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Hawaii with Kids, Part 2: Oahu and Hilton Grand Vacations

Welcome back to the Part 2 of our Hawaii series, where I’ll go over the second half of our March Break trip which we spent in Oahu.

We stayed in the Waikiki area of Honolulu at The Grand Islander by Hilton Grand Vacations on yet another timeshare preview package. Here’s my review of my overall experience in Oahu and with Hilton Grand Vacations.

Getting There

After a week in Maui, we caught a short 40-minute inter-island flight to Oahu. Both Southwest Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines offer this route.

I booked with Hawaiian Airlines for US$39.10 per ticket and covered the cost for my whole family with my annual US$200 airline fee credit from my Amex US Platinum Card. 

The Island of Oahu

Oahu is the third largest island of Hawaii and the most populated. Although it’s not the most popular Hawaiian island, my family enjoyed our time here and I definitely think it’s worth a visit. 

The southern end of the island is more urbanized and modern with bustling beaches. I didn’t enjoy this area as much, and likened it to being in Miami.

As you head north, however, the scenery transitions from high-rise buildings to lush green mountains and tranquil beaches. At the northern end of island, you’ll find yourself in the laidback surf towns of North Shore, one of the most famous surf spots in the world. 

The Timeshare Package

One of the reasons we chose to add Oahu to our trip to Maui was because we had a second timeshare preview package for Hawaii.

Our first package was with Marriott Vacation Club in Maui. The package we had for Oahu was with Hilton Grand Vacations (HGV) and was a “VIP Package”, meaning it was a package offered to us after we had initially declined to buy a timeshare from them at a previous presentation we attended.

The VIP Package is a little different from other timeshare packages we’ve stayed on. It was designed to let us “test out” timeshare ownership and the flexibility it offers.

For US$1,699, we were given a set number of ClubPoints (their timeshare currency) that could be used to book most of their North American properties, with the flexibility to choose the type of accommodation we wanted (i.e., studio, one-bedroom, or two-bedroom units). 

Redeeming our package in Hawaii would be the best value for our package. The Grand Islander by Hilton Grand Vacations in Waikiki, Oahu was new and looked liked a decent property, so we booked four nights in a two-bedroom unit here.

The best available rate from Hilton.com is over US$749, so I was happy with our booking.

Our four night stay in Oahu still left us with enough points to book a three night stay in a studio unit in New York, so we’ll be heading there sometime in the near future.

With respect to their customer service, HGV has been quite easy to deal with. They were very generous with extending their package booking deadline multiple times during the course of the pandemic, with no change fees incurred with all the changes we’ve made.

The timeshare presentation took place in another tower within the resort. The presentation was very similar to other timeshare presentations we had been to. Because it was a VIP package, they were aware we had already gone through the process and declined buying a timeshare once before.

They placed us with a “senior” consultant, and a Canadian might I add, who tried to go through our apprehension with purchasing. She wasn’t particularly pushy, and I’d say the experience was a pleasant one. At the end of the presentation, there were no additional offers given.

The Grand Islander by Hilton Grand Vacations

The Grand Islander is located within Hilton’s Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort. It is an all-suite hotel that opened in 2017, but was closed for a large part of the pandemic. 

The main entrance of the property is accessed away from the other towers, so make sure you ask for directions before driving here. Parking was a whopping US$55 plus tax in the resort’s main parking garage, which is several minutes’ walk from the hotel.

You may be better off renting from National Car Rental (which has a service desk at the Hilton Hawaiian Village) on the days you don’t plan to be on site to save on parking.

The hotel lobby was very open, modern, and decorated in relaxing tones with wooden accents. We arrived in the evening, and I was surprised at how quiet the hotel was.

Check-in was quick and smooth compared to the masses of people we saw at the main check-in desks for the other towers.

We stayed in a two-bedroom ocean view residence that could accommodate up to six guests. The décor mirrored what was in the lobby.

There were two separate bedrooms, each with a king bed with an ensuite bathroom, smart TV, closet, and dresser.

The ensuite bathroom of the master bedroom was quite large, and had a separate bathtub, shower, double sink, and a very fancy Toto electronic bidet with a seat warmer. I was quite impressed.

A washer and dryer were convenient to have in our unit, as we could wash all our clothes before coming home. Detergent was provided. There was no housekeeping, but if you need any extra amenities, the hotel staff are happy to bring it to you.

The living room had a queen-sized sofa bed, arm chair, coffee table, and another smart TV.

Across from here was the kitchen. It was fully-stocked with dinnerware, cookware, a sink, microwave, dishwasher, stovetop, oven, and a full-sized fridge. There was even a rice cooker!

With a fully functional kitchen, we were able to cook breakfast every morning and eat in for a couple of meals. 

The dining table was a live edge bar table, extending from the countertop with counter stools. Our kids were fine with this but it may be less ideal if you have a toddler. If you prefer a regular dining table, request a unit with one at check-in.

I enjoyed this accommodation much more than the Marriott Maui Ocean Club. The décor was more modern and having a full kitchen and in-room laundry was more convenient than using a shared facility in Maui. 

The hotel also has pool, although with our busy schedule and the nice weather, we spent most of our time outdoors. Should you wish to visit the gym, you will have to go to another tower. Pre-pandemic, there was a kids club, but it wasn’t operating when we were there.

Checkout is at 10am; however, they do have a complimentary hospitality suite available for use till 6pm each day, should you want to make use of the resort facilities for the day or if you have a later flight. 

Hilton Hawaiian Village

The wider property, known as Hilton Hawaiian Village, is a beachfront resort with a nice boardwalk that spans the whole beach. The resort consists of eight towers, with The Grand Islander being their newest addition. 

The beach here is a bit rocky and really busy. For younger kids or a quieter experience, there is a manmade lagoon where you can find tiny fish, swim, and rent water equipment. Beach chairs, umbrellas, and floaties may also be rented. 

There are four onsite pools for guests staying on the resort, including one with the longest waterslide in Waikiki, but these were also quite busy when we were there. At check-in you are given towel cards which can be redeemed for towels at stands outside.

Between the towers is a shopping arcade with many small shops, restaurants, and bars.  

The village offers some activities onsite, including luau performances (not complimentary) and musical performances by local artists (complimentary) on certain evenings of the week.

Complimentary cultural and fitness classes are offered as well, including yoga, lei making, and hula lessons. Kids are welcome to participate with parental supervision. Movie nights on the village green was a cool experience for the kids.  

If you need help arranging tours and activities outside the resort, the hotel’s concierge and tour and activities desks can be of assistance. 

What We Did in Oahu

I initially thought there wasn’t too much to see in Oahu, given that it was pretty urbanized, but I was proven wrong. We had more activities to fill our days than we could do!

Here are some of the things that should be on your Oahu to-do list.

Polynesian Cultural Centre

This is at least a full day trip, if not two (we returned for a second day). Located an hour out from Waikiki, it is an outdoor cultural centre featuring six different Polynesian villages, a dinner luau, and evening show (not to be missed!)

Each village features shows, demonstrations, and hands-on activities that the whole family can participate in. For example, you can learn to play the ukulele, start a fire from just wood, weave a grass bowl, throw a spear, or make coconut oil. You can do a self-guided tour, or buy a package that includes a guided tour. 

When buying your tickets, buy at least 10 days in advance to receive 10% off, in addition to a cash back rebate through Rakuten.com.

If you would like to purchase an all-inclusive VIP package with a guided tour and priority seating at dinner and the shows, then purchase your tickets at least one month in advance. If you buy a full-day package, you can re-enter for free for the next three days!

Kualoa Ranch

Located just south of the Polynesian Cultural Center is Kualoa Ranch. Aside from being a working farm, it also has been the film site of major blockbuster movies, including a few of the Jurassic Park series.

It offers various eco-tours, including ziplining and tours of grounds and filming sites that can be done in a variety of ways, including by bike, horseback, and ATV. 

If you’re staying with Hilton Grand Vacations, you can obtain a Grand Experiences discount card from your hotel’s concierge desk and get 10% off any of their tours. 

North Shore

This area is renowned for itss surfing, and is worth a visit even if you’re not a fan of the sport. The large rolling waves are a sight to be seen while enjoying quieter beaches.

You can visit Shark’s Cove, a shallow, semi-enclosed rocky coastal area great for snorkelling because of its abundance of small fish. Despite what the name suggests, it’s kid-friendly and not full of sharks. 

While you’re here, enjoy the laidback vibes and try some garlic shrimp from famous food trucks like Giovanni’s. Parking can be difficult, so either come earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon.

Dole Plantation

On the way up to or back from North Shore, make a quick stop here to see how pineapples are grown, take a train ride, get lost in a maze, and enjoy a Dole whip.

Pearl Harbor

No visit to Oahu is complete without a visit to this historical landmark. Although kids may not appreciate the significance of this site, there are plenty of cool things for them to see.

There are four attractions onsite: the memorial, a submarine, a battleship, and an aviation museum.

If you’re short on time, skip the memorial. Because it is still an active military base, no bags are allowed inside, so travel light.  

If you enjoy hikes, then the Diamond Head Summit Trail and Manoa Falls Trail are both easy hikes for kids. The views are great from Diamond Head, while being able to walk through a bamboo forest to get Manoa Falls is a unique experience. 

A couple of other popular attractions we had considered were an Atlantis Submarine dive, which would be fun for kids who are too young to snorkel to have a chance to see marine life in their natural environment.

Braver kids may enjoy experiencing a shark encounter (from inside a cage) with North Shore Shark Adventures. 

Lastly, if you’re looking to bring home some Hawaiian treats for your friends and family, make a stop at Costco. They sell macadamia nuts, Hawaiian coffee, and cookies cheaper than what you’ll be able to get at any other souvenir shop. 

Conclusion

Oahu can feel more metropolitan than the other Hawaiian islands, but there was still much to see and enjoy. We’ll be happy to return for a few more days to explore a few other areas of Oahu, like the Ko Olina area, and perhaps even stay a couple of nights at Aulani, Disney’s Hawaiian resort.

I personally enjoyed the northern parts of the island and wished we had more time to spend there. Staying in other parts of Oahu would have been more convenient for certain attractions, but for the price of our preview package and the comfort of our stay at the Grand Islander, we didn’t mind driving.

As devaluations continue for hotel points, and costs continue to rise, stays on timeshare preview packages can be a really good way to save on travel. Seeing that we bought another Marriott preview package, we’ll be sure to return to Hawaii in the next year or so, and we’re looking forward to visiting Kauai and the Big Island as well.

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