The Queen Kapiolani Hotel

by Gray Cargill on February 12, 2014

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When you start researching your Honolulu vacation, you will quickly realize that hotel rooms in Honolulu are not cheap. They are especially not cheap when you have no one with you to split the cost. During my last trip, I stayed at the Aqua Palms on Ala Moana Boulevard for $119/night. It was a decent budget hotel. The main thing I didn’t like about it was the location. I found myself doing too much walking at night to get to restaurants I wanted to try.


Queen Kapiolani

Portrait of Queen Kapiolani in the lobby of the hotel.


This time, I decided to try something further east. I compared dozens of hotels for price vs. location and amenities and finally struck gold. On Black Friday, I found a deal for the Queen Kapiolani (named after Hawaii’s former Queen) on Kapahulu Ave. for $163/night. I could have gotten something slightly cheaper. But it was the ideal location for me, and I was willing to pay a little extra for it. It was still a great price for Waikiki.


Room 1702 Queen Kapiolani Hotel

Room 1702, a Diamond Head View room


My room (1702) was a corner room on the 17th floor overlooking Diamond Head Crater. It was spacious, especially for a solo traveler. I had an equally spacious lanai. The room came with all the usual amenities, including in-room safe and coffeemaker. It loved that it had a refrigerator, which made it easy to store beverages, healthy snacks and breakfast items. Bonus: There was free in-room wifi, which can cost as much as $25/day at hotels in other cities I’ve been to. (Looking at you, Las Vegas.)


Refrigerator and flat screen TV

All hotel rooms should have refrigerators. And flat screen TVs.


Let’s get the deficiencies out of the way first (none of them are deal-breakers):

The Queen Kapiolani is an older hotel. You might not notice at first, because they’ve refreshed the decor. I thought my room looked great.

But over the course of the week, I noticed telltale signs of aging here and there—the baseboard behind the refrigerator was falling away from the wall, and the air conditioner was very rusty (visible from my lanai). To me, these were minor things that didn’t impact my stay in any way. But I know some people are pickier about things like this.


Rusty air conditioner

Is that what ocean air does to air conditioners? Yikes.


The room could have used more lighting away from the bed (it was too dark at night to write at the table). But again, this wasn’t a deal-breaker.

Noise is a common problem in Waikiki, not exclusive to this hotel. But I thought I’d be okay since this is the “quiet” end of Waikiki and I was on the 17th floor. Nope. The street noise was loud. (I blame the jalousie windows.) Thank God for sleeping pills and earplugs, or I’d have never gotten any sleep.


Jalousie window

This is a view out a jalousie window. See the slats? They don’t shut out street noise.


They could use more on-site dining options. There is no room service. Their restaurant only serves breakfast (though you can get bar food later in the day at the pool bar). The breakfast buffet was expensive, crowded and not particularly solo-friendly (most tables are fourtops). I walked in one morning, saw no empty tables, left, and never came back.


Breakfast Buffet area

This place gets packed during breakfast.


But whatever the hotel lacks, it more than makes up for in other areas.

The front desk and bell staff were friendly and helpful, but the true superstars here are the housekeepers. I was sitting on my lanai twice when they came to clean my room. They were in and out in 10 minutes (including vacuuming), and the room was immaculate, the bedding made up so tight you could bounce a quarter off it. I have been a housekeeper in my previous life, and I don’t remember being able to do so much so well in just 10 minutes.


My lanai

I LOVED my lanai.


I was in love with the view of Diamond Head from my room. The view across the green treetops of Honolulu Zoo to Diamond Head Crater, with its brown crown and green folds was stunning. Because it’s in the East, you can see the sun rise over Diamond Head every morning. It’s even more beautiful later in the day, in the golden slanting of the sun before it sets. Believe me, that view alone was worth $163/night.


Diamond Head view

My Diamond Head view. Total eye candy.


The location of this hotel is terrific for more practical reasons, too. It’s no more than a minute’s walk to the beach and Kapahulu Pier. Across Kapahulu Avenue is a bus stop and the Honolulu Zoo. The Waikiki Aquarium is also within walking distance. It’s a pleasant 20 minute walk to the center of Waikiki (which I mark as being at the Outrigger Waikiki and the International Marketplace).


Kapahulu Pier

Kapahulu Pier is a minute down the street. You can watch beautiful sunsets here.


Right down the street or around the corner are two ABC Stores, a Starbucks, and several eateries, including Teddy’s Bigger Burger, Lulu’s Restaurant, Wolfgang Puck Express, Subway, and my favorite, Tiki’s Grill and Bar. It’s half a mile from the Rainbow Drive-In, a well-known locals joint serving up inexpensive and delicious plate lunches.


Hotel Lobby

Hotel lobby


If you want to book a tour, buy some souvenirs, or rent beach equipment, you can do all of these things in the lobby. There is also an ATM and Internet kiosks and printer where you can get cash or print up your boarding pass. If you’re thirsty, there is always free cold drinking water in the lobby. There is a coin-operated laundry in the building, though I never used it. The pool area was very nice.


Pool area

Tip: If you don’t want to pay for a Diamond Head view room, you can get a great view of it from the pool area.


The ice cream shop in the lobby is a gem. The girl serving me told me the ice cream is made in Hawaii from local Hawaiian ingredients (like mango, hawaiian chocolate, kona coffee, and macadamia nuts); the milk even comes from cows living on a ranch on Maui. I tried the macadamia nut ice cream, and it was delicious.


Ice cream shop

Really good ice cream shop in the lobby.


As a solo female traveler, I especially appreciated the fact that the elevators and even the bathrooms off the lobby required a room key to access. I was always comfortable here and felt safe walking back to the hotel at night. In short, I couldn’t be happier with my choice of hotel for this trip, especially for the price I paid. The location, the views, the service and cleanliness were all excellent. I also appreciated the fact that it honors the island’s history and its former Queen. While it’s part of the Aqua hotels group, this isn’t a generic chain hotel; it feels like you’re in Hawaii when you’re here.

I’d welcome a repeat stay at the Queen Kapiolani any time.


Queen Kapiolani Hotel

Street view of hotel


Miscellaneous Notes:

  • There are a lot of homeless people in the neighborhood, but for the most part, they mind their own business. It’s sad more than anything.
  • The shower head in my room was very low. Tall people beware.
  • To use the room safe, you must get a key from the front desk and pay a deposit of $50 which will be refunded to you when you return the key upon check-out. If you lose the key, you lose the money.
  • Valet parking is $25/day.
Lauren Meshkin February 13, 2014 at 6:06 am

Seriously, that view?!?! You’re right, totally worth the money, and for such a great location too. For me, wifi and location are so important! Thanks for sharing, I’ll definitely keep this place in mind.

Happy travels 🙂

Gray Cargill February 14, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Lauren – It’s funny breaking down what each of us considers important in a hotel, isn’t it? Everyone’s different. But this place was perfect for me. Happy travels to you!

lee February 12, 2014 at 6:06 pm

just wondering if a ‘hotel/airline package’ (that i see advertised all the time, offers any savings? i have not been to Hawaii in many years but shall be stopping there on the way to or from China

Gray Cargill February 14, 2014 at 7:58 pm

I can’t say, Lee. I don’t usually look at packages, because none of them generally offer air out of Vermont. Also I’m a bit of a control freak. I like to pick my own hotel and airline.

Bee February 12, 2014 at 10:08 am

I’ve stayed there as a solo traveler several times, though the last was at least 17 years ago! Looks like the place hasn’t changed much, and I definitely enjoyed my time there when I traveled solo.

Gray Cargill February 14, 2014 at 7:59 pm

You were solo there, too, Bee? Awesome. Yeah, other than some refreshing of the furniturd and linens, I imagine it probably hasn’t changed too much.

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