle boards, paddle boats, kayaks, and snorkle gear.

The Dolphin Quest at the Hilton Waikoloa is well done and worth a look.