For our most recent trip to the Big Island, we stayed in Hilo. That means we had only three hotels to choose from, and only one of them is associated with a large chain. As such, I decided to give the Grand Naniloa Hotel a try. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be returning, which means I now have only one other option in the area.
When booking our trip to Hilo this past Many, I wanted to redeem points as much as possible. While the flights didn’t quite work out the way I wanted them to, I was able to get the hotel on points by booking our stay at the Grand Naniloa Hotel. Not familiar with it? The hotel was formerly known as the Hilo Naniloa Hotel, which was opened in 1939. However, following financial difficulties in 2013, the hotel was taken over by a new management company, renovated, and rebranded as the Grand Naniloa Hotel – a DoubleTree by Hilton hotel.
Booking the Grand Naniloa Hotel
I booked our stay over Memorial Day weekend this year. Hiltons can tend to run out of award stays on long weekends, so I was happy to see rooms were still available on points. What I didn’t like, however, was the price. It was 50,000 points per night, meaning our two-night stay cost me 100,000 points. As a comparison, my stay at the Hilton Waikoloa Village just eight months prior (Labor Day weekend) cost me 70,000 points per night, while my Grand Wailea stay in 2021 set me back 95,000 points per night.
Yes, Hilton’s redemption values are atrocious. But 50,000 points per night for a DoubleTree, especially one like this, seems like an especially poor value.
Grand Naniloa Hotel Location
The Grand Naniloa Hotel is located along Hilo Bay. Specifically, it’s one of the three hotels left in the town’s hotel district along Banyan Drive. That places the hotel very near Suisan’s, Hilo Bay Cafe, and Queen Lili’uokalani Gardens. Right across the street is a nine-hole golf course, which is run by the hotel, and Hilo Airport is a six-minute drive away. And, yes, that does mean that aircraft on approach to Hilo fly low over the hotel. That, however, is the least of your concerns. More on that later.
It’s worth noting that the Grand Naniloa Hotel offers both valet and self-parking. Unfortunately, if you decide to self-park, you’ll have to do so a bit down and across Banyan Drive. Just save yourself the trouble and valet your car.
I checked in online and selected my room, as is typical with Hilton. When we arrived at 1:30 pm, we were greeted by some of the friendliest staff I’ve encountered on the Big Island. Unfortunately, our room wasn’t ready, which is why we dropped our bags off at the bell desk and headed back out on our Big Island chocolate adventure. Unfortunately, when we returned at 3:45 pm, our room still wasn’t ready, and they couldn’t give us an estimate when it would be – even though check-in time was at 4:00 pm.
That wasn’t going to work for us, as we had dinner reservations way up in Pepe’ekeo and needed to get into our room to change and whatnot. So the associate assisting us searched through their system for a bit to find us a room. Eventually, he found one that was in the same category as what we had before. At any rate, once we were checked in, we were issued our key, given several drink vouchers, and the famous cookies.
Grand Naniloa Hotel Room 1205
The room we were ultimately assigned was room 1205 in the main tower. From the front desk, that meant taking a right (facing the front desk) and walking past the gift shop to get to the elevator bank. The elevators were slow, and it wasn’t unusual for a line to form, as there were only three.
Once you get to your floor, you enter into a narrow corridor with the rooms on the right and windows on the left. The windows were open, meaning there was no air conditioning in the corridors, which also meant they got hot during the day. The corridors are also very narrow, so it is difficult to pass by others, especially the housekeeping cart.
Honestly, I’m not sure what kind of room 1205 at the Grand Naniloa Hotel is. When I look at the hotel’s website or Hilton’s site, I can’t find our exact room type. Our specific room had an ocean view with a soaker tub but no lanai. Speaking of the soaking tub, that’s the first thing we saw when we entered our room. Interestingly, the tub is right in the middle of the room. Weird. I suppose that’s so you can enjoy the view while soaking, but still.
Since we’re on the subject of the bathroom, you can see that there’s a single vanity immediately behind the tub. To the right of the vanity is a toilet and shower behind a sliding door.
Did you notice something about the shower? Yeah, the curtain doesn’t reach the floor. That little gap let so much water splash out of the shower – every time we showered, a large puddle of water would form between the shower and the toilet.
Oh, and the toilet? It’s one of those commercial-style toilets that make a huge amount of noise when you flush them. That, along with the thin walls, meant that you could hear the rooms around you flushing their toilets, too. It wasn’t just the noise you could hear, though. When people around you flush your toilets, and you are in the shower, the shower stutters. Fun.
Back to the tub, it is quite large. That said, adding to its odd location is the fact that the thermostat is right above it.
The toiletries at the Grand Naniloa are a Lemon Verbena & Lavender scent from a company called Crabtree & Evelyn. These were ok.
Heading into the rest of the room, things become a bit more normal. Here, you’ll find a king bed with a headboard with integrated nightstands, a sitting chair with a small table, a tiny dresser/desk with a work chair, and a small TV. The headboard also had integrated lamps, power outlets, and USB outlets. There was also a small radio alarm/clock on one nightstand while the phone was near the TV.
Between the bed and the bathroom is an unusual bar area – there’s a bar with a bar stool, a mini fridge and microwave in a cabinet, and a coffee maker on top of the fridge. The whole area faces a large mirror. On the other side of the bed is a small closet.
Grand Naniloa Hotel 1205 View
As previously mentioned, our room was an ocean-view room, and it really did have a mostly clear view of Hilo Bay. But we also had a view of the lobby and the smaller tower at the hotel. Beyond the tower is Moku Ola, or Coconut Island, which is accessible from the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel.
As you can see, the weather turned quite dreary on the day of our arrival, which isn’t that uncommon for Hilo. You’ll also notice that there isn’t a beach at this hotel – just some rocky coastline. There is a pool, but it’s a tiny circular pool that is filled with kids. If you’re looking for a serene pool experience or to be able to swim laps, this isn’t the hotel for you.
At any rate, I didn’t bother taking a picture of the pool, as we only passed by it during breakfast and never again. However, I did snap another photo of our view the next day when things cleared up.
Grand Naniloa Hotel Room Comfort
Room comfort is where things really went off the rails at the Grand Naniloa Hotel. Noise was a constant issue here. As mentioned earlier, the walls are thin. So not only do you hear toilets flushing all over, but sound transmits from the corridor and adjoining rooms readily. However, the HVAC was so loud, even on LOW, that it usually drowned out most of the noise you’d hear.
Speaking of the HVAC, it was awful. It was either freezing cold or way too warm as the compressor cycled on and off. That cycling, though, was a source of yet another annoyance as the HVAC would make a horrible screeching noise every time this happened. I’m not sure if that’s just an issue with our room, but the screech was worse than the roar of its normal operation.
Mercifully, the water pressure and temperature were good, though the toilet paper and tissue paper both felt like single-ply sandpaper.
Grand Naniloa Hotel Breakfast
Since we had breakfast credits by virtue of my Hilton Honors Gold status, we decided to check out what the hotel had to offer on our second day. That said, the hotel offers two breakfast options: to-go items (including bowls) at the Hula Lounge Lobby Bar, while Hula Hulas offers a sit-down experience. Their website states that room service is available, though there wasn’t a menu in our room, so I have no idea if this is true or not.
We ended up going to Hula Hulas, though we went in blind, as the restaurant website doesn’t have a breakfast menu published online. And, sorry, I’m not going to help in this regard, either, as I forgot to take a picture of the menu. That said, it was a lot of really basic dishes. For example, Mrs. Island Miler ordered an omelet, which came with a mountain of rice.
Me? I ordered Portuguese sausage, eggs, and rice. I’d normally go with over-easy eggs for this, but since we were heading out into Volcano that day, I didn’t want to chance it. My dish also came with a mountain of rice.
As you can see, in both dishes, the eggs were way overdone. I haven’t had eggs that dry in a while, and the rice left a lot to be desired, too. Needless to say, unless you’re really set on using your Gold/Diamond dining benefit, I’d skip out on breakfast at the Grand Naniloa Hotel.
Grand Naniloa Hotel Elite Recognition
While we’re on the topic of elite benefits, let’s discuss how the hotel fares in recognizing elite members. At check-in, I was thanked for being a loyal Gold elite member. However, while it seems I was ultimately upgraded to an ocean-view room, an upgrade was never mentioned. That said, though it’s not an elite benefit, I was granted late checkout, though only an hour later, and I had to request it on our day of departure.
I wanted to like the Grand Naniloa Hotel, but I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be good. Friends and family have stayed here in recent years, and virtually all of them had negative comments about the property. But I wanted to check it out for myself, and I wanted free lodging in Hilo. And while I could’ve redeemed Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards points for stays through their travel portals, the most cost-effective way of accomplishing my goal of free lodging was to do so via Hilton Honors, limiting me to this property. Alas, I don’t think I’ll be back.
Big Island Bird-Watching
- Hawaiian Airlines 212 Honolulu to Hilo
- Avis Car Rental Hilo
- Big Island Chocolate Adventure
- Grand Naniloa Hotel – a DoubleTree by Hilton