Hawaii on Hotel Points: The Best Places to Stay in Waikiki

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Written by Ramsey Qubein
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Edited by Mary M. Flory
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Co-written by Sally French
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If you're headed to Hawaii, there's a good chance you'll fly into Honolulu, which is the biggest city on the island of Oahu. After all, more visitors come to Oahu than any other Hawaiian island — and not without good reason. The island is buzzing with activity including historical sites and museums. Major cruise ships come in to dock in Honolulu Harbor, and even Disney has a resort on Oahu. Plus, it's generally considered the cheapest Hawaiian island to visit.

And one of Oahu's most vibrant neighborhoods is Waikiki. Waikiki is home to some of the most iconic beaches in the world, including Waikiki Beach, Kuhio Beach, and Queens Beach. It's a shoppers paradise. It has a diverse culinary scene, with restaurants serving everything from fresh seafood to Hawaiian fusion cuisine.

And good news for travelers, is that it's got among the best selection of hotels — particularly if you've got points to spend and want to book at a large hotel chain like Marriott, Hilton or Hyatt.

After all, there's nothing better than a room with a waterfront view than a room with a waterfront view that you booked on points.

Here are some of the biggest hotel brands operating in Waikiki where you can easily redeem loyalty program points (which you'll likely earn through either travel credit cards or frequent hotel stays) — and within that, their best hotels for travelers in Waikiki:

Because rates may vary depending upon time of year, we picked a sample set of dates for summer so that all things would be equal between the hotels. Be sure to consider: If you want to travel during busy holiday times of year, rates might be higher or part of the “peak” pricing that some brands offer.

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Best Marriott hotels in Waikiki to book on points

Marriott Bonvoy stands out as king when it comes to most powerful hotel loyalty points to hold in Honolulu. And it's really not only Honolulu. There are tons of incredible Marriott hotels across Hawaii, period. But you're booking a trip to Waikiki, so we'll hone in on the best there.

Luckily, with so many options within the Marriott portfolio (in fact, there are more than a dozen Marriotts across the island of Oahu), there's a property for every style of traveler — and for every budget. Here are the best:

(Photo of The Royal Hawaiian courtesy of Marriott)

The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection resort, Waikiki is Waikiki’s second oldest hotel and is immediately recognizable for its pink color scheme. In fact, folks call it the “Pink Palace of the Pacific." Considered its grande dame actually, this property is part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection and is considered the most elegant and iconic lodging on this stretch of beach.

It is packed with history, and guests and visitors are invited on the free history tour of the hotel. It is worth it for an insight into Hawaiian history as much as that of the famed “pink palace.”

While there, don't skip a visit to the hotel's famous Royal Hawaiian Bakery, where you can feast on pink pancakes.

Best Marriott in Waikiki for history and culture: Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort & Spa, Waikiki Beach

(Photo of Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa, Waikiki Beach courtesy of Marriott)

Much like The Royal Hawaiian, Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort & Spa, Waikiki Beach is another legendary and historic hotel on the waterfront. The Victorian architecture of the main mansion certainly sets it apart from other hotels along this strip. It is often referred to as the “First Lady of Waikiki.”

If you're seeking history, you might actually prefer this one to the 'Pink Palace,' as it is Waikiki's first hotel. Don’t miss the small museum on the second floor that offers details on the history of Waikiki and this hotel. There is also a free hotel tour open to the public that explores what makes the oldest hotel (it opened in 1901) on the beach so special.

It also has easy beachfront access, a swimming pool and a club lounge with stunning sunset views.

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Best Marriott in Waikiki for a luxury experience: The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach

(Photo courtesy of Marriott)

No doubt this is among the finest lodgings along Waikiki. It is a mixed-use complex with large hotel rooms and fully furnished residences with kitchens and dining areas. It offers refined dining and some of the largest and most elegant accommodations. Its only downfall is that it’s not on the beach, which leads some travelers to wonder if it’s worth the cost, but the views of the water and the perfected service answer those doubts.

Best Marriott in Waikiki for families: Sheraton Waikiki

(Photo courtesy of Sheraton Waikiki)

The Sheraton Waikiki’s recently underwent a $200 million renovation, which gave a sleek overhaul to all 1,636 guest rooms and suites.

With that many rooms, this property is one of the largest hotels on Waikiki Beach (and has the largest room count in a single building in the entire state). Unsurprising given how many rooms there are, this hotel has plenty to offer when it comes to restaurants, bars and shopping. Its infinity-edge pool that appears to spill into the Pacific Ocean and its rooftop club lounge are two of its shining features for guests.

Families love the proximity to Waikiki Beach, but kids also participate in activities including daily fish feeding at the koi pond, daycare service and table games like shuffleboard, foosball, and billiards.

People with Marriott Bonvoy elite status especially love this property for a fun perk: a choose-your-own gift bag. Platinum, Titanium and Ambassador members receive a gift bag upon check-in, which can be taken to the amenity shop and filled with your choice of local snacks and treats (the size of the gift bag is determined by your level of elite status).

Best Marriott in Waikiki for the money: Sheraton Princess Kaiulani

(Photo courtesy of Sheraton Princess Kaiulani)

Whether you book with Marriott Bonvoy points, this hotel tends to be among the most affordable Marriott properties in Waikiki. A big factor in the lower price tag is that it's also not a beachfront property.

It sits right behind one of our other favorites, the Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort & Spa, Waikiki Beach. Yet despite sitting behind its more famous sibling property, the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani still affords impeccable views. Many rooms look out onto either the Pacific Ocean, Leahi (aka Diamond Head State Monument) or the Waikiki skyline and cityscape.

Plus, it's a short walk to the beach. Given the other mega resorts mentioned in this guide, it might be an equivalent walk to your room anyway, depending on where you're staying. Thus, the location is still excellent for people who want to be in the center of Waikiki's shopping, dining, and nightlife options.

For people who don't need a beachfront lanai, save your money and book here instead.

(Photo courtesy of Sheraton Princess Kaiulani)

And when you do book, go for the Ainahau Tower. The 664-room tower is nearing completion (targeted for June 2024) of a massive renovation that includes modern, tropical redesigns of its guest rooms. That renovation entails interior colors inspired by the hues of papaya, mocha and blue skies. Plus, expect updated wall coverings, drapes and flooring. Rooms also have local touches, such as upholstery from native Hawaiian designer NOHO Home.

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Best Hilton hotels in Waikiki to book on points

Like Marriott, Hilton has a bunch of options when it comes to hotels to book in or near Waikiki. Across all the Hilton brands (which also includes timeshares) there are about a dozen Hilton properties on Oahu, almost all of which are in Waikiki.

Hilton Honors offers a dynamic award chart, so prices for a free room can often vary — making it hard to predict exactly what a room will cost. Just know that NerdWallet values one Hilton point at 0.5 cent cent each.

In general, though, a higher cash price correlates with a higher points price. But here's one reason to love Hilton: Hilton free night certificates are fairly easy to come by. And if you're in Hawaii on a night when points or cash rates are high (such as the holiday time), then these properties could be one of the best places to spend a Hilton free night certificate,

With so many hotels to pick from in the Hilton portfolio, we narrowed down the two that stand out in particular.

Best Hilton in Waikiki for resort-style amenities: Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort

(Photo courtesy of Hilton)

On the fringe of what is the most active stretch of Waikiki Beach, this famous hotel with a rainbow stretched along its facade offers not just a place to sleep for the night, but a resort so big and bustling that you could easily stay there throughout your entire trip.

There's tons to do here including basking in one of the five pools or the five-acre saltwater lagoon. If you prefer an actual beach, you're directly on Duke Kahanamoku Beach. You also want to head here on a Friday, as there's a fireworks show every Friday evening on the beach in front of the resort.

Other activities vary by day but include yoga, lei making and hula classes.

Book a resort view room for great views of the coastline and surrounding city.

While there's annoyingly a resort fee, this one is actually more tolerable than many other resorts in Waikiki because includes several negotiated perks and discounts, outdoor movies and savings on car rentals and visits to the Waikiki Aquarium.

Best Hilton in Waikiki for families: Embassy Suites Waikiki Beach Walk

(Photo courtesy of Hilton)

If you’re familiar with Embassy Suites, you know there are lots of free perks packed into a night here. This vacation location is no different and comes with free, cooked-to-order breakfast, evening cocktails and appetizers, and two-room suites that are ideal for families. Especially because food on Hawaii can be so expensive, that alone can be a big cost-saver, especially if you've got a big group to feed.

Another reason to love this resort for families: the suite style rooms. Every suite at Embassy Suites by Hilton Waikiki Beach Walk has at least two rooms so you can spread out (and close the door to distance yourselves from your family, if need be). Every suite features a separate living area with sofa sleeper and TV. Many also have private lanais.

While the resort amenities aren't as over-the-top as what you'll find at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, this one might be more worthwhile given the freebies that you won't get in the Hawaiian Village Beach Resort. And it's not like there's not a pool. The hotel's grand lanai features a heated pool, hot tub, children's pool and sundeck, plus resort activities like sunrise yoga, hula lessons and live music.

When you factor in the extra space, free food and evening happy hour, there is a lot of value to be had here.

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Best IHG hotels in Waikiki to book on points

If you're headed to Honolulu armed with IHG points, well, your options for where to stay are pretty limited. There's just one IHG hotel in Honolulu, and that's the Holiday Inn Express Waikiki. Hey, at least you won't get decision fatigue. And while it might feel a bit odd to call this one the best out of one, we still feel like it's such a gem that it's worth calling it "the best."

You can book rooms here via the IHG One Rewards program, which encompasses a range of brands from the more budget-friendly Holiday Inn, to lavish names like the InterContinental. NerdWallet values IHG points at 0.8 cent cent each.

(Photo courtesy of Holiday Inn Express)

This skyscraper-style hotel from Holiday Inn is one of the best kept secrets in Waikiki.

While it's not technically on the beach, it's a less than five minutes on foot to the waterfront. What’s more, the tall tower offers amazing views of the surrounding area without charging excessive rates.

This hotel stands out as a family-friendly option for a few reasons. For starters, it offers Holiday Inn Express’ famous and free breakfast, including make-your-own waffles, omelets and a cinnamon bun made especially for Holiday Inn Express properties by Cinnabon.

There are also kid-friendly activities, such as the 5th floor Skydeck featuring a 9-hole mini-golf course (pictured above) plus an outdoor pool and hot tub.

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Best Hyatt hotels in Waikiki to book on points

There are three Hyatts in Waikiki where you can redeem Hyatt points: Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach (Category 4), Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach (Category 5) and Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa (Category 5). All three charge destination fees, though they are waived if you book on World of Hyatt points.

If you're going off price alone, then it's hard to argue with Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach, where rooms can go as low as 12,000 points per night — and they throw in free breakfast (NerdWallet values one Hyatt point at 2.3 cents each. If you have a Hyatt free night award, you could use it on either that property or Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach.

But if you can put price aside, then one property clearly is the best, and that's the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa.

(Photo courtesy of Hyatt)

(Photo courtesy of Hyatt)

These two twin cylindrical towers offer beautiful views from their balconies no matter what side you are on. Some face the shoreline while others have mountain and city views.

Many elite members of the World of Hyatt program (which, by the way, is NerdWallet's top hotel rewards program) appreciate this hotel for its popular Regency Club serving tasty Hawaiian-inspired breakfast options, all-day refreshments and a hearty evening spread of appetizers and snacks. Its outdoor terrace overlooks Waikiki Beach; this hotel often features a farmers market that is open to the public in its outdoor atrium shopping center. As a Category 5 hotel, a free night goes for 17,000 to 23,000 points.

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