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 Grove – The Breakers – White Sands – Waikiki 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.