Grant Bradley checks into the Hilton Waikoloa Village, Hawaii.


Twenty minutes north of Kona Airport or 90 minutes from Hilo Airport on the opposite side of the Big Island.

Check-in experience: First time I've been offered a tram or a boat to get to my room. Designed as a "fantasy resort" in the 1980s, this place has the feel of a mini-Disneyland. Its 12 boats were built in Disney World in Florida and slowly ply canals running the length of the 25ha spread. Three Swiss-built trams trundle between stops.


Room: One of 1113 rooms, including 59 one or two-bedroom suitesin three towers, mine opened on to a lawn that overlooked the dolphin pool and separate lagoon. The room was spacious with a double vanity.

Toiletries: Makai is a Hawaiian product infused with a coconut-mango scent for the resort's Kahala Spa. It comes in shampoo, conditioner, soap and moisturiser.

The bed: A very comfortable California King.

Price: Standard rooms start at about $300, and go up to $6000 for the two-bedroom, two-storey suites.

What's so good about this place? This is unashamedly over the top in a way that kids will love and adults will enjoy for its thought-of-everything variety — there are two huge pool areas with slides and fountains (one is the largest pool on the island). There's a separate adults' pool, a lagoon with pedal boats, kayaks and stand up paddle boards, retail shops, cultural and kids' activities, and tours of the resort's collection of Hawaiian, Asian and European art.

And the bad? The lagoon-like pool where you can pay $300-$450 to swim with dolphins (extra to take away GoPro footage) is billed as an attraction, but seeing these animals hemmed in rubbed against our Kiwi sensibility. I wished they had the same freedom as the turtles and fish that can come and go between the ocean and lagoon — the turtles are fearless dudes who paddle almost within touching distance as they cruise for algae.

Hilton Waikoloa Village is unashamedly over the top. Photo / Supplied
Hilton Waikoloa Village is unashamedly over the top. Photo / Supplied

What's in the neighbourhood?

The resort is part of Waikoloa Village, a spread of hotels, condos and timeshares with two shopping centres. Waimea and Kona townships are about 30-40 minutes away.


The white sand beaches of Hapuna and Kua are 10-15 minutes drive north and south respectively. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is two hours away. You can also drive to the summit of Mauna Kea in 90 minutes for free stargazing programmes.

Food and drink: The resort has 14 restaurants, lounges, pool bars, icecream shop and coffee shops. The outdoor Kamuela Provision Company, or KPC, has won local awards and is a beautiful spot to watch the sunset. There are $5 beers at the on-site general store.

Free Wi-Fi? Yes, but oddly not in the Business Centre.

Noise: None with the doors closed. Even open, the spread-out nature of the place and many lovely gardens soak up the sound of your fellow holidaymakers.

Exercise facilities: There's a fully-equipped gym, exercise and yoga classes, and the Kohala Spa offers treatments, sauna, steam room and whirlpool. There are two golf courses, stadium tennis courts where big names occasionally compete, bicycle rental, or you could just keep clocking up the steps as you explore the resort.

Value for money: You get the same Disney-park experience with a standard room as you do with a suite.


Perfect for: A family holiday the kids will never forget.

Would I return? Hopefully with grandkids one day.

The bottom line: A Disney-like resort on a beautiful coast on a fascinating volcanic island.