Honolulu-based Outrigger Enterprises Group has done it again. Noting the trend in family travel and the need for comfortable lodging for larger families, Outrigger has designed its Embassy Suites-Waikiki Beach Walk Hotel specifically for families. The hotel, a suite property in Honolulu's tony Waikiki neighborhood, is a warm, accommodating and affordable destination. But unlike the mainland’s business oriented Embassy Suites, Outrigger’s Hawaiian influence has shaped the Honolulu hotel into an entirely different experience for families.
This summer's special offer, the Family-Fun Package, is as about as close to an all-inclusive as the island is likely to see. In addition to cooked-to-order breakfasts for everyone, the package includes free use of beach equipment -- beach chairs, boogie boards and inflatable rafts, a pizza and movie night, and trolley/tour tickets for everyone. Should you think these aren’t much, consider that just about everyone who visits the islands doesn't bring beach equipment, and winds up not only buying it at one of Waikiki’s mini-mart ABC stores, but having to leave it behind when they head home. According to Susan Koehler, Director of Sales and Marketing, “The new Family-Fun package at Embassy Suites-Waikiki Beach Walk is a parent’s dream; all they need to do is make it here and we provide the rest.”
The resort consists of two towers and offers one- and two-bedroom upscale suites with separate living rooms with sleeper-sofas. Although we were five on our latest visit to the islands, our two-bedroom unit was more than ample for six people. The kitchen area came with a coffee/tea pot, microwave, refrigerator and sink – enough to support snacking in the afternoon and before bed, when my kids seem to be hungriest. Located just one hotel property away from the beach and ocean, the Embassy Suites-Waikiki Beach Walk is within walking distance of the upscale boutiques and restaurants all along Waikiki’s Beach Walk downtown Waikiki. Since parking is scarce in this neighborhood and the closest public parking is a 20-minute walk away, we used the hotel lot and considered it money well spent.
If we were anywhere other than Hawaii, I might have felt differently about all the flat panel TV’s – one per room – but we were here for some family fun in the sun. In the end, the kids turned on the TV in their bedroom just twice, leaving all my worrying much ado about nothing. We also thought made-to-order breakfasts meant cold cereal, toast and juice. Instead, we arrived at the indoor/outdoor terrace restaurant across from the pool to happy shrieks of joy from the kids. So much for the cold cereal and juice. Instead, we discovered a sumptuous feast, Hawaiian style. Served from 6:30 through 10:00, breakfast was, hands down, the best “free” meal we have ever had in the islands. Traditional American fare such as French toast, scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage, bagels, cereal, and fantastic fresh fruit were given equal play next to sticky rice, salad, and Japanese soup. And, of course, there was an omelet station. As most mothers with hungry kids know, getting a jump on the day while traveling – gastronomically speaking – makes for a more pleasant, and successful, day. Less whining, fewer dollars spent, and less time wasted looking for the next meal.
If the breakfast hadn’t won us over, the pool would have. Nick, our energetic nine-year old, woke us promptly in the morning before the restaurant opened, hoping to get in a pre-dawn swim. Lucky for us, the pool is maintained before eight in the morning, so we had an excuse for not rushing down, bleary-eyed, to watch over him poolside. During the periods when we weren’t out exploring the island or floating in the surf, the pool was the hottest ticket in town. A real hotbed of social activity for the ten and younger set. Nick could have spent his entire vacation there and been completely satisfied.
Curious about other families’ experience, I chatted poolside with Norma from California, while sipping a Pina Colada served in a hollowed-out coconut. “I hoped for a higher floor, but I love the convenience of being right outside the pool," she told me. "And we're near the breakfast, too. It’s a blast. I love the convenience!”
Despite the temptation to stay at the hotel, we always rent a car for a day around the island. A family tradition, we visit the touristy but still delightful North Shore with a stop in Haleiwa for a Matsumoto shaved ice. Despite local competition, the line is still out the door in the summer months, and we waited patiently for our turn up. Highway 2, new but less scenic than the coastal route, is faster. On another morning, we beat it over to Lanikai for a quiet swim (near President Obama's vacation rental) before the afternoon clouds and wind kicked up. Then a quick jog back over the Pali (mountain pass and lookout point) into Honolulu and a stop at Leonard’s Bakery net us a dozen warm, sugar-covered malasadas, or Portuguese donuts. All were devoured before we climbed back into the car.
Do I recommend a stay in Waikiki, even for island-goers who have already been to Oahu? Absolutely. It’s convenient, you can walk everywhere or take one of the city's trolleys, and the night life is tops. With family friendly hotels like the Embassy Suites-Waikiki Beach Walk, what’s not to love?
If You Go. TripAdvisor consistently ranks Embassy Suites-Waikiki Beach Walk in the top 10 out of nearly 100 Honolulu hotels. If you book, ask for the Family Fun package, starting at $289 per night with a four-night minimum stay. If you make reservations online, be sure and enter the promotional code PK4. For reservations, visit Embassy Suites-Waikiki Beach Walk at www.EmbassySuitesWaikiki.com, or over the phone at 1-800-EMBASSY. Rates are per suite, per night and taxes are not included. The rates and specials cannot be combined with other offers and are subject to availability and change.
I almost exclusively take Hawaiian Airlines when I visit the islands. It not only leads all U.S. carriers in on-time performance for each of the past seven years (2004-2010), as reported by the U.S. Department of Transportation, but consumer surveys by Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure and Zagat have all ranked Hawaiian the top domestic airline offering flights to Hawaiiď»ż. For flight information or to book a flight, visit www.hawaiianair.com.