Honolulu's Most Popular Spot Still Makes For An Amazing Family Vacation

When Oahu is calling, Trump Waikiki rolls out a welcome rug you’re lucky to walk on any and every day.

You can hear the ocean from the 26th floor. I don't really think about what I hear outside in Minnesota, from any height or location, but it was the first wave of wow that hit me walking into our vacation home in Waikiki. 

Our youngest raced across the room, hurdled the couch, pulled open the floor-to-ceiling glass porch door and there it was... the ocean. The sound was heavenly. The sight was even better. 

"Dad," she hollered. "Come see this." And there it was. 

All of the things that make Waikiki so hip and active—beach, parks, boardwalks, restaurants, "Hawaiian Starbucks" (ABC stores), and that crystal clear ocean—spread out like a colorful blanket 26 stories beneath us. 

"Imagine waking up to this every morning," my oldest said. Trust me, I imagine that every day, and so envy the hundreds to thousands who get to do just that.

trump waikik breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially when it comes with these views. | Trump International Hotel Waikiki

This wasn't a once in a lifetime experience for me, being my fourth trip to Hawaii, but it was a trip 10 years in the making—the first foray for my four kids to my favorite state—and I wanted their general impression to be as awe-inspiring as my own initial Aloha. Trump Waikiki makes that so easy. 

Surrounded by large parks and the ocean on the front, you turn off Saratoga Road and pull up to a flower-lined open lobby teeming with smiles, and waves from an active group of bellhops and valets. That's typical for a high-end resort in paradise, no question, but much less typical was them asking my kids for names. I laughed, as if they'd remember them, then marveled—time after time—when several did. 

"They even got mine right," one of my identical twin daughters said. "Half our teachers don't do that." I'm sure they got lucky—guessed right—but still, the lasting impact was the extra care and effort. You aren't just another guest or dollar sign at Trump Waikiki. You're a person with a name that matters to them, and that matters even more to me.

It's an impressive hotel through every door on every floor. But Director of Sales and Marketing Patsy Narimatsu pointed out it's much more than that to many: "It's home." Hundreds of people actual live, and get mail, at Trump Waikiki—the paper kind. 

"Do you have someone who weeds out and tosses all the junk mail?" I asked her. "No," she laughed. "But that's a great idea." I'd sure pay for that.

The Five-Star Experience

Trump Waikiki is a Forbes Five-Star Hotel, the only one—of two total—on the entire island of Oahu that is a full-scale resort. When you break it down, the property can easily and idyllically accommodate any size of vacationing party. Ninety-two cozy one-bedroom suites, 116 expansive two-bedroom units like ours—where the walk-in closet is bigger than some neighboring hotel rooms—26 palatial three-bedroom suites, and six two-bedroom penthouses. 

At capacity it can accommodate more than 1,000 lucky visitors and residents nightly. I was stunned—blown away—by the view on the 26th floor, and then craned my neck towards those penthouses another dozen levels up and just had to go see one. "I'd pay a million dollars for one of these," I mumbled. "That might not buy you the closet," my son replied. Probably true, but someone gets to stay up there, maybe even live up there. Can't imagine that overwhelming sense of awe ever fades.

Keeping in mind that many of these units are in fact residences, and that most of them have their own private lanais, they are all equipped with floor to ceiling transparent walls—they called them "windows"—with views to adjacent islands on most levels, fully qualified kitchens, in-suite washers and dryers, deep tubs, a number of LCD TVs, and the most comfortable beds, sofa sleepers, and furniture. My kids had their own rooms—if you count the closets—and my wife had her own bed. "This is my kind of vacation home," she purred. Happy wife, happy life, right?

Outside the room, but still inside the palace, Trump Waikiki features a 4,200-sq. ft. spa, a state-of-the-art fitness center, an infinity pool overlooking acres of palm trees and beachfront, complimentary beach towels for guests, and some pretty spectacular dining establishments.

Trump International Hotel Waikiki balcony
Parents will have plenty of opportunities to share romantic moments. | Trump International Hotel Waikiki

With virtually everything able-to-order from in-room dining, many venture out to start their days at the open-air In-Yo Café with a buffet breakfast of pastries, pancakes, and plates of other goodies. I can't imagine many who eat breakfast here are capable of eating lunch, but for those that do, the American Steakhouse BLT Steak is a popular hangout—the on-site eatery that likely gets the most local attention, given its streetside setting, where you can't miss the sights, sounds and smells as you walk by. 

But, great as that menu is, it was Wai'olu's panoramic, open-air, bougainvillea-lined, 7th floor porch and Ocean Cuisine that captivated us and was crowned my son's "favorite meal" in our entire eight-day Hawaii visit. It wasn't just sitting on the couches for our meal—something he already does at home, albeit in a much less scenic setting—but, being a Sushi savant, he couldn't have been more impressed by Wai'olu's new Sushi bar. 

"I could eat here every day," he gushed. "Some people do," my 10-year-old reminded him. She gets it. You do too. It's a dream come true to be here, and probably a dreamer come truer to live here.

If You Have to Leave

Steps outside the lobby, the streets and sidewalks are brimming with activity, a full 360-degrees around the building, in fact. Patsy told us the beach was just a two-minute walk away, which translates into a 45-second dash to parents visiting with kids. There we found a boardwalk and soft sand, surf, and beach chair rentals and a sprawling park to our right, with a pair of green sea turtles swimming in the clear aquatic waters to our left—a bit surreal. 

"I wonder if they're always there," the 10-year-old mused. "Nope," I replied. "Just for you."

"Awesome." Yes... it is that.

There are two ABC stores a stone's throw from a Trump Waikiki window—please don't test that out—with a number of other shops, galleries, and restaurants around them. We took full advantage of our proximity to the excellent Ty Gurney Surf School around the corner to get the kids out longboarding on a glassy ocean at one of the world's most iconic surf spots—another memorable aspect of the Trump Waikiki experience they'll never forget. (Be sure to add their complete photo package if you book the lessons yourself.)

You've got to get out and experience the entire island, at least for one day, on an Oahu visit—get to the Halona Blow Hole, Hanauma Bay, and the North Shore, at the very least. But, when the day is over, and you're looking for a place that will give you all the comforts of home—if not an actual home (for those looking)—Forbes Travel Guide validates that there aren't any other places on the entire island with the safety, beach proximity, space, scenery, in-building amenities, and (especially) the first-class, personal, service of Trump Waikiki. 

And, having personally experienced all of those perks, you'll get zero contrarian notes from us. On every one of its three dozen levels, Trump Waikiki is an epic vacation destination—an unforgettable beachside stay sure to rank among the favorite places you'll ever stay.