Our stay at Hale Nalo was truly rejuvenating. We spent 5 nights in the Zen Tree House, and 1 night in one of the lower suites. This was a perfect getaway, away from the crowded, noisy, touristy Waikiki Beach, but just close enough to see all the sights.
First off, if you are staying at Hale Nalo, you MUST stay in the Zen Tree House! It is the suite upstairs, and is a world of difference from the lower floors. The suite is very roomy, with (1) a kitchen (sink, a portable cook top, a toaster, coffee maker, microwave a full size refrigerator) with all the plates, mugs, knives, utensils, etc., (2) a spacious granite counter to have the wonderful breakfast on, (3) a living space complete with a comfortable sofa and a good size flat screen TV, (3) the bedroom (which is partitioned from the living space only, not a full wall) with a king size bed, which is just a hop away from (4) a walk in closet big enough for two, complete with nice wooden hangers, drawers, and room to put our suitcases, and (5) a nice roomy bathroom with lots of counter space to put all of our stuff and a beautiful shower (a nice body wash provided too). There are two patios, one with a small table and chairs for the very casual dinner, and the other a great place to rest the snorkeling gear after a day of fun on the beach (at least that’s what we did). Because there are many windows (and by the way, nice shades on those windows!), there is a nice breeze that cools off the room in the morning and in the evening. The floor is a very good quality laminate (dark hard wood), which adds to the “zen” feel of the suite. Most importantly, it gave us a lot of privacy and quiet. In summary, I felt like the suite was an extension of my own home, and I can recommend this suite to anyone.
The sounds of the ocean can be heard faintly at night, and the chirping of birds awaken us in the morning. It’s not the sounds of buses and cars or screaming teenagers partying in the pool.
My only comment is that the bed was too soft for us; we're used to harder beds. This is of course a matter of preference, so take it for what it's worth.
In contrast, the lower rooms are simple suites. After having spent 5 nights in the Zen Tree House, the small suite felt cramped, but was certainly fine for our one night stay. There is otherwise everything that you’d need to have a comfortable stay. My only comment is that the walls between the two lower suites are such that you can hear the other room. And as I said, it’s a world of difference from the Zen Tree House, all the way from the flooring to the bathroom sink.
There is a high efficiency washer and dryer for guests. The hours of operation of the machines are limited (so as not to disturb the guests), but they are free. This is absolutely a great plus.
This is a vacation home. It means that there is no front desk with a concierge or activities desk, and there is no one to set up your bed and clean your room and wash the dishes everyday. Honestly, I was not used to that. But what I began to appreciate is that this was home – and it felt that way (and yes, I do clean up the room and wash the dishes at home), with the sense of privacy and autonomy. It was clearly the right choice for a couple (a married couple who left the kid with grandparents, in our case).
It turns out that we stayed one night in Waikiki because our flight was canceled and we had to fly the next day. As a result, we had to find a new place to stay, and we decided on the Marriott Waikiki. This really reinforced the fact that Hale Nalo was a much quieter, relaxing place.
Waimanalo is a sleepy little residential town on the east end of Oahu. It is the birth place of Akebono, a former sumo champion. It is about 30 minutes from the airport and Honolulu, which is just far away enough from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki, but still close enough to drive into the city. The Original Roy’s restaurant is just 15 minutes away, and it’s actually closer to the Polynesian Cultural Center (it’s about 1 hour away, which shaves a whole half hour from Waikiki/Honolulu).
Because it’s a residential area, there is no sign (big or small) that says Hale Nalo. In fact, their own residents on the street didn’t know about it. If you saw it from the street, you’d wonder if you’re lost (we did).
The beach, which was named the #1 beach on the June issue of Islands Magazine, is literally 1 minute walk away. The beach is secluded, and clearly unknown to the tourists. It’s not a beach for snorkeling (Hanauma Bay, which is also on the east side of the island, is only 10 minutes away though), but it lends to a very nice stroll along the waters. I personally think that the beaches on other tropical islands (like the French Polynesia, Turks and Caicos, Fiji) are far better, but I can see the charm of such an undeveloped, quiet beach.
- Hanuma Bay (which I think is overrated) is only 10-15 minutes away. Just make sure that you get there by 8am, because when we walked out of the beach at around 9:30, there was a huge line full of tourists bussed to the location. They must have waited over an hour to get into the beach. Good thing Hale Nalo is nearby.
- Polynesian Cultural Center is about an hour away from Hale Nalo. Since the center is on the north side, it’s a long ways from the majority of the hotels and resorts. Hence, the center opens at 11am. We went with the Ambassador Luau package. It includes a group tour with a guide, followed by a luau dinner (a giant buffet room), and the show Ha. It was worth the money, and plus we were able to use the tickets to go back the next day for free (parking fees are also good the next day). We spent the second day touring the place on our own. Definitely recommend spending at least two days.
- Pearl Harbor is of course a historic site. We went to USS Missouri, a battleship where World War II was officially ended.
- We hiked up Mt. Olympus, a pretty challenging hike. The whole walk would take all day, we did about 2.5 hours of it, and we got a great work out. If you want something easier and more commonly visited, there is Diamond Head.
- Dinner at Alan Wong’s is a must, as is the Original Roy’s. If you had to pick two nice restaurants, they would be it. As for hotels on Waikiki, my general observation is that there are a lot of places to eat “heavier” foods. If you want burgers or sandwiches, try Duke’s, which is where we went.
- The Byodo-In temple was beautiful. They did it right when they built it. It was a peaceful destination and worth the visit.
- As for sushi, we ate at Doraku, which has a modern flair. Definitely good sushi. We also ate at Sansei at the Waikiki Marriott.
- We ate breakfast at Boots & Kimo’s, which is in Kailua (10 minutes from Hale Nalo). If you want to try their famous pancakes with macadamia nut sauce, this is it.
- Whole Foods is located in Honolulu; it’s about a half hour away from Hale Nalo. Because Hale Nalo check in is at 3pm, it’s a great place to shop if you arrive earlier. By the way, they’re also building a Whole Foods in Kailua.
- Margo and the Tahiti Pearl Market are both in Waikiki. If you’re a black pearl collector, they are the places to go (they are sister stores).
- Hilo Hattie’s, because no visit to the Hawaiian Islands is complete unless you go there. Just don’t get suckered into trying out one of their oysters for a pearl there. Of course there are one or two pearls inside, they want you to buy the ring to go with it!
- Finally, Waikiki Beach. Saw it, walked around it. Not the highlight of our trip.
Because our flight back was canceled, we stayed one extra night in Oahu. We ended up spending the night in Waikiki. Waikiki, while I can see that there are a few appealing attractions (like shops, but honestly, do you have to travel so far to go to the mall? But in case you do, go to the Ala Moana Mall), it really had very little to offer. Waikiki Beach was crowded and the scenery lacking unless you like to gaze at old hotel buildings built 50 years ago.
This is all the more a reason to stay at Hale Nalo. After all, we go to the tropical island to relax and rejuvenate. Halo Nalo is just the perfect retreat for a couple wanting to find themselves again. But if miss the huge crowds, the traffic and big malls, Waikiki is not far.
One last recommendation: bring your portable GPS with you. You’ll need it, especially because the street names sound very similar, and there are many smaller streets.
Have fun, and stay at the Zen Tree House Suite!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- This magnificent, fully-independent Garden Suite (400f²) defines simple yet elegant accommodation. Thoughtful amenities, spacious tropical gardens, privacy, exemplary guest care await those seeking a quality vacation or extended stay. Perfect for mature singles and couples. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Hale `Nalo Beach Rentals Hotel Waimanalo
- Hale 'Nalo Beach Rentals Waimanalo, Hawaii