By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chuck Broadway
Defense Media Activity
Along the expansive stretch of Waikiki Beach in southeastern Oahu, tucked between patches of concrete, sits a lush expanse of greenery available to an exclusive list of clientele. The Hale Koa Hotel in Honolulu covers 72 acres of tropical wonderment, seemingly secluded from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the island.
This premier resort, one of the Armed Forces Recreation Centers, is open to service members, retirees, DoD civilians, sponsored guests and a few select others to enjoy a relaxing vacation at prices much more affordable than commercial resorts around the Pacific Rim.
Making way from the Honolulu airport, a mere eight miles away, Hale Koa presents itself in grand fashion as palm trees, manicured gardens and vegetation front the Maile and Ilima towers. The open-air arrival area greets guests with a standard “aloha” feel as an abundance of tropical shirts, Bermuda shorts and sandals surround new patrons. Beyond the front desk sits “Gus”, an 80-year-old Indian Banyan tree that stands as the centerpiece of the garden.
Continuing deeper into the property, walkways are lined with thick foliage separating various experiences and amenities to provide a secluded, quiet atmosphere. This is Hale Koa … this is paradise.
Two towers host 818 rooms. Prices vary based on rank and room location. Standard rooms are cheapest, with increased prices for garden view, ocean view and ocean front rooms. However, rates are much lower than those at nearby hotels with similar amenities.
Rooms feature high-definition TVs, king or two queen beds, coffee makers, mini refrigerators, in-room safes and towels. Some rooms offer balconies with varying views.
The Maile tower is now under renovation, while the Ilima tower was renovated within the last two years.
Hale Koa is at near 100 percent capacity year-round but can be booked a year in advance. If the resort is booked up during your planned vacation dates, even if you stay elsewhere, you can still take advantage of amenities such as the cheaper parking garage, which is priced at $30 a day versus around $60 per day at neighboring resorts.
Biba’s Courtyard Grill is open for dinner and offers an open-kitchen, fine-dining experience with selections from the Pacific islands and mainland America. Menu items include several cuts of steak, lamb shanks, pork ribs and a variety of seafood delicacies.
Koko at Kalia serves up all-you-can-eat breakfast and dinner buffets cooked in small portions to maintain freshness. This oceanfront experience includes varying culinary delights with different themes throughout the week.
Happy’s Fast and Fresh, Barefoot snack shack, and Koa Oasis offer pool and beachside selections such as sandwiches, burgers, pizza, hot dogs, shaved ice, potato skins and jalapeno poppers.
Both Koa Oasis and the Barefoot Bar feature tropical drink specialties, including their Mai Tai, a secret recipe the resort holds close. If you’re not inspired to try something on the listed menu, ask your bartender if they can make your favorite indulgence (a little extra tip doesn’t hurt, either). Nightly live music ends the day on a festive island note as the Hawaiian sunset provides a pinkish hue, perhaps mimicking the Lava Flow in your glass.
Biba’s and Koko at Kalia are for hotel guests and service members only. The Barefoot Bar and Koa Oasis are open to the public; however, service members and hotel guests receive discounted prices on all items.
Entertainment and Events
In addition to the main restaurants, Hale Koa offers its own luau held in their dedicated Luau Garden area, complete with tropical shrubbery, covered and open seating, imu pit (an underground oven for pig roasting) and elevated stage. Patrons are treated to activities such as lei-making, tree climbers and poi ball swingers before the official event begins.
When the deep hum of the conch shell sounds, guests gather around the pit as the traditional kalua pork is revealed after a full day of underground cooking. As the only full-service luau on the island, the Hale Koa Hotel Luau includes appetizers, entrees, family-style desserts and also arranges vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options when requested.
While the food is a sight to see, it’s only half of the party. Live Polynesian entertainment is featured nightly. Guests are treated to music, knife dancing and, of course, hula and fire dancing. Special to Hale Koa is a tribute to service members and their families.
Hale Koa also plays host to comedy, music and magic shows. Specialized holiday celebrations are also held throughout the year such as Christmas and Mother’s Day.
Activities and Amenities
While the resort offers plenty of food and drink options, there is more to take in during a trip to Hale Koa. The beach boasts a clean sheet of bronzed sand that leads to calm emerald waters, just right for cooling off during the year-round warm temperatures. Water activities such as surf lessons, snorkeling and non-motorized vehicles are available for guests.
If those don’t suit your fancy, four tennis courts, two pickle ball courts, three racquetball courts and two sand volleyball courts are available for use. While these options are open to the public, service members and families receive priority use over civilians.
“The most unique thing about this hotel is the lawn space,” said Chester “Buzz” Hazlewood, an assistant manager at Hale Koa. “Other hotels, the footprint is all concrete, so just the fact that you can bring your family, put up a small tent and cook on the grill next to the ocean is a huge plus.”
Also on site is a tourism desk where guests can book excursions around the island. Options include tours of Pearl Harbor, dolphin encounters, parasailing, helicopter rides and snorkeling. Submarine excursions and catamaran rides are also within walking distance of the resort, and a rental car desk is also available.
Three pools offer guests a chance to soak up some fresh water. Tucked away amidst surrounding native vegetation is the Maile Pool Deck, an adults-only pool and hot tub area that was recently renovated. The hotel offers water aerobics and maintains a tranquil environment here.
For more energetic surroundings, the main pool, also called Ilima Pool, is a 250,000 gallon pool divided into three sections with several bridges spanning the width. Next to it is the Keiki Pool, built for wading little ones. Both the Ilima and Keiki pools are scheduled for complete renovation to provide more family amenities, such as water spouts.
Each pool is reserved for military members and sponsored guests, complete with towel service and flotation devices provided by Hale Koa staff members. Speaking of the staff, they are very personable and customer-service oriented. They always greet patrons with a smile and will stop and have a conversation with guests, further enhancing the resort experience.
Other amenities include an on-site Army Air Force Exchange Service location complete with basic necessities and Hawaiian souvenirs, an Army museum, a fitness center, day spa, hair salon, as well as two ballrooms, catering services and wedding sites.
While the beach and certain amenities are open to the public, Hale Koa boasts a service not found at any other Oahu resort: round-the-clock security provided by the Army and civilian agencies.
“People tend to feel a lot more comfortable here,” Hazlewood said. “You can go on the beach, leave your things on your towel, take a swim and come back, and your stuff will still be there. It’s more secure than any other beach on the island.”
With so much to offer at such a premium location, the Hale Koa hotel provides an elite level of relaxation for military members, their families and sponsored guests. There is a plethora of activities to enjoy at a reasonably affordable price, especially compared to similar resorts in the area. The comfort and security of being surrounded by fellow military service members provides an added benefit to current and potential guests.
More information on the resort can be found at www.halekoa.com.
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