Waikiki is filled with hotels that are suitable for all budgets.
One of the hotels that stick out for people looking to not break the bank on a hotel stay is the Holiday Inn Express Waikiki.
After staying there a couple of nights, I was pleasantly surprised by the hotel in a lot of regards but also a little underwhelmed in a couple of areas.
Check out the full review below and I will tell you everything you need to know about this hotel so that you can make the most out of your stay.
On a recent 10-night trip to Hawaii we decided to start things off with two nights at the Holiday Inn Express Waikiki. We had a free night certificate and also IHG points so that we could cover 100% of the stay.
This was a worthwhile booking because we got some really great value ($300 in value per night) for the free night and the points, especially whenever we factored in the upgrade we got due to IHG Platinum Status.
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Location overview: North Waikiki
The Holiday Inn Express Waikiki is located on the north side of Waikiki. So it’s about a 15 minute walk to Waikiki Beach.
While it is a bit of walking distance to the heart of Waikiki, it’s nice because you can just step out and walk down Kalakaua Ave to get to the central area.
You’ll be just a block away from Luxury Row where you’ll find many of the luxury shops like Gucci and you’ll also be just a few minutes from quite a few restaurants.
On the other hand, if you need to go to the Hawaii Convention Center it’s a pretty short walk since you are on the north side of Waikiki.
If you need any quick snacks or random items, ABC Store #49 is directly across the street.
So while you don’t have prime beach location at this hotel, it’s still centrally located enough so that many things are still in reasonable walking distance.
We arrived via Uber in the late evening and our check-in experience was great.
The personnel checking us in was very friendly and professional and made sure that our two itineraries were properly linked which is something that tends to be problematic at a lot of hotels.
She notified us about a room upgrade and after we showed verification of our safe travels, we were able to make our way up to our room on the 35th floor.
I should also mention that because of our IHG Platinum status they offered us late check out all the way until 2 PM! That was a nice surprise and definitely a major plus for this property.
By the check-in area there is a little lobby area that’s perfect for waiting for your tours or Uber rides.
Be aware that there are two separate driveways for this hotel so if you are waiting on a ride you may want to specify which side of the hotel you are on.
Most of the time, the drivers appeared at the driveway below which is the one farthest away from the check-in desk.
The only major negative of this hotel is the room size.
Our king room was one of the smallest hotel rooms we’ve stayed in in a very long time. It reminded me of the rooms we used to get when we would stay in cheaper London hotels.
When you finally sit down your luggage the room gets even tighter. After visiting the tight quarters of the USS Bowfin we joked that we were staying at the USS Holiday Inn Express.
So I feel like this type of hotel room is better for people who plan on being out and about more than people who like to spend more time relaxing in a spacious hotel room.
With that said, I found the bed to be pretty comfortable but with the AC unit so close to the bed, the person on that side of the bed might be freezing throughout the night.
The good news is that they also have a ceiling fan so you can play around with your AC and fan settings to get the temperature just right.
Each side of the bed will have multiple outlets including USB ports for convenient charging.
One of the night stands came with a tissue box which I thought was interesting as I have not seen that at many hotels.
The hotel room does not have a working station (desk) and instead just has a standing blue table that you could use to eat or work on. You can move it around the room to wherever you’d like.
It’s not a very big table though so your space will be limited.
While the room is small, they do have a large TV monitor which is really nice.
You can try stacking your luggage beneath the TV to give yourself a little bit more room.
The room is well equipped to handle your leftovers and comes with a microwave, coffee maker, and mini fridge.
You’ll also have a little bit of room to hang up your clothes in the closet where you also will find the iron and iron board.
As for the view, we had a really nice view from the 35th floor. I don’t believe there are any balconies on this property so it’s just a window view but I did enjoy looking out to the ocean and all of the green park space below.
The ocean toward the left tended to be more picturesque.
Even though the hotel room is small, the bathroom was not that bad.
The sink area is pretty confined with limited counter space but the shower was pretty decent and you didn’t feel too cramped getting between the toilet and shower.
5th floor Terrace (Sky Deck)
One of my favorite features of this hotel was the outdoor terrace sky deck on the 5th floor.
This is something that makes this hotel unique and provides you with a way to leisurely pass time or get some sun while remaining on the hotel premises.
There’s quite a few things you’ll find outside on the terrace like table tennis, a foosball table, and weekday yoga classes.
There’s also one of those giant chess boards.
They had some type of other floor game set up but I’m not sure what it was.
Then there is my favorite: the 9-hole miniature golf course.
The par numbers on these little greens don’t really make sense to me as far as how they relate to the difficulty of the hole.
But it’s pretty fun to get out and do a little bit of rooftop putting on a nice Hawaiian afternoon.
Talk to the desk located near the entrance to the terrace and you can check out golf balls and putters for free (although remember you are likely paying a $25 resort fee for these).
The pool area here is surprisingly very nice.
There is a deck with several lounge chairs that you can relax on and even a couple of shaded cabanas that I imagine you will need to ask the hotel about if you want to rent.
They have one huge hot tub that is almost the size of the pool that you can relax in.
Then there is the pool which surprisingly gets down to 6 feet deep. The pool is not that big but for a two/three star hotel, the overall pool set up is actually pretty solid.
It’s also really nice to have some views to look out to from the terrace.
The hotel had a strict policy where you had to reserve time in the gym due to Covid.
We were able to get a quick peek at it though and it looks like a really equipped gym with views looking out to the terrace.
The hotel was serving a grab and go style breakfast during our stay.
Basically you could grab a selection of yogurts, fruits, and hot items like sausage and eggs. We tried it out but this was your standard two-star breakfast experience.
Basically nothing special and unless you’re just trying to save money or just get by with some fruit or cereal, you may want to consider picking up breakfast somewhere else.
Surprisingly, the hotel did have “room service” although it is basically just an Italian restaurant Giovanni Pastrami that is partnered with the hotel from what I could gather.
We did give it a shot the first night we were there and decided that we should try out a pineapple pizza while in Hawaii.
The pizza actually was high-quality and I really enjoyed it, so if you’re in a jam trying to figure out where to eat this could be a solid option.
Overall, I was a pretty big fan of the Holiday Inn Express Waikiki.
The biggest drawback was definitely the size of the room as it made it really hard to move around in there without having to work around furniture or luggage.
Breakfast was mehh but pretty much what you would expect.
However, we received great service and for a hotel at this tier level, they had some pretty cool amenities to enjoy.
I would have to say that this was actually a great use of the IHG free night certificate and our IHG points.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.