Big love for Big Island golf (Part 1 of 4): The Hilton Waikoloa on Hawai’i’s Kona Coast
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Big love for Big Island golf (Part 1 of 4): The Hilton Waikoloa on Hawai’i’s Kona Coast

Wow. (Courtesy: Hilton)

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Aloha…

… A colorful word with so many meanings. Hello among them. Goodbye among them. Good morning, good afternoon and goodnight as well. It’s the Hawai’ian equivalent of Australia’s “no worries” and California’s “dude.”

But what comes to mind when you hear the word “Hawai’i?” Do you think of Pearl Harbor? Or Surfing? Pineapples? Luaus? Golf?



Depending on who you ask, Hawai’i has as many as 137 islands or as few as six. But Hawai’i Island is one island—the “Big Island” to us haoles—and it is TWICE as large as all the other islands combined -- roughly the size of Connecticut -- and still growing. The Island of Hawai’i is “real Hawai’i.” Possessing 10 of the world’s climate zones—as the southernmost tip of the U.S.—Hawai’i Island is volcanoes and rainforests, waterfalls and small villages. It is steep cliffs and whales, crystal clear water, coral beaches and sea turtles. It is mind-boggling resorts, helicopter tours, shopping, incredible dining and oceanside golf—sometimes even all in one place…like at the Hilton Waikoloa.

How do you say, “Welcome to the Hilton Waikoloa” in Hawai’i?

“Aloha.” (Of course.)

Hilton Waikoloa Village: A Place to Call Home

This article is a twist on the norm for me. It’s as much a destination piece as it is a golf piece. Why? Because as great as the golf experience is at the Hilton Waikoloa, a visit there would be SO much less valuable WITHOUT the entire resort and property experience. This is more of a “golfer taking his family on a dream vacation” type of article—a “this is where you NEED to take your family while you golf” article.

Five thousand people call Waikoloa Village home year-round. If a teaching and golf marketing/management position opened there tomorrow, that population would surge to 5006. I wouldn’t even care if it was managing a mini-golf course. That might make me overqualified, but it would also make me very happy. Living in Waikoloa would make our entire family very, very, happy.

Waikoloa Village hosts one of the premier retail hubs on Hawai’i Island—a double-barreled shotgun of shopping—spread over the Queens’ Marketplace & Kings’ Shops. Stocked to overflowing with groceries, tourism goodies, clothing and eateries, it’s the “have all” of all needs for locals and visitors alike.

Waikoloa also has an activity arsenal of sea, air and land tours—a launching pad for Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tours, Ocean Sports and several other diving, snorkel and cruise companies that daily sail from their fluorescent blue coastline.

Waikoloa Village—specifically the Hilton Waikoloa—literally checks off every item on my family’s extensive “dream” list.

It has a beach. CHECK. Hilton WV has 62 acres of oceanfront. Included in that are miles of sand, coral and rocky beach access—whatever you’d like, idyllic photographic and R&R settings—all within an easy walk from your room. The resort also has miles of paved paths weaving throughout the property, alongside the ocean, the cove and their private canals. Any more oceanfront and this property would be Atlantis.

It has a pool. CHECK. Hilton WV has three pools featuring waterfalls, a 175-foot waterslide and an adults-only pool. It has underground hot tubs and tunnels, and yet another thundering waterfall on a private lagoon with sea turtles swimming in it.

It has wildlife. CHECK. I already mentioned the sea turtles (in fact swimming with sea turtles was the highlight of my wife’s entire week there), but Hilton WV also hosts Dolphin Quest, an up-close interactive experience guided by marine mammal experts that let you not only learn about these beautiful and intelligent creatures, but swim with them, touch them and even high-five or hug them. There are plenty more fish in their private "sea," flamingos in the courtyard, and expeditions launch through the resort activity center that take you out to explore the habitats of other local ocean creatures.

Dolphin Quest is a remarkable experience.

It has great and diverse dining options. CHECK. Hilton WV pummels your senses—sight, taste and smell—into submission morning, noon and night. The Big Island Breakfast is a lagoon-side bountiful buffet. There’s Dona & Toni’s Pizza, the Boat Landing Cantina, Orchid Marketplace, and our family favorite—the Lagoon Grill—next to the captive sharks and dolphins for lunch. And then there’s dinner…

Work up a tremendous appetite one day (and/or starve yourself) and take advantage of one of the two best Luau’s on Hawai’i Island—the Legends of Hawaii Luau at Hilton WV. Unlimited drinks on top of unlimited imo-smoked kalua pig, pineapple and multiple buffets (including a dessert one) will have you up and dancing that meal off even if you can’t dance (like me) and enjoying a masterful history lesson from a great storyteller and some knockout dancers (male and female). A sublime example of the aforementioned “sensory overload.” And we’re only getting started. THE meal of all meals at Hilton WV—the most romantic, most fantastic, most stunning oceanic serenade—is at the Kamuela Provision Company. If you’re in Hawaii celebrating an anniversary, honeymoon, birthday, or merely a Tuesday, you have to put in a request for an oceanfront dinner table at the KPC. The seafood and steaks are spectacular—as good as we’ve had anywhere—but it’s the sunset that makes the food seem like a bonus.

The perfect resort has to have activities. CHECK. Swimming has already been counted. Hilton Waikoloa Village adds on-site paddleboarding, snorkeling, biking and even surfing if you’re extra adventurous. There’s a beach club at their four-acre ocean-fed lagoon that will keep the kids busy with sand and water toys like boats—paddleboats, hydro-bikes, and kayaks—and even a “Light Up the Night” LED-enhanced diving experience. And then there’s golf.

My wife and kids can swim and lounge around all day. I can’t. My ADHD takes over after about 20 minutes of doing anything and drives everyone I’m around crazy. Unless there’s golf. Golf is my pacifier. And therefore the idyllic resort MUST have great golf. CHECK. Hilton WV has two championship courses—36 holes of coastal golf—and an enjoyable Seaside Putting Course. Ninety-nine out of a hundred times I’ll play a golf course on the ocean before I’ll play an inland course. Hilton WV is that single outlier—the exception. The Tom Weiskoph/Jay Morrish Kings’ Course at Waikoloa is a superb and entertaining routing with a variety of natural frames encasing the holes—from lava rock formations to palm trees, ponds, fescue and flowers. Give me five rounds at Hilton WV, and I’d play the Kings’ Course four of them. To each their own though.

The Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Beach Course tends to be the more popular and acclaimed as it does take you to the ocean on the incredible par-5 seventh—the only ocean hole on property—with an amazing approach shot over explosive wave-rocked caverns to a palm-backed peninsular green. There are admittedly a number of other high quality golf holes in this round, it’s just less remote—more resortish—than the Kings’ routing is.

A great resort makes everyone happy. CHECK. Pharrell Williams would love it here. But no husband is going to love life or vacation if his wife isn’t happy. Fortunately for me, my wife is super easy to please. Even easier to love. A Vikings win is good for six days of happy home life. Beyond that, give her a good book, a beach chair (or cabana bed) and some sun you can actually feel (unlike ours back home from October through March), and she’s a collection of satisfactory sighs. Hilton Waikoloa Village has all of that, but can’t leave well enough alone. They have to make it so much better. The luxurious 25,000-square-foot Kohala Spa is their specific endeavor, with rejuvenating massages, facials, wraps and hydrotherapy treatments in a soothing environment that has Island Baths, a fitness center, and an assortment of salons morphing “pleasing” into pure “pleasure.”

If there was ONE change I would make to the Hilton Waikoloa Village it would be to eliminate paid parking for overnight guests—a small step and simple reward that would go MILES in the hearts and wallets of visitors. (More money to spend at the Big Island Breakfast.) But I advocate for the same of every resort with parking fees. The absurd combination of other resort fees, flights, lodging and rental car costs are intergalactic to family travelers. The parking fee alone is not a deterrent by any means at Hilton WV, but it would be such a perk to not have to worry about it.

The perfect resort has to have everything you need. CHECK. And it has to make you want to come back for more. That’s such a no-brainer here. The Hilton Waikoloa Village is almost a dream world—the perfect escape from work, chaos and/or snow. I wasn’t compensated for a word of this article and might not ever be. I can live with that. All the compensation I really need, is the chance someday to go back.

About the author

Eric N. Hart

Eric N. Hart

Eric Hart (aka MobileGolfer) is an award-winning travel and leisure writer for Golf News Net and the owner of Stays + Plays Travel Agency in the Midwest. Eric has stayed at 250-plus resorts and hotels around the world and played 500-plus golf courses. He has worked with 16 tourism agencies and written more than 1,100 articles for 14 regional, national and international golf, family and travel publications since he began in 2007. With a passion for promoting both golf and family travel, Eric routinely hits the road with his son and/or the full family (wife and four kids).

Reach Eric by email at info[at]staysandplays.com