REVIEW: Hyatt Place Waikiki
Despite the last few years of jetting across the world, I still have a bit of anxiety when it comes to certain aspects of travel. One of these quirks is a fairly persistent and irrational fear that I will miss my flight home. Consequently I almost always book the last night of my trip at an airport hotel so I can be as physically close to the check-in counter as possible on the day of departure. To be honest, I've never missed a flight home, slept through an alarm, or managed to get stuck in traffic on my way to the airport. None of that has ever managed to reduce the stress I feel regarding potentially missing a flight. I'm surprised I haven't developed a nervous tick or had patches of my hair fall out after all these years.
This odd paranoia I carry with me is something that can make a beautiful tropical paradise like Honolulu a stressful travel destination for someone like me.
Honolulu's airport is rather basic and uninspired for many reasons, but the most glaring issue for me is that there are absolutely no quality airport hotel accommodations. While most major airports have at least one or two recognizable hotel names nearby, the only options in Honolulu seem better fit for prostitution than an overnight visit based on the TripAdvisor photos. While I'm usually a pretty flexible traveler when it comes to my sleeping accommodations, the motels near HNL have left me willing to look my fear in the eye and book sleeping arrangements closer to the city than the airport.
With my neurosis pushed to the back of my mind I took to Kayak and found that the Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach was offering a particularly attractive low rate for the one night I needed to stay in Honolulu. Incidentally I also needed one more night at a Hyatt property to renew my mid-tier status for the year. It looked like we had a winner, and with a deep breath I made a booking for the night.
When the day came, I hopped off my Hawaiian Airlines inter-island flight from Maui and quickly grabbed a cab to the hotel to see if I could make it through the night without chewing my fingernails off worrying about my return flight to Chicago.
Despite the "Waikiki" moniker, the Hyatt Place (HP) is located a few blocks off the beach area. Even without the prime location on Kalakaua Avenue like some of the larger properties, HP is still in a great spot if one is interested in all the trappings Waikiki Beach has to offer. You can leave your room and within 5 minutes be smoothing the wrinkles out of your beach towel as you settle in with a book and a cool beverage. Being so close to Waikiki means you're never too far from somewhere to eat, making dining options very easy and plentiful (and also a bit overpriced and uninspired). Like much of Hawaii, you're also never too far from an ABC Store, so picking up small snacks and drinks for your room is a breeze.
The ride from HNL to the hotel took about 20 minutes. It's pretty much a straight shot down the highway and then a few meandering turns through congested Waikiki side streets. Total cost of my cab fare was about $35 including tip in both directions, though I was caught in some traffic each way that ate up some time on the meter.
I've stayed at quite a few hotels in Honolulu over the years, and generally speaking the service is very ..... Disney-esque. Everyone smiles on cue, lots of scripted language is thrown out whenever a staff member greets you. The employees see so many people churning through this tourist mecca that a lot of the service feels a bit contrived, in my very humble opinion. So imagine my surprise when I arrived at the HP and received what felt like genuinely friendly, quality service.
As I strolled up to the check-in desk, I was greeted by a smiling agent who quickly took my credentials and processed all my paperwork. She asked me if I had ever stayed at this property before, and when I responded that I had not, she stepped out from behind the desk to personally walk me to the elevators while pointing out various amenities around the first floor. And while this might seem a bit over the top, her attitude while showing me around was very relaxed and casual. No hint of production or scripting to the conversation. Service that feels genuine is something I genuinely appreciate at a hotel, and is rare on the shores of Waikiki.
The remainder of my interactions with staff left me with the same positive feeling. Everyone was very helpful and friendly. The woman who helped me during my check-in greeted me by name from memory the next day when I was checking out and offered to hold my luggage for me or to call me a cab to the airport. Since my flight back to the mainland didn't leave till the evening, I left my luggage in her capable hands and wandered down to the beach for some napping and reading. When I returned a few hours later, I was again greeted by name and offered a taxi to the airport.
Being in Honolulu, I have to admit that I didn't spend too much time at the hotel, so this pretty much sums up the totality of my experience with the staff at the hotel. Casual, genuine Aloha spirit.
I'm not certain when HP opened it's doors, but the room felt "new" to me. It was the smallest size I had experienced in Honolulu since I started visiting a few years ago, but not so small that I felt like it impacted the quality of the room.
Immediately to the left was a single basin sink with vanity as well as the entrance to the bathroom.
The door to the shower was "sealed" with a rubber strip on the bottom. I always worry about shower doors with these attached because my experience has always been that they do very little to stop the flow of water out of the designated area. I always step out of the shower to grab a towel to discover a large puddle on the tiles. This shower surprised me though, and held firm and kept the bathroom floor fairly dry and free of puddles.
A few steps further into the room was a nice sized bed, also on the left hand side. The flower pattern on some of the bedding was very Hawaiian and a nice touch. It definitely provided me with a sense of "place". The bed itself was very comfortable, and HP does not fall into the common hotel trap of providing way too many pillows for use, most of which likely end up being placed on the floor by careless guests.
You can also see an air conditioning wall in the corner of the room. The machine worked wonders and kept the room cool despite the warm Hawaiian weather. It did make a bit more noise than I would have liked, but ultimately it was more of a "first world problem" than an actual issue that prevented me from enjoying the room.
Opposite of the bed was a rather non-descript entertainment center with a television placed on top. Hidden behind one of the center's doors was an empty mini-fridge, which I filled with bottles of cold Japanese green tea and some snacks from the ABC Store down the street. The desk was placed directly next to the entertainment center, which is common in many hotels but I find annoying. I prefer sitting at a desk when I'm working on my computer, but the placement of the desk next to the television makes it difficult to watch television while doing all of that. Perhaps not everyone is a multi-tasker, but when I'm online I tend to enjoy having the television running simultaneously. After nearly snapping a television in two while trying to reposition it, I've taken to simply laying in bed with my laptop rather than fight the feng shui of the hotel room.
Next to the bed and underneath the air conditioning unit was a lounging chair and small desk. I believe this was the "ideal" location which the hotel intended someone to view the television while working. I gave it a shot but it never really worked out the way I needed. The leather topped table wasn't firm enough to support my laptop while I was typing without going lopsided. The lack of an arm rest on the right-hand side also made getting comfortable difficult. Aesthetically, the yellow and light blue pillows fit well with the room and overall decor.
The final space in the room was a tiny, but cozy, balcony. The view wasn't spectacular, but it did give you a space to be outside for a few minutes and smell the ocean down the street. I also attempted to work on my laptop from the balcony later in the evening, but the wind was blowing too fiercely that night and I called it quits and just laid in the bed.
To top it all off, they had cute "Do Not Disturb" signs.
HP Waikiki is not the luxurious Hawaiian hotel of your dreams. There's are no leis being handed out upon check-in, the tropical plants aren't growing throughout the grounds, there is no hourly hula show, and there is no beach directly outside. Despite all that, I think HP might be my new go-to hotel when I'm in Honolulu and looking for a mid-tier property. The service was outstanding, the location is good, and the quality of the room is nicer than some of the older flagship properties (Waikiki Beach Marriott, I'm looking at you) directly across from the beach. Even the Best Western Waikiki Beach I stayed at several months previously cost me about the same amount and was not as polished and updated as this property.