01. Introduction: Hawaiian island hopping!
02. Alaska Airlines 737-800 economy class San Diego to Kona
03. Island Air ATR 72 Kona to Honolulu
04. Vive Hotel, Waikiki
05. Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 Grand Caravan Honolulu to Ho’olehua
06. Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 Grand Caravan Ho’olehua to Kahului
07. Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 Grand Caravan Kahului to Kona
08. What to do when it rains for the entirety of your Hawaiian vacation
09. Grand Naniloa Hotel, Hilo
10. Hawaiian Airlines 717-200 economy class Hilo to Honolulu
11. Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 Extra Comfort (premium economy) Honolulu to San Diego
Ahh, Waikiki. A place that most people either love or hate, and if you’re the slightest bit curious, I’m starting to lean more toward the “hate” side of the scale with each passing year. Hate is a pretty strong word though, and the reality is that I’m solidly in the “neutral” category at the moment. I don’t love Waikiki as much as I once did, but at the same time I still enjoy going every now and then just to see what’s going on.
My first visit to Waikiki (and Hawaii) back in 1998 was a life-changing experience that I’ll never forget. I was a young and inexperienced traveler back then, and Hawaii was like no place I had ever seen before. Waikiki seemed so energetic yet casual and laid back, and I spent many years after that inaugural trip trying to think of ways (and good excuses) to pack up and move to the islands.
Now, 19 years later, I’ve come to the realization that either I’ve changed or Waikiki has. Yeah, it’s probably a bit of both. It doesn’t feel like the same casual and laid back place it was back then, and I’ve reached a point in my life where the all the noise and traffic has become difficult to tolerate. Ear plugs are required if you’re in a hotel room less than 5 floors off the ground and you want to go to bed before midnight – the sound of traffic and drunk tourists on the street will easily keep you awake and tossing and turning until the wee morning hours.
But I’m getting totally off track here. This is a hotel review – not an editorial piece on the state of Waikiki, so let’s switch gears and get back on topic…
Choosing a hotel in the heart of Waikiki is usually pretty easy and you really can’t go wrong with all the good hotels in fierce competition with one another vying for your dollars. Over the years I’ve become totally convinced that you could make an excellent selection by simply closing your eyes and pointing to anywhere on the map with your finger. Chances have always been you’d be quite happy with whatever your finger landed on.
My method for choosing a hotel for this stay was very much like that, and my finger ended up pointing me to the Vive hotel located on Kuhio Avenue (just down the road from the Hilton I stayed at in 2015). The pictures on Hotels.com looked great, the price seemed decent, and like pretty much any other hotel in Waikiki, the location was perfect. Decision made!
Pulling up to the Vive in the taxi was slightly disappointing – to put it mildly. Right away it felt like a small low-budget hotel that wasn’t anywhere near in the same league as the Hilton Waikiki, so I was worried that my finger had led me astray and that maybe…perhaps…this was a bad idea.
Then the front desk agent handed me a glass of ice cold guava juice and two hot macadamia nut cookies before starting to check me in, and suddenly all felt right with the world. That’s my kind of welcome!
The feelings of having made a bad choice were starting to catch up with me by the time I got off the elevator. The guest room hallways felt very “Comfort Inn” and a lot more on the low-budget side of things than I was expecting. Especially for the price I pad for this reservation. It was very obvious this used to be a neglected and dumpy hotel in years past, well before the Vive brand came in with a fresh coat of paint and spruced things up a bit. But it was easy to see through all that and realize that at the core, this is a budget property.
So yeah. Luxury accommodations these were not, and the small size of the room and tiny windows were a bit of a turn off for me. Large floor to ceiling windows should be standard in every hotel room in Waikiki, and if I were mayor, I’d make that happen! Who wants to fly all the way to Hawaii, spend over $250/night on a room, and feel like they are in prison the entire time? Not I.
But the whole point of going to Hawaii means spending as much time outside of the hotel as possible, so I’ll give them a pass on the window issue. The room was pretty good otherwise, though a bit small, and the location was pretty much perfect.
Would I stay here again? I actually had to pause for a minute after typing that question to weigh the pros and cons of the Vive Waikiki in my mind. It is a nice hotel. Not fantastic, but nice. It’s a bit rough around the edges though, with old fixtures and small rooms with tiny windows. Therefore, my answer is “no”. Especially when there are so many other good hotel choices within a stone’s throw of this place for the same price.
I may need to rethink my 1-finger Waikiki hotel-selection process for future trips…
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