Where to Stay on the Big Island: Hilton Waikoloa Village Review

Are you looking for where to stay on the Big Island with kids? Keep scrolling to read an honest Hilton Waikoloa Village review so you can decide if it’s one of the best hotels in Kona for families.
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Guest post by Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

When planning a trip to Hawaii, there are many items to consider. Which of the islands do you plan to visit? Which part of the island do you plan to stay, and which hotel has the vibe you are looking for?

During our two-week trip to Hawaii, we choose to stay on Maui and the Big Island. We knew our time in Maui would be spent exploring the island, so we wanted a resort on the Big Island where we could relax and enjoy the activities at the resort.

With so many Big Island hotels to choose from, how did we decide on the Hilton Waikoloa Resort?

The Big Island features a few larger resorts with pools, notably the Marriot and the Hilton Waikoloa Village. We lucked out having enough points to enjoy a free stay at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, including their “buy” 4 nights and get the 5th night free points deal.

We were able to book a basic king room with a pull-out sofa featuring garden views for 160,000 points (40,000 points per night). Surprisingly, it is easy to earn that many points, including diamond status which waives the resort activity fees and provides a daily food credit.

We are frequent travelers, so applying for credit cards and earning travel bonuses has helped us enjoy low-cost or even free vacations!

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card features a 150,000 bonus. My husband and I both applied for the cards and then you can transfer the points into one account, giving us 300,000 points, as well as Diamond Status and one free award night for each of us.

In the end, we will be able to spend around 10 days at high ends resorts for free!

In this Hilton Waikoloa Village review, we will share all the pros and cons of staying at this resort and if we felt like it was worth the cost to stay. 

Hilton Waikoloa Village FAQs

Where to stay on the Big Island?

There are three major areas where the majority of the resorts are located on the Big Island: Waikoloa, Hilo, and Kailua-Kona. Each offers access to various activities and sights. We spent the majority of our time at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, but also ventured over to the Hilo side and stayed on the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

How long does it take to get from the Kona airport to Hilton Waikoloa Village?

It is approximately a 30–35-minute drive to get from the airport to the Hilton Waikoloa Beach Resort.

Is the Hilton Waikoloa Resort the best area to stay on the Big Island?

  • I will say the area is more remote than accommodations located in the Kailua-Kona area. You can walk to the Kings Shops or even further to the Queens Shops, but most guests are limited to what the resort offers if they don’t have a rental vehicle.
  • Where is the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort?

    The Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort is located approximately 30 minutes from the Kona Airport located on the west side of the Big Island. It is one of two hotels on the Big Island of Hawaii in this region.

    Image of the Hilton Waikoloa Village sign in front of shrubs and palm trees.
    Sign for the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    The resort can feel a bit isolated from the town of Kailua-Kona, so if you want to grab some groceries, drinks, and snacks, I recommend that you grab those on the way to the resort from the airport. It’s always nice to avoid paying $4 for a coke.

    Outside of the resort area are two shopping areas called the Queens shops and the Kings shops.

    Image of Island Gourmet market at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big ISland of Hawaii.
    Island Gourmet at Queens Shops. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    Both feature restaurants and the Queens shops feature a nice grocery shop called the Island Gourmet. This is a great spot to pick up snacks and drinks to store in your mini-fridge during your stay. We also grabbed a packable cooler and added ice from the ice machine during our day trips away from the resort. 

    The Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort is one of the best places to stay on Big Island if you want to explore the northern area of the Big Island including Kohala, Waimea, and Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site. 

    Honest Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort Review

    After staying for five nights at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, here is our honest review of the resort.

    The first thing that always seems to be at the forefront is how massive this property really is. With 63 acres of resort property explore, including 1,200 rooms and a transportation system that includes a tram and a boat, it’s no surprise it can be a bit overwhelming. 

    Image of the entrance to the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island of Hawaii.
    The Hilton Waikoloa Village is HUGE. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    The lobby is located towards the center of the property with views of the lagoon in the distance. To the left, you’ll find the Lagoon Tower with rooms overlooking the pool and dolphin lagoon. To the right, you’ll find the ballrooms, Palace Tower and the Ocean Tower.

    Image of an outdoor monorail tram at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, a popular Big Island resort.
    Hilton Waikoloa Village tram. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    You can either walk along the covered walkways lined with global-themed art collections or use the tram or boat to connect you to various locations throughout the property. Wait times for the tram averaged 5-10 minutes with two trams running at a time. 

    Our room was located in the Palace Tower, which ended up being a 10–15-minute walk from the main lobby. We had a king room with a pullout couch for our son and views of the golf course on the 2nd level. Check the variety of rooms and rates HERE.

    Image of a tropical pool with palm trees and lounge chairs at the Hilton Waikoloa Village.
    Pool area at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    The Hilton Waikoloa Beach Resort is a wonderful property for guests looking to enjoy the pools and the lagoon. We thought the larger pool located near the Lagoon Tower was freezing cold during our December visit.

    The smaller pool located near the Ocean Tower was closed until the last day of our trip, but with shallower depths and a sunnier location, it looked much warmer. 

    One reason why the Hilton Waikoloa Village is one of the best Big Island resorts is that is has an awesome lagoon area. Image of a sandy beach with lounge chairs and straw umbrellas.
    Hilton Waikoloa Village Lagoon. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    Our favorite place to lounge was the lagoon with its own beach. You can snorkel and rent kayaks/SUP’s/paddle boats and more to explore the beautiful tropical fish, sea turtles, and rays. 

    In addition, they also have live dolphins on the property. The dolphins are located between the main pool and the lagoon. Individual dolphin experiences start at $210.

    What Was Our Room Like?

    Our room was located in the Palace Tower. We had a king-size bed with a sofa bed, a large closet area with a dresser, and a large bathroom. We used points for our booking and didn’t upgrade our stay, so this review includes a basic room.

    Image of a hotel room with a king size bed, a sofa, and a flat screen TV.
    Our room at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    You can either have two queens or a king with a sofa bed. We liked that our room was located at the end of the hallway, which was relatively quiet. During one early morning, we noticed the birds were quite chatty in the main entrance areas and some rooms face this area, so heads up. 

    The Hilton Waikoloa Resort has three different towers. The Lagoon Tower has the closest proximity to the main lobby, the main pool (Kona pool), the cultural center, the spa, and dolphin experiences.

    If we were to stay on the property again, this is the tower where we would like to stay. There is a coffee cart located in the main lobby area of this tower and it is a short walk to many amenities.

    The Palace Tower is located close to the convention center and ballrooms. It is also the closest tower to the main restaurant, Nui Italian. This is the only location that currently offers a sit-down breakfast. The restaurant is also open for a late afternoon lunch and dinner.

    The Ocean Tower is the furthest tower from the main lobby but features views of the ocean. It has the only adult pool on the property but is also closely located to the second pool on the property that is great for kids with multiple slides. In addition, there is a coffee cart located in the Ocean Tower. 

    All of the rooms feature a mini-fridge, flat-screen TV, in-room PlayStation 3, and high-speed Internet access. Guests receive a rental card to rent DVDs from machines in the lobby. Cribs and rollaway beds are available.

    What Did We Think of the Dining Options?

    As Diamond members, we were given a $30 voucher each day toward the food at the resort. I’ll just say $30 won’t get you very far, but we were able to enjoy many of the resort restaurants. Also, note that the vouchers do not apply to the Waikoloa Coffee locations within the resort. I learned that one the hard way. 

    The Hilton Waikoloa Village restaurants are located throughout the property and have a variety of opening hours and offerings. I’ll explain them in more detail below.

    Big Island Breakfast

    During normal operating, the resort features a fantastic breakfast buffet is held in this centrally located dining area, overlooking the lagoon. Currently, the Big Island breakfast is closed and only Nui Italian is offering a sit-down breakfast option. 

    Shaka Cones Ice Cream

    Image of the Shaka Cones ice cream stand at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big ISland of Hawaii.
    Shaka Cones. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    There is nothing better than some locally made ice cream, shakes, and sundaes. to cool you down on a hot day. Located near the lagoon, the shack is open daily from 11 am- 4 pm.

    Orchid Marketplace

    Located near the main pool (Kona Pool), this marketplace is a great spot for sandwiches, banana bread, yogurt parfaits, salads, pizzas, hot dogs, ice cream, and take-away options to munch on while you play. It is open from 11 am-4 pm. 

    Lagoon Grill

    Overlooking the dolphin area, Lagoon Grill is a casual outdoor grill serving up burgers (including vegetarian options), poke bowls, hot dogs, fries, tropical beverages, smoothies, and snacks.

    Image of a burger and salad at the Lagoon Grill, a Hilton Waikoloa Village restaurant.
    Lunch at the Lagoon Grill. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    You can order at the bar to take out to your cabana or pool chairs or dine at one of their tables. They are open daily from 11 am-7 pm. 

    Waikoloa Coffee at Ocean Tower

    With two locations on the resort — on the ground floor of both the Lagoon and Ocean towers — this grab-and-go coffee shop offers muffins, breakfast sandwiches, acai bowls, and light pastries while serving locally harvested Kona coffee, smoothies, and espresso.

    Since they open at 6 am, it makes a great spot to grab breakfast before heading out on day trips. 

    Nui Italian

    The Nui Italian restaurant features spacious open-air dining with locations both interior and garden seating options with views of the lagoon and surrounding gardens.

    Image of pancakes with Nutella and sprinkles on top.
    Nutella pancakes. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    This is the only restaurant open for breakfast with yummy Nutella pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, and freshly made omelets. For dinner, they feature an open stone flame pizza oven serving up pizzas that are hand-crafted and delicious along with salads, pasta, and appetizers. 

    Kona Pool Bar

    Located near the kid’s pool, the pool bar provides quick bites, salads, sandwiches, and paninis from 11 am to 5 pm. 

    Kamuela Provision Company

    Located near the Kona Pool and overlooking the ocean, the Kamuela Provision Company is the resort’s only upscale dinner restaurant.

    The restaurant features a three-course chef menu or ala cart options for visitors looking for a nice night to celebrate their Hawaiian vacation. Dinner is served nightly from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm, and reservations are recommended.

    Hilton Waikoloa Village Pool Areas

    The Hilton Waikoloa Village features three separate pool areas to enjoy on their property.

    Image of a waterslide at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, one of the best kid friendly Big Island resorts.
    Waterslide at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    The Kona pool is located near the Lagoon Tower and in close proximity to the Orchid marketplace and Kona Pool Bar for easy lunch and drink options.

    This pool features a large slide, a jacuzzi tucked into the caves, rope bridges that connect various sections of the pool, and a children’s sand pool. In addition, you’ll find a checkers play zone, connect four, and other games. 

    Image of oversized checkers, connect 4, and jenga at the Hilton Waikoloa Village lawn.
    Lawn games. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    In addition, you can rent various different cabanas that feature coolers with cold drinks, attendants to grab drinks/lunch from the pool bar, popsicles at 1 pm, and face towels/mist. One of the cabanas even features its own private jacuzzi!

    We grabbed a cabana poolside for $150 but then transferred to the lagoon after we realized the pool was freezing cold. December might not be the best time to enjoy the Kona pool. 

    Image of a pool with blue cushioned lounge chairs.
    Kohala Pool. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    The Kohala Pool is located near the Ocean Tower. This is the best pool for smaller children with multiple slides, winding smaller pools, and zero-entry entrances. This pool looked warmer with its sunny location and lower water capacity to warm.

    It was under construction in December 2021 until the last day of our stay, so we would have really liked to enjoy it. 

    Image of two towel vending machines at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island of Hawaii.
    Towel vending machines. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    In order to get a towel, you’ll need to find a towel vending machine where you swipe your key card and the door will unlock for you to grab as many towels as you need. The system tracks when you get and return a towel using a microchip embedded into the seam of the towel.

    If you fail to return your towel, you will be charged $20 per towel. We didn’t test this theory, but we did look for microchips and did find a section where one could possibly be.  

    Is it worth renting a cabana?

    YES, 100%. Even if you are a larger family, I’d grab a 2-seater cabana for around $150 (before tax). We didn’t reserve ours until around 9 am during the busy holiday season and didn’t have a problem getting one that we liked. 

    Image of a two person cabana at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, a top Big Island resort for families.
    Two-person cabana. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    Cabanas feature personalized service from an attendant. You will be greeted by the attendant with a cooler of water, face towels, and face mist. Poolside cabanas have the added bonus of having the attendant grab drinks and food from the Kona Pool Bar, which isn’t the case with a Lagoon side cabana.

    Either location offers ice-cold popsicles around 1 pm. The cabanas have two padded chairs with a sunshade that can adjust as the sun moves throughout the day.

    Find out more about renting a cabana in Hawaii HERE.

    Other features/amenities at the Hilton Waikoloa Village

    Hilton Waikoloa Luau

    The Hilton Waikoloa Village features a sunset luau in a theater tucked away near the Lagoon Tower. It’s one of the best Big Island luaus.

    The Legends of Hawaii Luau is featured on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays at 5:30 p.m. and provides families with an expansive buffet dinner, artisan craft tables, as well as a show filled with exotic dance and music from the Pacific Islands.

    You can also upgrade to the Ali’i seating to get VIP benefits such as premier seating, unlimited drinks, tableside dessert/coffee/tea service, and complimentary valet parking. 

    Dolphin Quest

    The Hilton Waikoloa Village features live dolphin experiences with their Dolphin Quest Village. Read our full Dolphin Quest review HERE.

    Image of a boy wearing a life jacket doing sign language commands with a dolphin at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island of Hawaii.
    Learn how to train dolphins. Photo credit: Dolphin Quest

    Experiences include interacting with the dolphins, learning about dolphin behavior, taking photos, and swimming with them in the water. Experiences range from 45-minute encounters to a full-day Trainer for a Day program and even Trainer for a Week programs.

    Image of dolphins swimming in the lagoon at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, one of the best resorts on the Big Island for kids.
    Dolphins at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    Guests staying at the resort can enjoy a free experience at 8:15am on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The dolphin trainers take the dolphins out into the larger lagoon and share their knowledge with the guests as well as show off all the mesmerizing acrobatics of the dolphins. 

    Kohala Spa

    The Hilton Waikoloa Village spa is located in the Lagoon Tower and is open to teens and adults. The 25,000-square-foot Kohala Spa provides a variety of treatments including hair and nail treatments, massages, body treatments, and facials.

    Separate men’s and women’s areas feature saunas, steam rooms, and outdoor hot tubs built out of lava rock, however, these options are not available due to COVID restrictions. The spa is open from 9 am to 6 pm. Bookings can be made online or in-person at the Kohala Spa desk. 

    Kids Programming

    The Hilton Waikoloa Beach Resort does not currently offer any special kids programming or kids clubs. They do have activities such as learning to play the ukulele, kukui nut bracelet, and lei making classes for children 5 and up.

    Image of a kukui nut bracelet on a floral cushion.
    Kukui nut bracelet. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    Younger children are welcome to attend with an adult and make a kukui nut bracelet or lei together. 

    Shopping

    The Lagoon Tower shops have a variety of shopping opportunities, including Na Hoku jewelers, Sandal Tree shoes, Big Island Marketplace, Things Hawaiian, Kohala Spa Boutique, and Journey Boutique.

    In addition, located only minutes from the Hilton Waikoloa Resort, you’ll find plenty of shopping opportunities at the Kings and Queens shops. 

    Activities

    Some activities are limited with COVID-19 precautions, but visitors can delight with poolside music, scavenger hunts, culture center activities (lei making, kukui nut bracelets, learning to play the ukulele) volleyball, arts and crafts as well as storytime.

    Image of a flyer with Hilton Waikoloa Village classes and activities offered.
    Sample of activities offered. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    Pick up a copy of the resort’s activity guide at check-in to plan the fun during your visit.

    Lagoon Beach

    Located in front of the main lobby and at the center of the resort, Lagoon Beach is the hub of activity.

    Image of a sandy lagoon beach at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island of Hawaii.
    Lagoon Beach. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    The Lagoon Beach is a man-made beach on the property’s lagoon and really one of the few beach areas due to the resort’s location. The small beach area features beach chairs, enough sand to entertain the little ones, but the highlight is the sea life that calls the lagoon its home.

    During multiple snorkel trips, we saw a multitude of tropical fish, sea turtles, stingrays, and urchins.

    Image of the Hilton Waikoloa Village lagoon rental price list.
    Lagoon rentals. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    Located on the lagoon beach is a shack with rentals to explore more of the lagoon. The use of kayaks, boogie boards, paddle boards, and floats is an additional cost, but guests staying at the hotel enjoy a moderate discount. 

    Note: The rental shack is not currently renting snorkel equipment due to covid guidelines. So you either need to bring your own or purchase a set at the shop located near the Lagoon Bar and Grill. 

    Golf

    The Hilton Waikoloa Beach Resort, features three (Lakes, Beach, Kings) 9-hole golf courses that you can easily combine to make a 18-hole golf course. With ocean views, swaying palm trees, and various levels of difficulty, it is easy to see why golfing in Hawaii would be a wonderful way to spend the day. 

    Are there any things we didn’t like?

    Staying on points allowed us to avoid the $45 per night activity fee, but otherwise, guests will feel the punch with all the added fees in addition to their nightly fee.

    The parking fees are also incredibly inflated. Valet parking will set you back $50 per night (in addition to a tip for the driver every time you pick up your vehicle). If you want to park in the “self-parking lot”, that will still set you back $37 per night and you’ll have a bit of a walk. 

    Want to know what is included in that $45 fee?

    • Wi-Fi
    • Culture Center Classes
    • Daily yoga and fitness classes
    • PlayStation 3 movies and games
    • 20% discount on beach toys
    • One 4-by-8 keepsake photo (free photo session)
    • $10 off Hawaii Nautical sailings
    • Local/toll-free calls
    • Kids activities at the Keiki Pool

    In addition, we felt like the prices at the restaurants are exorbitant even when comparing it to prices at other resorts that we’ve stayed at around the globe.

    Image of a breakfast sandwich at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on Hawaii Island.
    Breakfast sandwich. Photo credit: Chelsea Kelly-Sipe

    For breakfast, Nui Italian wanted $15 for a simple breakfast sandwich or $42 for their Big Island Breakfast (full breakfast with fruit, drink, omelet, or eggs). Dinner at Nui Italian featured $30-$50 pasta plates or $30-$60 pizzas. Each meal for three people was close to $100 without our vouchers. 

    I’d also note that the Kona Pool is uncomfortably cold during the winter months. A resort this size should look into providing a heated pool experience like their neighbors at the Marriott. 

    Would we recommend the Hilton Waikoloa Village?

    Honestly, it was a bit of a mixed bag for us. We stayed for five nights in December 2021 and there was quite a bit of construction on the waterfall and Kohala Pool. Both were supposed to be done by the end of December, which turned out to be December 31st, 2021. No discount or voucher was provided for the lack of amenities.

    The icy cold pool was quite a turn-off for us, but we did enjoy the lagoon with the tropical fish and watching the turtles in the morning.

    I also enjoyed the cultural classes that were offered, but I wasn’t able to attend the lei-making class because it was limited to 18 people with the lack of flowers during this time of the year. 

    Overall, we did have a good time at the Hilton Waikoloa Resort on the Big Island. It was easy to access local tours and there were plenty of activities and amenities to enjoy while at the resort. We didn’t have any complaints about the food and the staff was friendly and helpful. 

    There are certainly some challenges with how large the property is and should be factored into the decision. Staying at the Lagoon Tower can help to mitigate some of the long walks to and from the main lobby and pool, so that should be considered.

    Would I say the Hilton Waikoloa Resort is one of the best places to stay on the Big Island? I’d say yes with points, but probably not if you are paying the nightly fees plus all the extras, especially with so many amazing places to visit on the Big Island. 

    As a Big Island accommodation, I’d rate this resort a B

    About Chelsea

    Chelsea is the founder/editor of Pack More Into Life, a travel blog that covers adventures as a family around the globe. She is a special education teacher and military spouse who has grown up all over the world and continues to share her passion and love for travel with her husband and son. She has visited family friendly hotels and destinations around the world including Costa Rica, Finland, Quebec City, Germany, Croatia, Slovenia and aims to inspire fellow families to pursue their travel dreams around the globe

    Looking for more Big Island travel resources? Find out whether to stay in Kona or Hilo, Volcano House review, Royal Kona Resort review, and how to get from Kona to Hilo.