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
One of the best things about travel is the way that resets the perception of the world around me. I’ve heard a lot about Hilo over the years, and I always imagined it to be a high-end place with luxury hotels and fancy restaurants propped up on every corner. It seemed a bit more exotic to me than other places in Hawaii, and I was really looking forward to going and seeing what it was all about.
What I found is not quite what I had been envisioning my mind. Sure was nice, and very beautiful, but high-end it was not. It’s not like I was expecting everyone to be driving around in Rolls-Royces, but I think that my expectations were much too high. On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of money in Hilo, and it felt like a working-class neighborhood more than anything else. I’m not complaining though. Hilo is stunningly beautiful, and I enjoyed every minute of my stay.
Interestingly enough, there aren’t really that many nice hotels around the airport. You would think that for a big-time vacation destination such as this, the major hotel brands to be tripping over themselves to have luxury properties on every available plot of land. But it’s not like that. The Grand Naniloa Hotel was the only one that I found that looked halfway decent and was within walking distance to the airport. Okay, walking distance is a bit of a stretch, but it is nearby and within a five minute taxi drive (which will cost you $15 one-way).
So yeah. Choosing a hotel for my stay in Hilo was very easy. Not entirely satisfying, but very easy due to the lack of other options. The pictures on hotels.com looked good, so what the heck. I decided to give it a shot.
The Grand Naniloa Hotel is actually a Doubletree by Hilton. Thank God for that though because underneath I could tell that this is an old structure that had been brought back from the dead. Hilton did a pretty good job of coming in and sprucing things up though, but it’s easy to see that at its core, this hotel is been here for a while and it hasn’t always been quite this nice. The surrounding area is not as luxurious and nice as I was expecting and if it weren’t for the Hilton brand name on the sign, I’m not even sure that I would want to stay here. But since there are no other options as nice as this near the airport, this is as good as it gets.
Pulling up to the hotel was a very Hawaiian experience. There are no front doors here. Everything is wide open to take advantage of the warm gentle Hawaiian Tradewinds, and the breeze moving through the main lobby felt really good. Ahh, welcome to the islands.
The room itself was quite nice actually. Clean and modern, bright and large. Can’t beat that right? The outdoor patio with large glass doors was a bonus, and it was nice to sit outside and relax and watch the sun go down.
The only downside to the room was the fact that there was a bit of a bug problem. Yes, that’s right. Bugs. More specifically, ants…and I didn’t even notice them until I came back into the room from getting dinner and started to eat at the desk. It was then that the ants came out of the woodwork and would not leave me alone until I finished my meal. I hate bugs, and the thought of sleeping with ants crawling all over me was hard to deal with. All I could do was put my trash in refrigerator, do a little anti-bug prayer, and try to put it out of my mind as I drifted off to sleep.
Speaking of food, the only real dining option in this hotel is a basement restaurant which looked a little bit too formal for my tastes. One brief look at it and I knew it was not for me. My T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops were simply no match for the bright white table cloths and fine silverware – I was forced to find other options. Luckily there are some take-out restaurants within walking distance of the hotel (if you consider a 30-minute round-trip walk as “walking distance”), and I was able to find a nice Vietnamese meal at a decent price.
While the Grand Naniloa Hotel was not quite what I was expecting, it worked. It was okay. Actually, it was not that all bad and I wouldn’t have a problem staying here again the next time I come to Hilo. Not because I enjoyed my experience so much, but because there simply aren’t any other options that are worth looking at.
As a matter of fact, the next time I come to Hilo I’m probably going to do the airbnb.com thing. Renting a house or condo seems like a much better idea than staying at a slightly overpriced and not-that-luxurious hotel such as this, and I would only recommend staying here if you need to be close to the airport for an early flight.