The Rainbow Tower.
Hanging purple orchids and the perfumes of plumeria, moonflower and jade vine surround you.
Parrots, red and blue macaws, exotic ducks, flamingos, swans (both black and white), crested cranes, and tropical penguins add their calls of greeting.
There is only one place this magical and you are here: the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa on Waikiki Beach, the ageless heart of Hawaii.
Everything you could possibly want is here. World-class restaurants, exotic shopping, pearlescent beaches, and a variety of entertainments in a tropical setting.
The hotel check-in area (you could hardly call it a lobby) is “outside.” Soft breezes flow along with your view past the desk to palms, 10,000 square-foot Super Pool and lush island greenery. We are heralded with the famous “aloha spirit”: an honest smile and warm Hawaiian greeting.
Splash out on the lagoon waterslides.
Our room is on the 27th floor of the new Kalia Tower, considered the business executive tower and the only one with a concierge. Our balcony opens to a wide expanse. Between the Ali`i Tower on the left and the Rainbow Tower on the right lies a tropical movie-set vision of the Village’s Super Pool and the wide expanse of beach and Pacific Ocean beyond. Below, the entire roof of one low building looks like a traditional Hawaiian quilt pattern.
Each tower has a different price range and theme. Paula Abdul and The Lakers have stayed in the Ali`i Tower. Elvis stayed there when it was called the Ocean Tower and threw 45s vinyls off the balcony to quiet the screaming women on the beach. The sides of the Rainbow Tower are the largest murals in the world: each rainbow mosaic contains more than 8,000 hand-painted and baked ceramic tiles. This is a commanding work of art that you can see from your plane as you fly in and out of Honolulu. Hawaiian legend holds that a rainbow is the path a god uses to come to earth, and more rainbows occur in Hawaii than anywhere else in the world. An appropriate theme for this amazing tile art.
Check out gear at the Hilton activities center.
Up to 7,000 guests can be accommodated at the Hilton Hawaiian Village at any one time, but the Village is designed in such a way that you always feel cozy and never rushed. The towers are spaced among ponds, pools, lagoons, and yellow-flowered hau trees, and every room has a spectacular view.
Just exploring our room is an adventure. The closet contains iron, ironing board, slippers and white robes with a pastel leaf print. A leather-bound in-room guide contains, among other things, menus for all the restaurants. The guide is in English, Japanese and Braille, as is most signage throughout the Village. Perusing the guide I can’t think of any service that is not available for the asking, from baby cribs to language translation to shoe-shine service. Guest rooms have high-speed internet access, as do meeting rooms. Wireless Access is available in designated ground floor public areas.
For the physically-challenged, there is an ADA Express Cart that will pick you up from your tower and transports you anywhere on property. In guest rooms designed to accommodate those with disabilities towel racks, robe hooks, light switches, air-con thermostats, and night safety latches are lowered. You have ramp access to balconies, closed captioned TV for the hearing and visually impaired, raised electrical outlets and a lowered door peephole. You can even request a room with a roll-in shower/tub combination where you can either transfer onto a fold-down tub seat or remain in your wheelchair.
Peering into the mini-bar refreshment center we see that it contains, in addition to liquor and snacks, a range of Coppertone Spectra products with various sun protection factors. Makes sense; this is Hawaii, close to the equator.
A spacious ocean view suite.
With the balcony door open to admit the breeze we flop on the bed for a little snooze and discover a pillowtop mattress.
Refreshed, hungry, and curious, we head for the Rainbow Lanai overlooking the widest stretch of beach on Waikiki, a perfect luncheon spot. Tall window/doors are open to the ocean, though they can be closed should the Gods turn the weather against us. Over fresh Island Ahi and a smothered eight-ounce Black Angus Burger we people watch.
The beach and lagoon belong to the State of Hawaii, but maintained by the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa.
The beach-side Tropic Grill is always popular.
At the beach stand next to the Hau Tree Bar you can rent everything you’d dream of for a beach experience: beach umbrellas, towels, toys, air mattresses, chairs—even sunglasses and sunscreen. On the far side of the beach I can see the Atlantis submarines that depart on the hour from Port Hilton for underwater exploration of sea gardens and ocean life.
A stroll through the grounds after lunch reveals more ponds of koi and a colony of African Blackfoot Penguins. In an outdoor enclosure that includes dry land, a pond, and small caves for shelter, they not only thrive amid palm trees and tourists, but are also raising a family. Mana — a Hawaiian name for “spirit” — was born in January. He’s the fourth penguin born at the Village since penguins joined the resort’s family in 1987. A wildlife staff, which includes a full-time veterinary technician, watches out for the little guy.
Mandara Spa has a range of treatments.
The Starlight Luau can’t be missed.
On the ocean side of the main lobby is an expansive activities desk. Do we want a property tour, a low impact aerobics session, snorkel lessons or a class in Coconut Frond Weaving? How about Aquacize, lei making, hula or ukulele lessons? We learn those little darlings we saw eating sandwiches earlier off the lobby in the Shell Bar were part of a children’s program, the Rainbow Express Keiki Club. Through this fun and educational program kids learn about the cultural Hawaiian heritage of the islands. Supervised activities include fishing at Hilton Lagoon, Hawaiian games, reef walking at low tide, fish feeding at the koi ponds, arts and crafts, and swimming at the keiki pool.
Through the breezy outdoor hotel lobby you are drawn to the 10,000 square-foot Super Pool surrounded by lush island greenery.
The Village even has a library; the Vacation Station Lending Desk offers games, toys or books for check-out during your stay. Every possible entertainment for you and your family can be arranged at the activities desk.
Local attractions include the Atlantics submarine.
In the evenings free Hawaiian entertainment is presented at open-air restaurants and bars throughout the Village. Friday night is the spectacular Aloha Friday King’s Jubilee & Fireworks. This evening of Polynesian music and dance begins with the colorful Keiki Parade, a flag ceremony, a presentation by the Village Guards Precision Rifle Drill Team, and native hula dancing. The grand finale is a stunning beachfront fireworks display. All this pageantry reflects the Hawaiian monarchy era of King David Kalakaua, called the “Merrie Monarch.” On Saturday evenings, alongside the Super Pool, performers from the Polynesian Cultural Center along with Hilton torch lighters entertain. Poolside seating is available with a one-drink minimum, and it’s all a grand photo op. A well-known island group, Olomana, performs Fridays and Saturdays in the Paradise Lounge.
FeaThe Rainbow Lanai, a perfect luncheon spot, is open to the widest stretch of beach on Waikiki.
The Hilton Hawaiian Village is the center of fun.
Bali Steak and Seafood at
Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Chef Roberto Los Baños and his talented staff combine fresh ingredients of the islands in delectable ways.
The stroll from our room to the restaurant was accompanied by the eerie “hoooo” of conch shells and the rhythm of island drums heralding the sunset. Around us torches were being lit throughout the grounds of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa.
Sip a Blue Hawaii.
We selected a fine table next to floor-to-ceiling open windows, which gave the entire restaurant a delicious open-air feel. The setting was at the same time elegant and beach casual. White tablecloths, candlelight and fresh roses mingled with music so low you could hear the rustling of tropical vegetation and surf. Outside our window tiki torches flickered on the beach.
Ranulfo, our waiter, perfectly reflects the international flavor of Hawaii. A Spanish man from Ecuador, he answered all our questions about the menu with true aloha spirit.
For an appetizer, we couldn’t resist the signature dish, a Trio of Fresh Island Ahi that included an ahi avocado cake, ahi lemongrass trap and sashimi. There’s also a Bali by the Sea Sampler of crispy prawns, seared scallops, beet salad and ahi avocado cake. The Chilled Bali Shellfish Bowl contains lobster, shrimp, oysters, scallops and crab claws with the chef Roberto Los Baños’ special Maxim sauce.
Seafood with sea views.
Heart of Palm salad.
There are two featured soups: Island Bouillabaisse, a savory seafood stew of shrimp, scallops and the fresh catch; and Ginger Maui Onion Soup finished with coconut milk and fresh Basil. The Roast Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with macadamia nuts, dried pineapple, banylus vinegar, olive oil and champagne dressing is creatively satisfying. Other salad choices are Crispy Island Greens with Chilled Asparagus; Baby Romaine & Chilled Shrimp; and the Bali Salad, a delightful combination of manoa lettuce with nalo farm greens, hearts of palm, papaya and avocado, finished with champagne dressing.
Fish and Shellfish entrées include Grilled Mahi Mahi; Scallion Crusted Ahi; Sautéed Jumbo Prawns; and Bounty of Seafood, an array of scallops, shrimp, lobster, and island fish in a saffron sauce with Duchess Potatoes. For the heart-conscious, there’s a Grilled Pacific Northwest Salmon with ginger scallion pesto and jasmine rice lau lau. Ranulfo recommended the signature dish, Sautéed Island Opakapa, a pink snapper sautéed with crusted macadamia nuts and cilantro, served with a sweet potato moussiline, asparagus, baby carrots and kaffir lime sauce. It was as mouth-watering as Ranulfo said it would be. croquette and a Madeira Sauce.
Chef Roberto’s entrée specialties include Roasted Duck Breast, Seared Island Chicken Breast; Roast Rack of Sonoma Lamb; Grilled Black Angus Filet Mignon; and for the heart conscious, Angel Hair Pasta served with a tomato sauce and waimanalo asparagus tips with parmesan.
Bali’s grilled New York Steak.
Ranulfo says it’s not uncommon to serve up to 150 dinners a night during the week, a tribute to the culinary flair of chef Roberto Los Baños. Chef Roberto was born and raised in Mokuleia on Oahu, and grew up in Pearl City, where he lives with his family today. He joined the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa three years ago. His staff of four includes one lead cook who has been with the Village for 30 years. As one of Hawaii’s up-and-coming local chefs, Roberto Los Baños has been featured on several local cooking and morning TV shows. Depending on what ingredients are fresh locally, he changes the Bali by the Sea menu four to five times a year.
Ranulfo recommends the signature dish, Sautéed Island Opakapa, a pink snapper sautéed with crusted macadamia nuts and cilantro, served with a sweet potato moussiline, asparagus, baby carrots and kaffir lime sauce.
Chef Roberto’s desserts are spectacular: Fresh Strawberry Champagne Soup in Tuile Cup; Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate Soufflé Cake; Mango and Rhubarb Tart with Tahitian vanilla sauce; Charlotte Montmartre, a sour cream cheesecake with fresh raspberries; and The Koa Box, a caramel macadamia nut and Kona coffee mousse. There are also assorted ice creams and tropical sorbets. Tonight he featured additionally a Coconut Crème Brulée and The Bali Chocolate Volcano, which arrived mounted on dry ice in such a dramatic way that it appeared to be steaming.
Bali’s Japanese-style sashimi.
The Bali Chocolate Volcano arrived mounted on dry ice in such a dramatic way that it appeared to be steaming.
Bali by the Sea is located on the mezzanine level of the Rainbow Tower at the Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa in Waikiki. The one-way streets of Waikiki are often void of parking in the evening, but you won’t have that problem with complimentary valet and self-parking for the restaurant.
Dining everywhere in the Village is casual resort attire, but discretion prevailed and we were glad we dressed for the evening. In seafood, macadamia nut and chocolate overwhelm we wondered afterwards what could be a more memorable dining experience than oceanside Pacific Rim dining at Hilton’s Bali by the Sea.
Feature by Carolyn Hamilton, Jetsetters Magazine Adventure Editor. Photos courtesy of Hilton Hawaiian Village.