best waikiki hotel

The Deal With the Halekulani Pool

Halekulani Pool

This is my friend, Hella Rothwell, relaxing by the Halekulani pool in Waikiki. It was not always like this. We had to struggle to secure a spot at the pool. Like, when there are so many other things to do in Honolulu over New Year’s but we became obsessed with the pool.

Why? Because the Halekulani, like just about every other hotel in Waikiki, has overdeveloped its property to the point where the hotel cannot accommodate the needs of all of its guests.

At first blush, it seemed nutty. When a guest pays 4 figures a night for a hotel room, one would think a guest would have a right to a chair at the pool. Yah? But one would be mistaken. There is no distinction at Halekulani between a guest in a garden courtyard room or a a guest in the Diamond Head ocean front room, much less an ocean front suite.

The Halukulani pool enforcers are fierce. We went to breakfast for an hour at Orchids and they gave away our chairs. When asked why they shrugged and said they cannot time every chair accurately. They are supposed to give you an hour and fifteen minutes before they snatch your belongings and turn over the chairs to another guest.

We didn’t even want to spend time near the pool until we were told we could not be there. It would make sense for Halekulani to charge for chairs, assign them to guests who can afford to pay, like at the Moana Surfrider. But even at the Moana Surfrider, there are chair wars among the guests.

Halekulani Pool

I simply sigh and recall all of the wonderful stays I’ve enjoyed at the Four Seasons and The Fairmont. However, the hotels in Waikiki are not necessarily resort hotels, and they don’t seem to cater to guests who expect luxury. It’s another world where people would stab each other in the eyes with chopsticks to get a pool chair.

We finally figured out we needed to tip the Halekulani pool attendants to get decent pool chairs. By decent I mean in the proximity of the sun with an umbrella.

When we stopped by the pool attendant’s desk to discuss the pool chair situation at Moana Surfrider, the guy there seemed confused as to why we were complaining about the Halekulani. Why don’t you like the Halekulani, he asked. It’s the best hotel in Waikiki.

They would not deliver a coffee pot to our room. I was ready to catch an Uber and find a Target to buy a coffee pot. Just not our policy (because we can make you pay for room service), says Halekulani. Besides, we have free coffee near the pool at Orchids. Yes, Orchids where we had to endure the antics from the creepy English toad at Halekulani’s Orchids.

That means I would have to get dressed and not lounge about in my robe. Not only would I have to get dressed, but I would need to insert my contact lenses because I can’t walk around in reading glasses. Then I would need to dig up my room key. Walk out the door. Find the elevator, go down 16 floors, walk across the open area in the rain. Grab two coffee cups, fill them, and try not to spill the coffee as I make my long trek back to the room.

Or, I could wait 30 to 45 minutes for room service. Since I don’t know what time I will wake up, I cannot pre-order room service the night before. Because this is supposed to be a vacation.

After much moaning and sweet-talking, we finally got a hot water dispenser in our room, which stayed hot all day long. You know those packets of coffee you find in most hotels, those without a pod machine? Hella had a huge supply of them, like she recently ripped off a Holiday Inn. Stick one of those coffee filters into a paper cup, fill with water, and voila. Coffee.

I’m not after a Starbucks’ experience. Just the caffeine.

And a pool chair at the Halekulani pool. Is that too much to ask?

Elizabeth Weintraub

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