The Most Depressing Hawaii Hotel Breakfast I’ve Ever Seen

Jun 11, 2019

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As clearly evidenced by her dynamic Instagram feed, TPG Family editor Summer Hull is having the time of her life in Hawaii, and on Monday, as I worked through some pictures of my own incredible trip from our office in rainy New York City, I took a break to read all about her good fortune at our 50th state’s Marriott hotels.

As it turns out, despite a number of issues following the SPG integration and subsequent Bonvoy launch, the Westin Moana Surfrider and Sheraton Kona Resort both provided a top-notch Platinum experience, complete with a free full breakfast — not the hit-and-miss continental spread many of us have encountered over the past few months.

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

I, on the other hand, had an entirely different top-tier elite experience just a few blocks away from Summer’s hotel. I needed a place to stay after reviewing ANA’s A380 business class, so following my own Marriott frustrations, I decided to give one of Hilton’s Waikiki properties a try, since I have top-tier Diamond status courtesy of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card.

The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

I ended up booking the Hilton Waikiki Beach for a seemingly reasonable $209 per night, but after taxes and a $30 resort charge, the total nightly charge came to $272. Still, that was about $100 cheaper than Marriott’s Moana Surfrider, and far less than the Royal Hawaiian, so — even though it was set a few blocks from the beach — the Hilton seemed like a good pick to me, especially considering I’d be getting free breakfast in the Executive Lounge.

On the first morning of my stay, I ventured downstairs to check out the spread, only to find a long queue of guests waiting just to get inside. Tourists tend to get up a bit earlier so they can make the most of a day in Hawaii, it seems, but the Hilton doesn’t open breakfast until 7:00am on the weekends (6:00am Monday-Friday) — it remains open for three hours each day. Simply maintaining that 6:00am start time every day of the week would go a long way to reduce the wait to get up to the buffet, which I’m sure easily exceeds 30 minutes during peak times.

“Evening Pupus” are available from 5:00pm until 7:00pm as well, though the scene was chaotic when I visited, and options were limited to some generally unappealing cheese, veggie sticks and chicken wings — which one family piled sky-high at the center of their table. There’s an extra charge for evening drinks as well, ranging from $6.50 for Bud Light to $10 for a glass of Murphy Goode Merlot (not much less than the cost of a full bottle at retail).

The venue is what really makes the experience especially depressing here — forget a view of the beach; even a glimpse of natural light is a no-go in parts of the lounge. Think more “inside cabin” of a dated cruise ship than “at the heart of paradise in Hawaii.”

And then there’s the line inside — can you imagine starting a day in Hawaii like this?

The buffet spread itself was fine — hardly “restaurant quality,” but I’ll take what I can get, I suppose.

Given the crazy queues and lackluster spread, I asked the front desk if I could have breakfast in the restaurant instead. The agent firmly (and in a condescending tone) pointed out how fortunate I was to have breakfast included at all — Diamond members don’t get any food and beverage perks at any of Hilton’s other Waikiki hotels, she firmly insisted, although that contradicts Hilton’s published policy:

I also contacted all of the other Hiltons in Waikiki — while Grand Vacations properties don’t offer breakfast, as outlined above, the other hotels and resorts do:

  • Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach – Full breakfast buffet included for Gold and Diamond guests
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Alana – Gold elites can choose continental breakfast or points and Diamonds get both
  • Embassy Suites by Hilton Waikiki Beach Walk – Breakfast included for all guests
  • Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort – $10 per person per day (up to $20) valid at any dining venue
  • The Grand Islander by Hilton Grand Vacations – No breakfast benefit
  • Grand Waikikian by Hilton Grand Vacations – No breakfast benefit
  • Hilton Grand Vacations at Hilton Hawaiian Village – No breakfast benefit
  • Hokulani Waikiki by Hilton Grand Vacations – No breakfast benefit

As for the Hilton Waikiki Beach, the manager was similarly unwilling to budge on a restaurant meal, but he did hand over a written comment card, giving me an opportunity to pass along feedback about the dungeon-like Executive Lounge if I wished.

So, as beneficial as Hilton Diamond status can be in some locations, you’ll want to do your research before booking Hilton’s Hawaii properties in the future — Summer’s experience makes it clear that, at least when it comes to some Hawaiian hotels, Marriott’s the place to be.

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