Our Holiday Condo – Ilikai 1925

We rented our condo via VRBO and you can find it here – Beautifully Remodelled Ilikai Gem. This will be a photo intensive post – we did take a lot of pictures of the condo and the items supplied. I will put the text at the top and try to save photos for the end, unless the photo relates to the text.

About the unit

This is a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom unit. Each bedroom has a queen sized bed with a memory foam topper. One bathroom is an ensuite with a shower over the bath, the other bathroom is a separate bathroom with a separate shower and no bathtub. There is a full size kitchen with stove, microwave, fridge, and dishwasher.

Also a note – When you contact the owner via VRBO she will put you in touch with Marina Hawaii Vacations who manage this unit.

Why we chose this unit

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Dining and lounge area – somehow I forgot to take a closeup of the lounge area!

The main reason we chose this unit over other units available was the lounge furniture. We most wanted a comfortable lounge setting which was solid enough to handle my good friend who as you may already be aware is a person of magnitude at just over 300 pounds when we travelled. So we ruled out all units with cane lounges – and there are a lot of those with this being Hawaii!

Out of the units left once we narrowed down the choices and ruled out the cane stuff, this unit had availability for our dates plus had the advantage of 2 bedrooms and 2 *separate* bathrooms.

Would we stay here again?

Absofreakinglutely, in a heartbeat. This unit was everything we thought it would be, and more. Plus we loved the Ilikai – more about that later though.

Just one negative for us

As I always like to do, lets get the negative out of the way first. Unit wise, I felt there was only one negative to this unit and some people will actually find it a positive – the curtains in the bedrooms are not block out curtains. This is the only thing I would change if this unit belonged to me.

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The bedroom of bigaln2

For me, because I do work night shift, my bedroom is usually a bat cave – very dark. So I find it a bit harder to be able to sleep when there is light. Then again, you are in Hawaii, who wants to sleep, right?

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Our bed in our bedroom – very comfortable when it was time to sleep

Some street noise

There was some street noise because this unit – although it is on level 19 – does look out over Ala Moana Boulevard. However for me this was not noisy enough to be considered a negative. The one thing I did notice most noise wise was theBus – when it stops it makes a beeping noise. From our bedroom we did have a view over the Hilton Hawaiian Village lagoon and we could see the ocean too.

There was also some noise when the Hilton were holding their Luau, however this was such a great thing not a bad thing, we usually went out onto the balcony and enjoyed it.

If you want a totally silent dark bat cave to sleep in, this is not the right unit for you to rent.

What we did love

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Living and dining area.

I honestly loved everything else about this unit including the amount of light that comes in during the day when you are awake and not wanting to sleep. The decor is very neutral and isn’t going to disturb anyones peace of mind, which is great when you are on holiday. There is nothing there which seems old and certainly nothing ugly.

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The glasses cupboard.

I loved that there were large plastic tumblers – glass and me never works out well in the kitchen. However there were also glass options if you did want to go that way – the best of both worlds.

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Desk Area

There were plenty of coat hangers in the cupboards, plenty of drawer space, a lovely little desk for your laptop, some beautiful art on the walls, and there was even a night light in the ensuite. Towels and linen were provided and I have to say were excellent, the bed sheets and quilt provided were extremely comfortable. The memory foam topper was *awesome* and the beds were extremely comfortable.

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Kitchen Drawer Contents

I could tell that the owner of this unit has spent some time thinking about what people are going to need to use cookery wise, the cupboards were full of useful kitchen items.

Air Conditioning

The unit had you covered 100% air-conditioning wise – there is a split system air-conditioner head unit in each bedroom *plus* a split system air-conditioner in the main living area directly across from the couches. The owner has not done this on the cheap either – they have put in reliable units which provide only white noise and the occasional water pump sound. I cannot tell you if each head unit has their own outside unit or not, I did not investigate that further.

I often found the air-conditioning too cool and would turn the unit(s) off until one of the *ahem* men (That would be the one from the cold climate!) noticed it was off and would turn it back on. I would usually only leave the main living room unit on when we went out and would go around turning the bedroom ones off as we left. Hey – I am in Hawaii, I like it warm.

Marina Hawaii Vacations

Our experience with this company was fantastic – with one tiny exception and that was that they moved from Level 2 down to the lobby right before we visited and so we had some trouble finding them to begin with – the maps said level 2, my paperwork said level 2, we got to level 2 and found the original office which had a note on the door that they had moved to the lobby and we had to walk around a bit to find them. Nobody we asked was sure where the new office was.

With that said, the new office is absolutely gorgeous and the staff were welcoming and helpful. We were not there for very long because we had already paid the full balance a week in advance (to test out my new credit card) and so we were given the key cards, some paperwork with instructions, and told the most important rule which is not to hang towels or other items from the lanai – this is not something we would ever do anyway. 🙂

The Ilikai Experience 

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The Ilikai Lobby

We loved The Ilikai overall. The lobby is beautiful, there are plenty of places to sit and chill if you wanted to do that, there is a lovely chair outside where you can wait for your car to be returned to you by the valet, the lifts were responsive and generally fast, the location is spot on for we Aussies who shop.

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The laundry – two washers, two dryers on each floor.

There are laundry facilities which we did make use of on a couple of occasions.

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Internal Corridor.

The one small downside is that the internal corridors are like saunas. It gets very warm in there and there seemed to be no air-conditioning there.

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View of The Ilikai from the Discovery Bay Center across the road.

There is a bus stop very close by and this also happens to be the stop where a lot of pickups tend to happen e.g. PG Plover out to Waikele – you are usually the first picked up and the first dropped back to your hotel on any tours which is a bonus. This is also one of the better theBus stops for people wanting to go to KCC Farmers Market and get a seat on the bus.

We already mentioned the awesome KiMOBEAN for coffee, breakfast, and free wifi nearby in the Discovery Centre – there is also the great ABC Superette a short walk away on the corner of Ala Moana Boulevard and Hobron Lane for all your snacks, treats, and general ABC shopping type needs. If the Superette doesn’t have all of the items you’re looking for, there is another ABC store located just up Ala Moana Blvd. by Magokoro.

The Ilikai Pool

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The Ilikai Pool Area

If you read the reviews for the Ilikai from time to time you will hear about the people who live in the condos being extremely possessive and somewhat territorial when it comes to the pool. Having been in the pool, I now get why they might be like that – this pool is heated to a temperature of such perfection rarely encountered in the world. I have been to many hotel pools as well as regular swimming pools during my time on this planet and I have to say – this pool is my most favourite, ever. That is saying something huge.

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The Ilikai Pool Area

We did not experience the territorial stuff because we always went to the pool right before dinner, about 6:30pm, the pool was not used a lot at that time, it closed at 7:30, and I think the most people we ever encountered there were 4 kids plus 2 adults.

There is a staff member at the pool who gives out towels, who would often tell kids not to run – the staff member would also assist the kids when they needed help with things and kept a very close eye on the happenings at the pool making sure rules like no diving were obeyed which if I were a parent I would be pretty happy about – but please note there is no lifeguard on duty here.

So Much Space 

I don’t think it would be very easy to go back to staying in a standard hotel room after this condo experience. We had so much space to spread out – the living room area was where we spent a lot of time chatting and planning our plots of action. In a regular hotel room you wouldn’t have that couch area and extra space. I’m definitely sold on condos from now on, and I do have quite a long list of favourites for future trips.

Some more photos

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The entrance area with shoe rack

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Main Bathroom

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Main Bathroom 2

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Ensuite

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Ensuite 2

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The art above the desk

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The kitchen and dining area

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TV, Aircon, Honu wall art

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Lift area at the lobby

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Excellent fridge space, plenty of room!

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Plates and bowls plus martini glasses

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Rice cooker, blender, and more glasses

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Dishwasher

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Pots & pans

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Tea towels and pot holders

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3 Bedroom Condos

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3 bedroom condos are difficult to find. Even 2 bedroom condos are somewhat rare on Oahu.

The one 3 bedroom I always used to keep in my list of favourites in case I ever needed one has vanished from VRBO now. 😦

The other 3 bedroom condos available on VRBO are mostly located somewhat out of the way from where most Waikiki visitors would want to be or they are private homes with 3 bedrooms, or monthly rentals only.

Luckily I remember my favourite 3 bedroom condo on VRBO was via Waikiki Beach Rentals, and it is still available on their website. And here is the link – it is the Hawaii 5-0 Suite

It is quite the iconic location, having appeared in the opening credits of the original Hawaii 5-0 – and the unit is is pretty stunning.

There is another 3 bedroom via Waikiki Beach Rentals which you can view here – Amazing 2600sf Ilikai Executive Penthouse

The Ilikai is in a great location for shopping being a very short walk from Ala Moana, and there is a bus stop right out the front. As you read this post, Beedoo is staying at the Ilikai this trip, so you can bet you will hear a lot more about it once the trip is over. 🙂

Choosing – Part 1

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Waikiki is enormous.

You have a huge range of options to choose from when it comes to accommodation. If you asked me to list all the hotels and condo buildings you could choose from, I suppose I would give it a try, but it would take a good couple of weeks of work to make sure I got them all!

The first choice to make is – do you want to book a hotel room, or a condo?

We Aussies would call a condo a self catering apartment. It usually has a kitchen and a bit more space than a hotel room would, which is important if you plan to shop til you drop. So you really need to ask yourself some questions about what kind of holiday it is that you want to have, and what kind of accommodation is going to be best for you. Here are some of the questions I suggest you ask yourself.

How many people are travelling?

This is a *key* question. In Waikiki there is a fire code which says you cannot have more than 4 people in a standard hotel room, no matter how old they are. They do enforce this pretty strictly – and there would be nothing worse than suddenly having to pony up for a second room as a result of this! So if you are a family of 5, eg 2 adults and 3 kids, or more than 4 people travelling, you are going to find it difficult to book a hotel room unless you book a family room or a family suite.

But stop and think a minute – if there are 4 of you in one room, where are you going to chill out? Most of the standard hotel rooms have beds, one chair for the desk, one chair for sitting in. There might be a couple of chairs out on the balcony but these are probably going to be difficult and heavy to bring inside.

Condos tend to have a little more space, the bedroom will often be separate from the living area which can be great if one person wants to watch tv while the other(s) sleep, and the bathroom will sometimes be larger too. You can check out some condo floor plans here.

Hotels have lobbies, and most of those have couches. Me personally I love nothing more than to sit in the lobby and people watch, but it is unlikely kids will be greatly amused by this. 🙂 So you need to think about who is going with you and what they are going to be happy to do, which brings me to the next question –

How well do you know these people you are travelling with?

If this is family and you have lived together, staying in a hotel room should be perfectly fine. Sharing a bathroom should also be ok – and remember most hotel lobbies do have a bathroom for those *ahem* toilet visits you do not want to inflict on your nearest and dearest. It happens to us all, when we travel weird things happen to our insides.

But if these are acquaintances, people you have not travelled with before, you need to take a moment and think – how comfortable will you be sharing one room with these people? Do you know if they snore? Do you know if *you* snore? What are their sleeping habits? – there would be nothing worse than sharing a room with someone who likes to sleep late when you are a get up at the crack of dawn type person.

How about sharing the bathroom? What happens if one of you is in there taking a shower, and someone else needs to use the bathroom? If in doubt about any of these questions, it is possible two separate hotel rooms or a 2 bed 2 bath condo might be your best bet.

What star level suits you?

My sister is the kind of person who rarely deigns to stay in anything less than 5 star. Me, I am happy as long as I have a comfortable bed and a bathroom that works.

Where do you normally stay when you travel?

Do you have a favourite brand of hotel? Do they have a hotel in the place you want to stay? Are you a member of their points program and will you earn points for your stay?

What is your budget?

How much money do you want to spend on the room? Are you splitting the cost of this with others? If yes, will you be splitting it equally – if you are paying more than someone else this can often end in arguments and tears.

What is your budget for food?

Me personally I like to budget $100 per person, per day, for food. This is probably higher than I will spend – it is higher than most people will spend – but the good news is leftover monies can go towards the shopping budget at the end of the trip, and you can plan a couple of high end “special” nights out without feeling like you are breaking the budget.

Low Food Budget = Kitchen Might Be Awesome. Condos Have Kitchens.

If you have a low budget for food, then you might want to think about what a condo kitchen could do to help you maximise your $$. You are going to have a bigger fridge *and* freezer. If you have kids, you can keep plenty of cold juice boxes and snacks in the fridge. You can also keep bottled water in the fridge so it is cold when you need it. Your freezer will likely be big enough to put a couple of bottles of water in to freeze which can be super handy in Hawaii if you are wanting to take a picnic lunch out in a cooler bag, plus ice trays for ice for your drinks, and maybe some ice-cream.

In a condo, you will also have cutlery, plates and bowls, glasses, etc, provided with the kitchen. You can do a cold or cooked breakfast. You can make sandwiches for lunch – either to eat in or take with you. You can keep dips and snacks for “drinks hour” or drinks evening if that is how you roll. You can cook dinner. You can tip yourself for the awesome service, if you like. 🙂

What Can I Cook In A Hotel Room?

Hotel rooms generally have a small bar fridge, a couple of glasses, a tiny freezer in the bar fridge, maybe a couple of coffee cups. You will not be likely to find bowls and spoons though some hotels will provide these for you if you ask – your best bet if you wanted to have cereal for breakfast in the morning you can pick up some disposable bowls and spoons fairly easily, but that is probably the extent to which you are going to want to cook in a room with no kitchen.

This means – all lunches and dinners will probably be eaten out. In the US, this generally means tipping at 15-20 percent if the service is good, on top of the cost of the food. Bear in mind US portions served to you in a restaurant will generally be too big to eat in one sitting and you might feel bad leaving leftovers behind – and you probably won’t have the space in your bar fridge to bring them back to the room.

There is a lot of great fruit available on Oahu. You can get pre-cut-up fruit from the ABC stores and it will be some of the most delicious fruit you will ever eat. You can visit farmers markets and buy fresh fruit, too. Sometimes you will probably not feel like a full meal (I found sometimes all I wanted for lunch was fruit) and you could probably make do with something you would find in the ABC store for a meal.

Does anyone travelling have food allergies? Are they vegetarian? Vegan?

If yes, eating out might be slightly more difficult for you. There are some excellent options for those with food allergies and some great vegetarian/vegan options.

How often am I going to be in the room?

If the answer is rarely, then you should consider whether you really need a 4 or 5 star hotel. There is often great threads on Tripadvisor about budget hotels – the kind you can get for between $100-150 per night. Ones I hear mentioned and recommended regularly are – Royal GroveThe BreakersWhite SandsWaikiki Sand Villa. Less money per night, the more nights you can stay!

How important is location to me?

Do you want to be on the beach? Or would you be ok with a bit of a walk? Do you want to be in the heart of the action, or is a little distance from the action ok with you? Do you want to be near the Ala Moana shopping centre? (Most of us Aussies will probably say yes to that one, a short walk for a shopping trip = awesome). If you want a beachfront condo, there is only one option within Waikiki and that is Waikiki Shore.

A lot of questions..

which only you can answer – it is your trip! Once you have answered them, you can begin to get a sense of whether  a hotel room is going to suit you, or whether a condo might be worth looking into.

Next time in part 2 – we will talk about places where you can find and compare hotels & condos, reviews of both, how to interpret reviews, and how to begin making a short list.

Vacation Rental Scams – Protect Yourself!

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condominium (Photo credit: OiMax)

With all condo and vacation rental bookings, there are steps you should take before you make any form of payment. In my opinion, these steps include –

– Use Google Image Search to see if the images being used on the listing appear anywhere else on the web – not sure how? check out this how to – http://www.wikihow.com/Search-by-Image-on-Google – you will be surprised sometimes at the results you get.

– Search the unit number with the name of the building, and see what results appear. You may find reviews for the unit on sites like TA that way. People often put in a review for a condo on the hotel listing (eg if you look at the Ilikai hotel listing, you will find reviews for the condos there).

– Search for the details of the people you are considering booking with – eg name, phone number, email address.

– Search for some of the text from the listing and see if it is borrowed from another listing on the web. The scammers are quite lazy and quite often just copy the original listing text.

– Call and speak with the person you are making the booking with personally.

– When speaking with them, you could ask for references – eg people who rented the unit previously.

– If you are able to contact other people who have rented the same unit, do so, and clarify the details with them – eg who owns the unit or the company they rented from, who they spoke to, the phone number they called.

When you do finally go ahead and make a booking – to protect yourself, pay via credit card.

I hope this information might be useful in protecting you from scams – yes, it has happened to people, here is a recent thread re this on Tripadvisor –

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28932-i36-k6308707-Beware_a_VRBO_scammer_on_Waikiki_Shore_listing-Hawaii.html

Also on AirBNB – be very careful – ONLY make payment via the AirBNB website system. This family found this out the hard way –

http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies.cfm?t=2112462

I wish you all safe – and scamfree – travels. 🙂