It was an exciting day for the Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay (3-5920 Kuhio Highway, Kapaa, Hawaii, 96746; 808-823-6000), as the property’s grand opening marked the arrival of the first Hilton Garden Inn in Hawaii. Now, travelers can find a Hilton Garden Inn in each of the 50 states!
I was excited to be invited by Hilton Garden Inn to be part of the grand opening festivities for this special property on Kauai’s east coast. By the time my stay was over, I could see not only why this property is so special for the brand but also how it offers a unique experience for visiting travelers and locals alike. Here’s what I mean:
Unspoiled nature at your door
One of my favorite things about the hotel was that the beach and unspoiled surrounding area—namely Wailua River State Park and Lydgate Beach. There was a very relaxed vibe to the place.
The Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay looks out over scenic Wailua Bay, where the famous Wailua River meets the Pacific. My room was on the bottom floor and looked out onto the pool and looking on further, I could see Wailua Bay.
Oh, and don’t forget the chickens! Yes, that’s right, there were chickens that greeted me at my ocean- and pool-front patio when I opened the door. I can see how they could be scary to some, but I loved them. For me, they added to the unspoiled feel of the place. Just don’t feed them and they’ll keep to themselves!
I’ve been to other parts of Kauai that felt very much like resorts. It was nice to have this scenery for a change.
Ocean and pool views
You have the option to stay on the first level (as I did), with easy access from your patio to the pool and ocean. The other rooms above me were nice because they offered better views of the ocean, but I preferred my room for its easy access to swimming and also its view of the pool and ocean.
Even more space
Just down from the pool area are two-room cottages with separate areas for sleeping and living. They’re a great size for a family or large group wanting more privacy at 685 square feet. Plus, guests of these cottages also get their own lanais. There are also grills nearby for barbecuing and family fun.
The property also has a good amount of meeting space including the Kuhio Ballroom, the Hilton Conservatory, Mokihana room and the Palms deck. At the grand opening, we watched the locals present local songs and dance for us in the Kuhio Ballroom. I really loved the song and dance much better than the luaus I’ve seen before, because not only did they explain where each song or dance came from but also included whole families in the presentation. This extra local touch made the grand opening really special.
Open-air lobby and bar
The aloha spirit just beams from the lobby when you first see it. There are gorgeous high ceilings, with local art and pops of color. I was told the last hotel (which was resurrected as the Hilton Garden Inn) had closed this area off, and a big part of the renovation was opening up the lobby to let the light brighten the space. It made for a relaxing spot we regularly came to for a beverage at night.
I was also able to sample some of the food from the Garden Grille, and it was authentic and fresh. I loved the little things like the coconut syrup that went with the waffles in the morning!
The history of the hotel—and Hilton’s plans
In talking with the locals that performed traditional songs and dances for the grand opening, I heard again and again how much Kauai and this hotel means to them. It’s been a staple in the community for so long, under different names. Some of the locals remembered coming to the hotel after prom many years ago! Others brought their entire family for brunch on Father’s Day (I observed just how packed it can get for breakfast on Father’s Day).
During the grand opening ceremony John Greenleaf, global head of the Hilton Garden Inn brand, mentioned that this hotel is one of 60 hotels that Hilton will add this year. He also discussed the significance of Kauai and the hotel brand:
“Kauai is the island that most people return to that made a trip to any of the islands within the state of Hawaii and that’s something we aspire to do with the Hilton Garden Inn brand,” said Greenleaf. “[The team here] is dedicated to do that, creating a wonderful relationship with guests and an outstanding hospitality experience so that the guests come back not just to this hotel but to other Hilton Garden Inns.”
During your stay, if you’re interested in learning more about the local Hawaiian culture of Kauai, you can listen to Kamealoha, the hotel’s local cultural advisor, talk.
Near the hotel: Adventure & eating
There are many things to do nearby the hotel. You can play golf at Wailua Golf Course (read more about the course and four others here) and visit the famous Fern Grotto and the Nounou “Sleeping Giant” hiking trail. I enjoyed time at the beach and running on the Ka Ala Hele Makalae walking and biking path, which you can pick up at the hotel for a scenic oceanfront view. (You can also get a bike from the hotel!) For oceanfront dining and fresh seafood near the hotel (10-minute drive), check out Sam’s Ocean View in Kapaa and Puka Dog for a polish sausage on Hawaiian sweetbread.
If you’re in the mood for a bit more of an adventure, you can kayak to Wailua and Opaekaa Falls or zipline. I opted for the ziplining with Koloa Ziplines, and I’m glad that I did because the views were spectacular. I also came to realize that Koloa has three of the longest ziplines on the island.
Up in the air
The Lihue airport (more on the Lihue airport here) is less than a 10-minute drive, meaning easy transportation coming and going but also you are close to the helicopter rides!
A helicopter ride with Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tours, to see Kauai from above, is a must. I was impressed by how much our helicopter pilot knew about the island! He pointed out the famous Jurassic Park Falls and Na Pali Coast as well as lesser-known hiking trails and beaches. His knowledge on Kauai waterfalls amazed me and I wanted to be the expert that he was. He would say things like, “That waterfall to our left is particularly full today,” and “This waterfall to your right is a waterfall we don’t see too often in Kauai.” Since he’s doing helicopter tours several times a day, it makes sense that he gets the time to study these waterfalls from the air!
For more on Kaua’i: An Incomplete Guide to the Jurassic Island of Kaua’i, Hawaii.
For more on the Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay, check out the hotel’s page here. All photos credited to Caitlin Martin.