We LOVE the Hilo side of the Big Island. We usually stay closer down toward Pahoa or Hawaii Volcanoes National Park when we visit, but on a recent trip we wanted to base out of Hilo to be closer to the waterfalls and gardens we love. Luckily, we found a great affordable Hawaii oceanfront hotel (basically a miracle!) that we really enjoyed – Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo – a DoubleTree by Hilton.
Hilo is well-known for being one of the more inexpensive areas of Hawaii since it isn’t as polished and touristy as many of the other bigger cities. However, we were still shocked that an ocean-view Hawaii hotel could be booked for under $250. Plus, it is a lovely place in a convenient location!
Note: We were not paid to write this post or offered a free stay in exchange. We were just genuinely amazed we found an ocean-view hotel in Hawaii at this rate and wanted to share. Especially because Hilo is underrated, and we think it deserves more love!
What We Loved About the Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo
Here’s our review of all the things we liked about staying at this great ocean-view hotel on the Big Island!
1. It’s an AFFORDABLE Hawaii Oceanfront Hotel
We’ve looked at various hotels in Hawaii with ocean views and finding something under $250 is unheard of. Often, just generic hotel rooms without ocean views in Hawaii are at least that much!
Nightly pricing for the Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo (as of August 2023) starts at around $200 for an ocean-view room. Keep in mind there is parking, taxes, and resort fees added as well, but that total comes out to about $250 which still isn’t bad!
Be sure to check their Special Offers page for the best deals!
2. Great Kamaʻāina Rate for Locals
If you live in Hawaii and can provide a valid ID, you can save up to 20% on the already low rates for the Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo. This took our nightly rate for an ocean-view room to about $160! Not bad!
As of writing this, they also have a really great Hawaii resident special going on:
“NO RESORT FEES (a $39 per night value). Book by September 30, 2023 for stays through November 30, 2023. Complimentary valet parking and Wi-Fi, plus free golf and snorkel gear rentals for up to 2 people per room.”
3. Free Cookies Since it is a DoubleTree!
I don’t know about you, but getting a free hot cookie will always be a perk for me. I totally forgot this was a DoubleTree tradition until we arrived, and it was a welcome surprise after a long day of exploring.
4. Hilton Perks for Members
As Hilton members, we always try to stay at these properties when possible because our American Express Hilton Honors credit card gives us some great perks! In addition to free upgrades (when available), we received a credit for dining.
We also get a free night annually as part of our perks, but usually use that at the most expensive hotels we can get to! See our review of the very fancy Hilton Waikoloa Resort here.
5. Great Location for Hilo Highlights
One of our favorite things to do in Hilo is grab some yummy fresh fruit popsicles from Alii Ice and wander around Liliʻuokalani Gardens and over to Coconut Island. The hotel is a very short walk to the park, down stunning Banyan Drive.
You are just a short drive into town where they have some great dining options! There is a daily Hilo Farmer’s Market downtown where you can try a wide variety of local fruits and premade meals.
You can also visit Rainbow Falls, which is only a 12-minute drive away, and the iconic towering ‘Akaka Falls is about 30 minutes away by car. While up near Akaka, definitely go by the Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden. It is one of our favorite places in Hawaii.
On our most recent trip, we visited Baumkuchen Farm to try their delicious “tree cake.” There are multiple other farm tours in and around Hilo worth checking out as well!
For a full list of what we recommend in and around Hilo, read this article I wrote for Fodor’s Travel!
6. Very Nice Bar Area with Great Vibe
The open-air bar area is beautifully designed and has a lovely vibe. It’s wonderful to hear the waves off in the distance and feel the wind while being in a sheltered spot. The bartenders were fun and nice, and there are plenty of drink options.
Bonus: A free cocktail coupon is given to you upon check-in as an inclusion of the resort fee!
7. Beautiful On-Site Dining Areas
We actually ate at the restaurant down by the pool years ago and really enjoyed it. — has a great vibe and many tasty meals to try (although it is a bit pricy). For this trip, we opted for the less expensive breakfast menu served at the bar and ate our meal out on the big deck overlooking the ocean.
8. Great Relaxing Area by the Ocean
At night, we loved wandering down by the ocean and stargazing. Multiple other guests were relaxing on the lounge chairs, chatting, and enjoying the ocean breeze. This area was even nicer during the day and makes for great people watching as kayakers paddle in the bay and people fish from the shore.
9. Fun On-Site Activities
We aren’t big on using hotel pools, but the one here has a lovely view of the ocean and nearby downtown Hilo. It is conveniently located right next to the wonderful Hula Hulas restaurant and bar.
For us, the big draw to return is the kayak and paddleboard rentals! It looked so nice to paddle out on Hilo Harbor and we loved that the hotel had rentals available on-site. They also offer:
- Two rounds of 9-hole golf per day (included in resort fee!)
- Two sets of snorkel rental (included in resort fee!)
- Hula performance on Monday nights
- 24-hour fitness center
- Bike rentals
- Guests receive 20% off on Kapohokine Mauna Kea Stellar Stargazing and Evening Volcano Explorer Tours (these are a great option if you aren’t able to self-drive to Mauna Kea or don’t feel comfortable).
10. Beautiful Hula Videos Playing Throughout
In addition to the photographs of hula dancers, the televisions throughout the hotel play hula videos and I LOVE that. I absolutely hate it when I’m at chain hotels and they have the news on in the breakfast area. No one wants to see that on vacation! The hula videos were a great idea.
11. Stunning Sunrise!
This has to be our favorite thing about this hotel. Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo offers a great opportunity to take in a sunrise over the ocean. We woke up early and took in the colorful wonder with some local stray cats that had wandered over.
A Few Things We Didn’t Love About Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo
1. The Rooms Need Updating
Although they did a fantastic job in the lounge, bar and outdoor area of the Grand Naniloa Hotel, the rooms and hallways leading to them are very basic and feel more like a motel. The room was clean and comfortable, it just didn’t align with the great first impression we got when checking in.
2. There’s a Sketchy Run-Down Hotel Next Door
As of our visit, the dilapidated Uncle Billy’s Hotel next to the Grand Naniloa is falling apart and very sketchy. Obviously, this is not the fault of the hotel, they are actually trying to help resolve it by purchasing the run-down hotels nearby, but something to keep in mind. Of course, our teen nephew we had with us desperately wanted to go explore inside, but that was a hard pass.
We heard people yelling inside and it is known to be used as a hang-out place for drug users and for other illegal activity. Definitely stay away if you visit and don’t let your kids go wandering off alone. I also wouldn’t wander off the property at night since crime is often reported in this area.
General Note: Hilo Can Be a Little Rough
If you are used to the more polished resort areas in Hawaii, Hilo may feel out of your comfort zone. It definitely isn’t as updated and kept up as the more touristy areas of Hawaii. But we think the older look of the downtown and more authentic feel is charming. It’s just the crime you have to watch out for, but we have never had an issue.
Also, if you don’t like stray cats, maybe don’t go to the nearby park mentioned above, there are tons there. But we love seeing them and most are very friendly and others will just keep to themselves.
Unfortunately, drug use isn’t only contained in the rundown hotel mentioned above. You will see some rougher-looking people as you wander through Hilo. No one has ever made us feel in danger, but we do tend to veer away from anyone who gives us an unsafe vibe and we don’t go bar hopping at night.
Petty crimes, like car break-ins, are a problem in certain areas also (all across Hawaii, not just here). So, just be aware and don’t leave valuables in your car – especially if you can see them from the window!
Cautionary notes aside, we genuinely love Hilo and have met some lovely people in our explorations there!
Final Thoughts for Staying at Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii
Overall, we loved that Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo is right on the water, has a great Kama’aina discount for locals, and gets us extra perks as Hilton members. While the rooms are pretty basic, you can get beautiful views of the Hilo Harbor without paying a fortune. Plus, the lounge on the ground floor is gorgeous and there are plenty of places to relax by the ocean and take in the scenery.
Just be cautious when exploring Hilo since it can be a little questionable in certain areas and at night. However, we’ve never had an issue, and this is a beautiful area of Hawaii that should not be missed!
(Note; We highly recommend considering the American Express Hilton Honors credit card if you stay at Hilton properties often. It has some great perks and the free night annually is a fun excuse for a mini vacation!)
Other Accommodation Options in Hilo
Not feeling this hotel? Here are some other Hilo hotels, B&Bs, and unique accommodation options we’ve had on our list to check out. (Note, we have not personally stayed in these but they look amazing!)
- The Inn at Kulianiapia Falls – this place looks so dreamy and has its own waterfall access!!!
- Hilo Bay Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast – we’re always suckers for a good meal being included.
- SCP Hilo Hotel – close to waterfalls and offers on-site dining.
- Orchid Tree B&B – this option includes a pool, garden, and excellent breakfast.
There are actually a ton of great options in the Hilo area of the Big Island. See more here!
We’ve been living in Hawaii since 2021 and traveling here since 2018. We love sharing all about our adventures and insights on our blog! Read more of our Hawaii vacation ideas and tips here!