- Hotel Review: Grand Wailea Maui – A Waldorf Astoria Resort
- Hawaii Tips/Tricks
- Hotel Review: Hilton Hawiian Village
- Admirals Club / JAL Sakura Lounge HNL
After spending 4 nights in Maui, I spent my final 5 nights at the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Waikiki Beach. It was my first trip to this resort and had heard many claim that the resort was hit or miss, depending on which tower and room you receive.
I booked my five night stay using 200,000 Hilton HHonors Points which included the 20% GLON Discount (basically 5th night free). With me not being your typical blogger with thousands of points or a corporate employee who earns points on my employer’s credit card, I had always found it hard earn enough points to stay 5-nights at any high category Hilton property.
That was until I learned to move points around and double them in the process. I have a personal American Express credit card where I earn points on normal everyday spend. After saving about 75,000 Membership Rewards Points, I took advantage of a 35% American Express Transfer Bonus to Virgin Atlantic this past December. I transferred 75,000 points to Virgin Atlantic, which turned into 101,250 Flying Club Points.
Knowing that Flying Club points can be transferred to Hilton HHonors at a 1:2 ratio, I then transferred my 101,250 Flying Club points to Hilton HHonors, which turned into 202,500 HHonors points….just enough for my 5-night stay at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Now with Hilton’s recent devaluation and new points system, it will cost you slightly more in certain months throughout the year. Instead of rooms maxing out at 50,000 points per night, which it was for me, it will increase to 60,000 per night in certain months. But again, you can use the same methodology I used to double my American Express Membership Rewards points. Hopefully another Virgin Atlantic transfer bonus will be along shortly as well.
A few months ago, I booked a Standard Resort View Room using points for my stay this past January. Upon arrival, I was shocked at the size of this property (22 acres). It was like an amusement park, with just as many people! The resort features 18 restaurants, a 5-acre salt water lagoon, 5 pools, 90 boutique shops, wildlife displays, botanical gardens and 7 different accommodation towers. It’s massive, but in a good – everything you need in one place – kind of way.
During check-in, I was upgraded to a Rainbow Tower Ocean View Junior Suite on the 24th floor, which basically is an over-sized corner room with two lanais that has a view of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head. Because of my Diamond status, I was also given breakfast daily at the Rainbow Tower VIP Room. I was also provided with a DVD access card, which allowed me access to numerous Redbox style machines throughout the property for unlimited, free rentals of movies and PS3 games (a PS3 was provided in-room). I was also offered unlimited pool towel cards, which you exchange for towels at the pool and must be returned upon check-out. I was also given a Hilton Hawaiian Village Experience Card, which provided numerous discounts and freebies at the various 90 boutiques and restaurants at the resort.
Before leaving the check-in counter, I was offered $200 of resort cash for attending the Hilton Grand Vacations Club 2-hour sales pitch. I initially said “no”, but then changed my mind and said I would think about it.
We were directed to the elevators for the Rainbow Tower, which is the closest tower to the front desk. We reached the elevator and found that there was no Up/Down button. After reading the directions, it required us to input our floor number and it would assign an elevator to you, supposedly in some organized fashion. There were about 8 people waiting for elevators and apparently we had all been assigned elevator “D”. Elevator “C” arrived first, dropped off its passengers and then the doors closed without anyone boarding the elevator. Next it was elevator “A”, then “B” that arrived, dropped off passengers, and nobody got on board. After what seemed like 10 minutes, elevator “D” arrived and we all got into one elevator and all wondered how it was more efficient to allow other elevators to come and go empty.
We finally arrived at the 24th floor and walked into an extremely cold hallway to our room. The room has a small entryway with a refrigerator, closet and full length mirror almost behind the actual room itself. The entryway opens up to a large bedroom with a love seat and chaise sofa, a King sized bed, desk, lounge chair and two lanais both facing Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach.
As we entered, we were both attracted to the amazing view and immediately walked onto the lanais to admire the view. The view was unobstructed and simply amazing. Looking down at Waikiki beach, we noticed the notable difference in water color based on coral and depth. We later learned that Waikiki is a man-made beach with sand imported from California and Australia.
The large bathroom has a separate tub, walk-in shower and a separate enclosed toilet area. The bathroom featured the standard Peter Thomas Roth toiletries. Overall, it was a great room for a great price of only 15,000 American Express points per night.
The following morning, we decided to check out the complimentary breakfast offered to HHonors Gold & Diamond members at the Rainbow Tower VIP Room. Luckily the breakfast was offered in our tower, as it would be quite a walk to breakfast every morning for those who are in the Tapa Tower or the other towers located throughout the 22 acre resort. Your room key card is used to access the VIP Room.
As you walk in, apparently you are supposed to sign-in to a guest book, but I saw people just passing it by and followed suit. As you enter they have a few desktops on the side to use with free internet access. The interior is similar to an airport lounge with sofas, chairs, TVs, etc. Breakfast was your very standard continental style breakfast with a table of fruit: melons, oranges and pineapple. The next table included warm oatmeal with numerous toppings and a table of various cereals and milk. The next table had bagels/toast that you could toast along with various danishes and muffins. The following table had your various bagel/toast toppings such as jams, butters, honey, etc. Finally there was a drink table with juices, water, coffee, tea and various milks/sugars to include in your drinks. They also provided high-quality to-go cups, which came in handy when we were in a early morning rush and wanted to take coffee with us on our tour bus. To eat, you had the choice to sit indoors and watch TV or to sit outdoors among the hawk-eyed birds that wanted your breakfast! Not a bad breakfast for being free, but I hoped they would have offered a hot protein item, such as scrambled eggs.
After eating breakfast, a sudden monsoon-like storm came in fast and hard and began drenching the city. We inquired and found out that the rain is expected to only last a few hours and would then clear up. We decided that now would be a good time to take a tour of the Grand Vacations Club and earn $200 in resort credit as well. Now, we only did this because we had a couple hours to kill during the rain and the tour was located within the resort itself. We attended a rather painful 2-hour tour which in my personal opinion is designed to sell you a club membership which to us in the points world is an incredibly BAD deal….but that is for another post. Those two hours earned us $200 that was valid at any of the 90 boutique shops, restaurants, tours or even toward your hotel bill.
On the way back from the Grand Vacations Club Tour, we stopped at the concierge desk to inquire about the savings/discounts we receive with the “Village Experience” Card which we received during check-in. We were told that the card entitles us to 2 bottles of free water and a large beach bag, which we were given right then and there. Then we were provided a booklet which contained all the various discounts and savings at the 90+ shops/restaurants on the resort. The discounts ranged from BOGO options to discounts to free gifts after purchases. Since we already planned on eating lunch for the next 5 days at the resort using our newly acquired $200 resort credit, we stacked the various discounts and offers that we received with the “Village Experience” card to increase our discount and to receive everything from free drinks or appetizers to free desserts.
Being “Thrifty”, we spent only $20/person per day for lunch, which was perfect for the $200 resort credit. With our complimentary breakfast in the VIP Room, we now had Breakfast and Lunch covered for the entire trip. For dinner, we used numerous discounts and promotions we found in the local tourist magazines as we did in Maui (as described in my “Hawaii: Tips & Tricks” post) to eat at great restaurants at very economical prices.
For 15,000 American Express Membership Rewards points per night, we were able to go to the Hilton Hawaiian Village for 5-nights with daily breakfast and lunch. While I earned my complimentary breakfast because of my HHonors Diamond Status, many people also receive daily breakfast with the HHonors Gold membership that they get complimentary with a Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card. If you have that card, you could also have used your two weekend night certificates and save your points. Even though Hilton HHonors points are being devalued, with a few Thrifty Tricks you can still Live Frugal…..Travel Rich!