Review: Grand Naniloa Hotel (DoubleTree by Hilton) - Hilo, Hawaii
July 6th, 2018
The Grand Naniloa Hotel is located on the iconic Banyan Drive in Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii. Banyan Drive is also known as the “Hilo Walk of Fame” due to the numerous banyan trees which were planted by celebrities during the 1930’s through to 1970’s. The hotel itself is located on 70 acres of oceanfront and has incredible, unobstructed views of Mauna Kea Volcano and Hilo Bay.
This property has been recently renovated and you can tell that they spared no expense – the renovation included a refurbishment of all the rooms and suites as well as some truly stunning art pieces from the renowned hula photographer, Kim Taylor Reece. In total, the hotel boasts a whopping $4-million worth of Kim’s stunning hula art which is proudly displayed in all the guestrooms and amongst the grounds.
The property includes 320 guest rooms and suites which span over 2 towers, an onsite restaurant, two bars as well as an outdoor pool and paid parking (valet and self park). The hotel also offers rental equipment for snorkelling, SUP, kayaking and biking and as an added bonus, all guests receive a free round of 9-hole golf daily. Just a note on parking, the valet and self-park at the time were both the same price and if you did go with the self-park option, note that it’s situated across the street from the hotel and involves a good 150-200 meter walk.
Staying true to the Hawaiian feel, the lobby as well as the restaurant and bar are open air and welcoming. For our stay, we were situated in room 240, which was a 1-King Bed “Bay View” room. This room was located on the second floor of the smaller tower. The room itself felt slightly smaller than your standard sized room and included a desk, a mini fridge and microwave, floor to ceiling windows with awesome views, albeit somewhat palm tree obstructed, of Hilo Bay and Mauna Kea, a single vanity as well as separately located shower/tub combo and toilet. The only “complaint” we had with the room was that the AC unit was pretty loud but that’s pretty much expected for hotel rooms these days. Also, although the hotel and rooms were recently renovated, you could tell that some of the workmanship in the rooms fell short – we noticed a lot of plaint splatters, uneven plaster/spackle on the walls and messy grout work within the shower and bathroom floor.
The on-site restaurant and bar are located on the lower level of the grounds, attached to the larger of the two towers. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and also has happy hour where you can sample of the menu/drink items at a reduced price. The portion sizes of the happy hour food items is smaller than what you’d normally get so that’s something to keep in mind, especially for their flat-breads. The food itself was great, especially said flat-breads as well as the poke which was spot on and refreshing, especially on a hot, sunny day. In terms of breakfast offerings, you have a few options. You can either purchase a continental or full buffet breakfast or order a-la-carte off the menu. The continental option offers all cold items including cereals, pastries, fruit, yogurt, drinks, etc and for an added cost, you can upgrade to the full buffet option which also includes a few hot items (bacon, french toast, sausage, etc) as well as an omelette station. As a Gold Member within the Hilton Honors program, you receive complimentary continental breakfast with the option of upgrading to the full buffet for $10 per person. In my opinion, the $10 up charge included enough hot offerings to justify the added cost.
During our 3 days in Hilo, we were blessed with nothing but sunshine which is an extremely rare thing in Hilo. I kid you not, there is some form of rain in Hilo an average of 272 days in a year. To put that into perspective, it’s raining 75% of the time and during a typical week, you’ll likely experience rain 5-6 days. Let’s just say that the odds were definitely in our favor! Before our arrival, I was told by some hotel staff that Hilo had seen nothing but rain (surprise surprise) for a good 2 months straight. I’d like to think that we brought the sunshine, but that may be a bit of a stretch! In any event, we were extremely grateful for the fabulous weather Kamapuaʻa (weather demi-god) offered us and definitely took advantage of it.
Being the “youngest” and largest island in the Hawaiian chain, The Big Island offers a variety of climate and visual attractions ranging from 12 distinct climate zones, active volcanoes, never-ending lava fields and lush tropical landscapes. During our time on the Big Island, we visited the Volcanoes National Park which is home to Kilauea and Mauna Loa; the former being one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Within the park grounds, you have access to over 150 miles of hiking trails where you can witness steam vents and sulphur banks as well as some amazing views overlooking the crater. The Big Island also has an endless supply of beautiful waterfalls as well as truly amazing botanical gardens.
Overall, our stay in Hilo at the Grand Naniloa was great. The hotel itself is perfectly situated in Hilo – about 5 minutes from Hilo International Airport (ITO), is located right on Banyan Drive and offers phenomenal views of the ocean and Mauna Kea. The staff seemed a little unorganized at times seeing as this hotel was recently converted into a DoubleTree property, but overall they were friendly and made our stay enjoyable. The rooms were nice and afforded some killer views, and the restaurant and bar were great as well. If your looking to use your Hilton Honors points, free nights can be acquired for only 40,000 points.