Six hours of flying over nothing but blue, it was almost a surprise to see the dark, jagged peaks shooting out of the Pacific Sea. These tiny islands were Hawaii and I was going to spend a week on one of them, Oahu. As we passed over the capital city of Honolulu, I got very giddy and was eager to start exploring. Luckily, the commute from the airport was fast and already I was in the bustling beachside Waikiki, pulling up to my hotel, the Holiday Inn Express Waikiki.
I am a hotel snob. I also produce and host a show by the same name, (check out an episode here: Hotel Snob). I’ve been able to stay, experience and review some of the world’s most famous and luxurious properties. Needless to say, it takes a lot for a hotel to impress me. This will be the first Holiday Inn Express stay ever and I have to say, I sure hope it is not the last. I was blown away by my overall experience. I know that when I return to Oahu, I’d stay at the Holiday Inn Express Waikiki in a heartbeat.
From the get-go everything was just easy. First of all, as I’m a IHG Rewards Club member, I booked this stay all on points, with 35,000 points a night. No money spent! There is another property that I could have stayed at all on points, the Holiday Inn Resort Waikiki Beachcomber. However, I found that my points went further at the Holiday Inn Express Waikiki and as it is a brand new hotel, I figured I’d enjoy the brand new rooms and facilities.
Parking was right in the hotel, I had a quick check-in with the cheerful front desk attendant, and many friendly alohas as I walked through the modern lobby. A lightning quick elevator ride to the 42nd floor took me to my room in no time. It was tasteful, spotless and sizable. I even had a welcome basket waiting for me in my room with local Hawaiian treats like li-hing mango and taro sticks!
As is my ritual, I went straight to the window and drew the curtains to check out the view. I could see curve of Waikiki Beach, glittering cityscape and the iconic shape of Diamond Head framing this perfect snapshot of Honolulu. As your room is basically your temporary apartment, it is so important that you feel comfortable. I knew after seeing my new Hawaiian homebase that it was going to be a good week.
I had two queen beds and both gave a great night’s sleep–yes, I rotated each night! The mattress was not too soft or hard, and there was even a labeled soft and firm pillows, giving me a choice out of the 4 pillows on each bed. No tacky or dirty bedspreads here, just crisp white sheets and duvet covers. Thoughtful reading light fixtures framed the bed, which came in handy at night when I was plotting the next day’s itinerary. A large flat screen faced opposite the bed with a surprisingly wide variety of channels. A funky oversized lamp hung over the stylish indigo armchair, which served as my catch-all of the day’s adventures. And the full size mirror was so useful before I scooted out each day. I even featured it in my Instagram stories with each days’ outfits!
A second area housed the cutest little closet I’ve ever seen. It fit all my hanging items with ample hangars. In the same unit was a mini fridge, microwave and coffee maker. I was impressed with how it was all very compact yet it lacked nothing.
The bathroom had an illuminated mirror which was a nice touch, along with Bath & Body Works products. I always had enough towels and they were promptly replaced each day. The shower was pleasant and a good size. I especially appreciated the built-in clothesline which was perfect for drying my bathing suits at the end of each day.
Coffee and banana in the morning and I’m good to go. However I was impressed to see that this free breakfast spread went well beyond that. Cinnamon rolls, DIY pancakes, bagels, yogurt, cereal, sausage, eggs—this was a full on breakfast! I try to eat pretty healthy on the road so I was happy to see nonfat Greek yogurt, apples, bananas, whole wheat toast and even egg whites available. I won’t lie though, I did try the cinnamon roll one day and it was delicious!
I especially enjoyed the seating area. This was not a typical cafeteria setting with bad lighting. There was a nice mix of high top and low tables, some larger and some for one or two. Inside, you could sit among palm decor or next to street front windows. However, I chose to sit outside each morning in the exact same spot. It was under a patio umbrella, next to the lush landscaping and with a view of the street. Since I had fast wifi, I could check email, eat breakfast and still be outside in the Hawaiian warmth to start the day. By the way, to-go coffee cups are available if you are like me and want to take a cup on the road. All you have to do is ask the courteous staff and they are more than happy to hook you up.
As an IHG Rewards Club, all wifi is free (as it should be). Whether I was in the room, the lobby or the breakfast area (indoor and out), it was also very speedy. I could even upload videos! Too often hotels have poor wifi which can be really frustrating when you have limited time to be online.
As I mentioned, parking was a big asset as this area of town can be challenging to find parking spots. The same elevator takes you to the parking lot and off you go to explore. It fills up at the end of the day but I always managed to find a spot–even on the day that I returned later from the North Shore and hunted out the very last space available.
To me, a rooftop pool is major sign of luxury. I was absolutely amazed when I stepped out on the Skydeck. I was greeted by a large, deep pool with adjacent rectangular hot jet spa. The jet spa could fit a number of people without being cramped and was nice if you were in the shade and needed to warm up.
Cute turquoise lounge chairs bookended either side of the pools, giving you many options of where to relax. There were a number of chairs so I could find my own quiet area and never felt stressed about getting a chair. You could also opt for one of the intimate cabanas for more shade and privacy. Decorated with bougainvillea and palms, I felt the pool area was classy, simple and chic. The pool attendant was more than helpful, providing extra towels and making sure the pool area was cleaned and orderly.
I absolutely love miniature golf and I have played in quite a few places. You could say, I’m a bit of mini golf snob as well. I was very pleasantly surprised that the 9 hole course on the roof was not tacky or worn out, which they often can be. Rock features, palm trees and a giant faux pineapple gave the tropical ambiance and each hole was actually a fun challenge. It didn’t feel childish in any way, actually I only saw adults playing! The attendant just hands you a club and your bright ball and off you go.
Next to the mini golf, the outdoor giant chess and shuffleboard add to the Skydeck amusements.
On the other side of the roof there’s also foosball and ping pong tables, which I plan to utilize on my next visit when I bring a partner.
Inside, there’s also a game room but not the kind with old board games. Personal leather couch seats faced large flat screens each with WII consoles. With 4 seats, there could be a group challenge or Mariokart race in here. Holiday Inn Express seems to know what the kids today really want.
Dark, stuffy, old— hotel gyms are often disappointing. The Holiday Inn Express’ gym was the opposite. Light, airy and brand new, the many types of equipment were housed in a large L shaped room, lined with floor to ceiling windows. The equipment seemed to be top of the line with ellipticals, treadmills, bikes and an erg machine—all within viewing distance of one of the multiple flat screens throughout the gym.
A separate weight area was perfect for abs and strength training, with a number of matts, benches, weights and medicine balls. I also liked that the gym had a pretty view of the pool! It is open 24 hours so I was happy to sneak in some early morning workouts before I set out for the day’s adventures.
The housekeepers were some of the sweetest and chattiest I’ve ever encountered. They always were pleasant in the elevators and my room was always cleaned promptly, giving me extra toiletries, coffee refills and towels. The breakfast staff was more than helpful and the food & beverage manager himself gave me some great personal tips for exploring the North Shore. All the staff were so friendly but it didn’t feel forced. Everyone genuinely seemed filled with the Aloha spirit.
What a perfect spot! Not only could I easily walk to the shops and restaurants of Waikiki, there was a trolley stop outside the door. I also liked that there was a small food market and coffee shop right next to the hotel. I think the Holiday Inn Express Waikiki actually benefits from being a block or two away from the crowds, cars and noise of the Waikiki strip. It was a nice oasis to come home to each night, without fighting herds of people. I also took a morning run, and with the ideal location, I could run along the nearby canal and the beach.
As a female solo traveler, I found the area to also be very safe. There were always people around, bright lights, a trolley stop nearby and UBERS/LYFTS were always available.
Even when I was getting in the car to go somewhere, the highways were very close by. Though the lobby is open air, it was always monitored by security guards and plenty of staff members.
The little things really added to my experience. A filtered water dispenser so you can refill water bottles. An orchid garden and bubbling pond at the entrance. A lobby mini market with useful toiletries, beverages, snacks and even make in your room meals. There were even a bunch of fresh waters in my mini fridge when I checked in. The Holiday Inn Express has you covered before you even realize what you needed.
The IHG Rewards Club also applies to other hotel brands, like Intercontinental and Kimpton. There are 5000 hotels in almost 100 countries actually. Though I usually keep all my points for hotel stays, I was excited to see that I could also redeem for flights or even donate to a charity. There’s also number ways to earn points like signing up for cards, using UBER, shopping or dining. Seems like there’s a reason it is the largest loyalty program.
Traveling can be tiring and as I do it for a living, a quality, safe, comfortable and convenient stay becomes more and more important. I feel the Holiday Inn Express Waikiki set me up very well for such a memorable trip to Oahu. Mahalo!
Have you been to Oahu? Have you stayed here? Let me know about your experiences in Waikiki, Oahu and more below!
Note: I’ll be sharing a video of the stay soon! Check back for the link here.
**This post was sponsored by IHG.