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Hawaii’s World

By A.A. Smyser

Tuesday, October 5, 1999


Bigger is better at the
Hilton Hawaiian Village

MY wife and I made like tourists one recent weekend at Hilton Hawaiian Village. I have watched the complex grow -- and grow --from industrialist Henry Kaiser's first conception of it in 1955.

I must have driven into its garage a thousand times to attend breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings, convention sessions and more. Staying two nights is quite different.

The 20-acre village has a population of several thousand visitors in 2,545 rooms, plus a staff of 1,900. To be the boss must be like being mayor of a small city. This well-kept city has mini-waterfalls, ponds and greenery amid five hotel towers with a sixth one going up.

Other residents include penguins, ducks, cranes, flamingos, a white and a black swan and multicolored carp galore. The wild residents stick mostly to their ponds but one early morning I saw a black swan waddling haughtily down a sidewalk with a tourist trying to catch up for a photo.

This is a family place, as I think Hawaii should be. It welcomes visitors free to its Friday night Hawaiian entertainment, capped at 8 p.m. by fireworks visible between the towers to most of the property. Four-hour parking validations come with eating in its key restaurants of varied menus, prices and elegance, topped by Bali and Golden Dragon. There are Japanese restaurants, two beachfront coffee shops, a steak house, Tapa Cafe, a burger place and an ice cream shop.

Rainbow Bazaar, stretched along the parking building, offers a mini-taste of shopping in Asia. Also in the complex are fine shops, a general store, a sundries store and one of Waikiki's omnipresent ABC stores. There are a giant palm-lined swimming pool called the Super Pool, a smaller kids' pool, and two other pools.

Duke Kahanamoku beach out front has rental paddle boats and canoe rides. The end of a long pier is a take-off point for submarine rides. The Atlantis folks have rights to a chunk of ocean bottom more than a mile offshore, where they have built structures to attract fish and wrecked an old fishing boat and an old plane to make things interesting 100 feet down.

REGULAR sub prices are awfully high, in my view, but there's a $19.79 kamaaina rate until Dec. 31 if you can show a Hawaii ID. The view from the ride out to board the sub is worth $19.79 in my book. Round-trip time is over 90 minutes with 40-50 minutes submerged. The clean, airy subs carry up to 48 passengers shepherded by a classy young crew. We had a female skipper.

While I submerged, my wife ashore watched Mrs. America winners from all 50 states rehearse for the final competition.

The hotel guests were maybe half Japanese and half mainlanders. My wife watched one young Japanese couple who had arrived early in the morning trying to sleep in the Tapa Tower's open lobby until their room was ready. They were tired enough to succeed.

Tours take off from a bus port at the mauka end of Tapa Tower. It's reached via a hallway lined with shops. Places to spend are everywhere but tasteful.

I've written in the past that the Hawaiian Village shows intense development with high-rise towers can be a way to go for Waikiki so long as the surface amenities are carefully done. Henry Kaiser insisted from the beginning on ponds and waterfalls. His successors have held to the spirit through dramatic growth.

I also wrote recently that under private enterprise Ala Moana Center has handled post-statehood growth better than our government has. Ditto the Hawaiian Village.



A.A. Smyser is the contributing editor
and former editor of the the Star-Bulletin
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.




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