From the minute we stepped onto the Hilton Waikoloa Village grounds, a week of pure magic began. The 62 acre oceanfront resort was magnificent and the view from our room was incredible. Looking to the left we could see dolphins swimming and jumping out of the water, straight off our balcony was the 4 acre snorkeling and water sports lagoon and the beautiful Pacific Ocean, and to the right was a waterfall and the meticulously landscaped hotel grounds.
Our last trip to Hawaii took us to the Grand Wailea on Maui, and the resort, the beach, the water slides, the lazy river, and the rope swing blew us away. Needless to say, we had high expectations for this trip too and couldn’t wait to explore the Hilton Waikoloa.
Our first order of business was finding our room and dropping off all of our stuff. The resort is huge — 62 acres — and we weren’t sure how far our room was front the main lobby. The resort has that taken care of though. If you don’t feel like walking, there are air conditioned trams that run on a track and mahogany boats that drive along a canal across the resort, stopping at the various towers, restaurants, bars, and the main lobby.
We decided to walk to our room to get the lay of the land and along the way we passed amazing shops, restaurants and bars, a coffee shop, the spa, and all sorts of artwork and sculptures — more than 1800 unique pieces that celebrate the Hawaiian cultural heritage along a one mile walkway. My kids both said walking through the hotel sometimes felt like they were also at a Hawaiian museum! Before we reached our room, we were stopped by a member of the hotel staff who gave us all sorts of tips to maximize our stay, recommendations on restaurants and activities, and answered all of our questions, which was super helpful.
I have to say, we’re members of the Hilton Honors rewards program and we love staying at Hilton properties. They staff is always friendly, the hotels are always clean, and our Hilton Honors benefits almost always include speedy check-in and check out, complimentary room upgrades, free wifi, and breakfast vouchers for the family. It’s awesome.
MAKAI At The Lagoon Tower
Brian booked our room so long ago, he didn’t remember what room he booked, but from the moment we checked in and got special wristbands, the staff was extra accommodating. At first we figured that it had something to do with our HHonors status, but then we saw the MAKAI marker on the door of our room and it clicked. The wristbands were to signal the hotel staff that we get the special MAKAI benefits.
The Lagoon Tower is the best tower at the hotel and the MAKAI rooms come with all sorts of extra awesome benefits. We had a MAKAI Oceanside Room at the Lagoon Tower with a spectacular view, plus benefits including:
- Fast track luggage service and private concierge — and any time we needed our rental car from the Valet, we jumped to the front of the line, which was alone was worth it.
- Priority reservations for dining, spa treatments, and activities.
- Dedicated lounge chair area at the Kona Pool (with the 175 foot water slide), which meant we never had to worry about whether or not we would be able to find a lounge chair.
- A complimentary bottle of water for every member of the family, every day.
- Complimentary access to the Kohala Spa facilities, jacuzzi, steam room, and more.
Plus, our room was close to the lagoon, restaurants, the ice cream counter, Dolphin Quest, and right next to the canal boat stop for our tower, which made it easy to move throughout the resort. It was also near one of the movie and video game rental kiosks (the rooms have PlayStations), making it easy to grab a movie each night.
Snorkeling And Water Sports Lagoon
First things first: There is no beach at this Big Island resort hotel. You can’t walk from your room to the beach at sunrise or sunset to walk along the water with the sand between your toes. You also can’t easily drag your family’s stuff from your room to the beach to make camp for the day. The shoreline is a rocky coral stretch, and while there are some places where you can access the shoreline, it’s not soft on your feet! Luckily we knew this is advance and simply made other plans.
While the Hilton Waikoloa lacks a sandy beach with ocean surf to jump and play in, it does have a beach entry pool and four acre lagoon with a beach. This means your family can still have beach time with lounge chairs and umbrellas, and you can still hear the waves crashing along the shore. The great thing about this is that your kids can still play in the sand and build sand castles, and you don’t have to worry and stress about the ocean waves catching them off guard. Plus, because the lagoon is protected from the ocean waves, it is a calm, safe area to snorkel with kids of all ages.
One end of the lagoon is connected with the ocean, allowing fresh sea water and sea life to naturally enter and exit the lagoon as they wish. That means green sea turtles come and go as they please. We went snorkeling in the lagoon a few times throughout our stay and every time we saw at least one sea turtle, but often two or three. After our awesome snorkeling adventure in Maui, the kids really wanted to swim with sea turtles again, and I was so happy they could do so right in our own hotel!
If you’re looking for some additional water fun, you can also rent hydro-bikes, paddleboats, stand up paddle boards, kayaks. Trust me, the calm Hilton lagoon is a great place to try out some of these water sport activities with your family for the first time because there are no waves!
Also, from the Hilton Waikoloa, you can take a 20 minute coastal walk to Anaeho’omalu Bay, referred to as A-Bay, which has a popular salt and pepper sand beach with swaying palms and shade from the Pacific sun. It is famous for its colorful sunsets and is a great place to go snorkeling and swimming. Inland from the beach is an ancient Hawaiian fishpond once used to raise mullet for the Ali’i (Hawaiian royalty), including King Kamehameha.
Hilton Waikoloa Village Restaurants
Here’s how our vacation dining usually goes: Carter barely eats anything, I eat very little, Brian picks and chooses, and Natalie eats everything. We get home from vacation and immediately take Carter out for pizza and I get dessert. I am lactose intolerant and Brian eats no red meat or pork. Carter eats a very limited diet and about 50% of the time, restaurants can’t seem to get his order of a cheese pizza with very light sauce and very light cheese correct.
Let’s just say dining on vacation is typically tough for our family.
While at the Grand Wailea, we gave up on their restaurants and instead picked up to-go meals from Island Gourmet Markets across the street and ate picnics on the beach — everyone got exactly what they wanted without drama. I was expecting a similar experience at the Hilton Waikoloa, but it was actually the exact opposite. The Hilton Waikoloa Village restaurants were amazing. This is actually the first vacation we have ever taken where Carter LOVED the food and was sad to go home and not eat at the hotel restaurants.
We ate at the Lagoon Grill and Dona & Toni’s Pizza twice twice because our food was so good. We also tried the Orchid Marketplace for lunch and the Boat Landing Cantina for dinner, both of which were super tasty and had great choices for all types of diets. We enjoyed the Big Island Breakfast every day of our stay, picked up snacks and acai bowls at Waikoloa Coffee, and had a couple Shaka Cones too (They have dairy-free options)!
- Big Island Breakfast: A relaxed breakfast spot overlooking the lagoon and beach with lavish buffets and a la carte options. Enjoy an indulgent continental breakfast buffet selection of island fruits, hot and cold cereals, yogurts, and fresh baked breakfast breads, or the full buffet with made-to-order eggs and omelets, a waffle bar, sausages and bacon, and other delicious hot items.
- Lagoon Grill: Watch the resident dolphins play in the lagoon next door, enjoy views of the sparkling Pacific Ocean, and view the large hotel lagoon at this casual outdoor eatery. It’s the perfect place to grab a tasty snack or a refreshing drink with options that include burgers, hot dogs, salads, sandwiches, and tropical fruits, as well as smoothies, cocktails, chocolate-dipped frozen bananas, or a homemade ice cream cookie sandwich.
- Orchid Marketplace: Located next to the Kona Pool, this family-friendly, cafeteria-style outdoor eatery provides the perfect location to relax or to get a quick bite. Choose from options like fresh salads, deli-style sandwiches, nachos, chicken strips, fries, soft-serve ice cream, candy, chips, and more.
- Boat Landing Cantina: A casual family-friendly restaurant where Hola Meets Aloha and you arrive by mahogany canal boat. Enjoy Mexican cuisine with a fresh-island flare and try dishes like freshly-caught fish tacos, table-side guacamole, fresh fruit margaritas, house-made burritos, pulled pork tacos, and more.
- Waikoloa Coffee: Stop by for Kona Coffee, espresso drinks, fruit smoothies, acai bowls, cereal, iced teas, pastries, croissants, and quiche.
- Dona & Toni’s Pizza: A casual, family-friendly, Italian-style restaurant with patio seating that overlooks the Hilton Waikoloa boat canal. Choose from a variety of creatively designed pizzas, a pasta dish, or try a specialty entree.
- Shaka Cones: This ice cream counter sits on the backside of the Lagoon Grill and features a selection of ice cream flavors that can be ordered in scoops, shakes, floats, and sundaes. Sorbets are also available for those with lactose issues like me!
We really enjoyed sitting outside at the Lagoon Grill in the evenings listening to live music — a different musician was there every night singing and playing the guitar or ukulele.
While all of our meals at the Hilton Waikoloa restaurants were wonderful, Dona and Toni’s Pizza was the clear favorite. I ordered the Hawaiian Guava BBQ Chicken Pizza, which was so good, Brian and I ordered the large and split it on our second visit. Natalie had the spaghetti and meatballs twice because it was absolutely delicious and came with 6 large meatballs! Carter’s cheese pizza came out perfectly every time and he tried bread sticks for the first time and they have since become his favorite thing.
In fact, he loved Dona & Toni’s Pizza so much that on the nights we didn’t eat there for dinner, we ordered him pizza and bread sticks to go after our dinner, and he ate them on the tram ride back to our room!
Hilton Waikoloa Village Pools
The very first thing my son says when we get to a resort and he sees the pools is, “When do I get to get in?” He sees the pools and gets so excited, he can’t think of anything else and gets frustrated if we do too many other things before spending time at the pool. We have an awesome pool at home, so I don’t quite get it, but it’s what’s important to him. Just like Brian can’t calm down and relax on a Disneyland trip until he has a few rides under his belt, Carter can’t relax until he’s jumped in the pool and gone down the water slide, so it’s now become our first resort activity.
The Hilton Waikoloa Village resort has three beautiful pool areas:
- Kona Pool: The largest pool with a 175-foot waterslide, waterfall, and bridges, as well as a poolside bar, cabanas, and the Orchid Marketplace.
- Kohala River Pool: Four smaller interconnected pools with waterslides, a river, a waterfall, cabanas, and a poolside bar.
- Ocean Tower Pool: An adults-only pool offering a peaceful, secluded retreat for swimming and relaxation.
As soon as we dropped our bags in our room, we changed into our bathing suits and headed to the pools. The Lagoon Tower is right next to the Kona Pool with a 175 foot curving water slide and giant waterfalls, which was another big benefit of booking a Lagoon Tower room. We dropped our things on an open lounge chair in the designated MAKAI area and played the whole first afternoon.
- We explored the Kona Pool with a giant waterfall, a cave hot tub, a beach entry kids area, and a giant wood and rope suspension bridge.
- There was no line for the 175 foot, green, curving water slide, so we all rode it a few times, and Carter looped it over and over and had a blast!
- Then we walked across the resort to the other side of the lagoon to try out the Kohala River Pool, with four interconnected pools and multiple, purple water slides.
The curving, Kona Pool waterslide was our favorite, but the second waterslide at the Kohala River Pool was by far the fastest!
We’ve only been home for a few days and we’re all already talking about when we can go back. Staying at the Hilton Waikoloa Village for our family vacation was a fantastic choice. The atmosphere was relaxed, casual, and comfortable, the staff was helpful and friendly, the restaurants were awesome, and the pools and waterslides were so much fun. If you get the chance to stay at the resort, we all highly recommend it!
Know Before You Go
- The Hilton Waikoloa Village is located in the Waikoloa Beach Resort on the Kona Coast of the Big Island at 69-425 Waikoloa Beach Drive, Waikoloa, Hawaii 96738, and is only 20 minutes from Kona International Airport (KOA).
- If you can, book a MAKAI Oceanview Room in the Lagoon Tower so you get all the extra benefits that come with being a MAKAI guest. They’ll give everyone in your room a special MAKAI wristband to wear while at the resort that earns you special perks and discounts.
- Between the bars and restaurants, there are 14 different and delicious options for dining at the resort.
- Download the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort Map (PDF) and review it before you arrive so you have a general lay of land and can make the most of your time at the resort.
- Dolphin Quest, a pristine, ocean-fed sea sanctuary, is located on the Hilton Waikoloa Village property, and because it sits right between the lagoon and Kona Pool, and just below the Lagoon Grill, there is no way your kids aren’t going to see the dolphins and the amazing opportunity to swim with, snuggle, and pet the dolphins. The experience is a pretty decent investment, so if this is something you think your family is going to want to do, bump up your pre-vacation savings so you can say yes without stress.
- You can order take out from Dona & Toni’s Pizza! Grab a some pizzas for the family and have a picnic at Buddha Point while you watch the sunset, pick up pizzas and bread sticks for a poolside meal, or order some delicious pasta to eat on your hotel room balcony.
- Don’t worry about walking the one mile across the resort, hop on a canal boat or a tram for a quick and relaxing ride.
- You can rent kayaks, hydro-bikes, snorkel gear, boogie boards, and more from the Ocean Sports store next to the lagoon. But, if you want to snorkel at the Hilton and at other beaches on the Big Island, head over to Snorkel Bob’s like we did and pick up gear sized for each member of your family for your entire stay. Our gear rental came with snorkels, masks, and fins, and each person had their own bag to carry their gear in. The staff also gives you a handout with information about the best snorkel spots in the area and how to get there.
- While we love spending time at resorts, we also do a lot of adventuring, which means we’re on the go during lunch. We were thrilled to find an Island Gourmet Markets location in the Queens’ MarketPlace in the Waikoloa Beach Resort! We stopped in not only to pick up cold drinks and snacks to stock our in-room mini fridge, but to pick up picnic lunch supplies for our days away from the resort adventuring. Plus, they’re owned by the ABC Stores, so they have tons of souvenirs, t-shirts, and other items too!
- The rooms have PlayStations in them, so take advantage of the rental kiosks in the resort to pick up a movie or video game. We were up early every day and loved settling into our room at night for a movie — we watched a different movie almost every night!