Fave Five Waikiki Swimming Holes

Hawaii Editor Marty Wentzel selects a few of the best places to take a dip
By: Marty Wentzel
Infinity pool, Sheraton Waikiki // (c) 2010 Sheraton Waikiki
Infinity pool, Sheraton Waikiki // (c) 2010 Sheraton Waikiki

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Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon, Hilton Hawaiian Village. // (c) 2010 Hilton Hawaiian Village
Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon, Hilton Hawaiian Village. // (c) 2010 Hilton Hawaiian Village

 Paradise Pool at Grand Waikikian Suites by Hilton Grand Vacations
Paradise Pool at Grand Waikikian Suites by Hilton Grand Vacations // (c) 2010 Hilton Grand Vacations

Swimming pool at Halekulani // (c) 2010 Hotels & Resorts of Halekulani
Swimming pool at Halekulani // (c) 2010 Hotels & Resorts of Halekulani

Sunrise Pool, Waikiki Edition // (c) 2010 Nikolas Koning
Sunrise Pool, Waikiki Edition // (c) 2010 Nikolas Koning
Waikiki is blessed with such natural oceanic gifts that it’s a wonder anyone would bother building a swimming pool there. But for people like me who enjoy an alternative to the sea, the area’s hoteliers have come up with some plunge-worthy attractions. After some splashy research and countless pool towels, I’ve come up with the following list of my five favorite swimming holes in Waikiki.

Paradise Pool, Grand Waikikian
If a pool has a slide, I’m there. Small wonder, then, that one of my faves is the Paradise Pool, home of Waikiki’s longest water slide, an enclosed tube measuring 77 feet. It’s one of the four slides awaiting guests at this sparkling 5,000-square-foot activity hub, part of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa campus. Built at a cost of $7 million and open since February 2009, the Paradise Pool boasts a lovely layout with meandering streams and bridges, lush tropical landscaping, lava rock formations and three waterfalls. Here’s another plus: The freeform design of the pool’s perimeter makes it easy to find a bit of privacy on the sidelines when you’re taking a break from getting wet.

Infinity Pool, Sheraton Waikiki

The first infinity-edge pool in Waikiki, this $6 million gem was unveiled in November 2009. It’s a mesmerizing spot that plays tricks on the eyes -- where does the pool end and the ocean begin? -- while serving up dreamy views of Diamond Head. Since it’s open to adults only, it exudes an exclusive ambience appealing to guests who crave a quiet retreat. The water feels soft and silky thanks to its state-of-the-art salt chlorination treatment, a process that’s gentler on the environment than traditional chlorine systems. For guests in need of a steady connection, the pool provides free Wi-Fi. When appetites flare up, food and cocktails can be delivered straight to the lounge chair from the Edge of Waikiki bar.

Orchid Pool, Halekulani
I think of this spot as more than just a pool. It’s a work of art, and it was created as the focal point of the luxury hotel. The bottom of the pool showcases a 30-by-30-foot mosaic orchid comprised of 1.2 million pieces of imported South African glass tiles. The water is glassy, fresh and heated to perfection. The pampering on the deck -- from Wi-Fi accessibility to a complementary service of cold towels, magazines and CDs delivered to your lounger -- matches the overall service of the hotel. Guests can order from a special lunch menu of salads, sandwiches and desserts prepared by the hotel’s House Without a Key restaurant. At night, dramatic lighting maximizes the allure of the pool. In all, the Orchid Pool promises a stellar experience well-suited to a hotel whose name means House Befitting Heaven. www.halekulani.com

Sunrise Pool, Waikiki Edition
When Waikiki Edition opened its doors in October 2010, the first thing I wanted to see was the hotel’s Sunrise Pool. It didn’t disappoint. Created like an exotic inner sanctum, it’s surrounded by a tropical garden and manicured hedges. I love the pool’s variety of options for getting horizontal, from chaises that look like they’re floating on water to oversized day beds for quality sunning. The food at the pool bar, rising above the usual burgers-and-fries fare, has been crafted by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto; how about a tuna pizza with olives, anchovy aioli and jalapeno or tempura calamari salad with white miso dressing and crispy onions? After lunch, try a poolside spa treatment, and be sure to say yes each time the attendants come by with cool towels and spritzes.

Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Lagoon, Hilton Hawaiian Village
This isn’t a swimming pool as much as an aquatic icon. Part of Hilton’s earliest development in the 1950s, the historic body of water reopened in December 2007 after a $15 million restoration. Today, the five-acre lagoon benefits from a top-of-the-line water circulation system, soft sand bottom and pristine beach. From the Hilton's beach activities kiosk, guests can rent a variety of equipment and toys like chairs, rafts, aquacycles and kayaks. With its boardwalk, grassy picnic areas, park benches, waterfalls, coconut trees, tropical flowers and evening lighting, it’s equally appealing to clients who don’t care to get wet. Without a doubt, the lagoon pays fitting tribute to Kahanamoku, Hawaii’s famed waterman who grew up swimming and surfing in the waters of Waikiki.
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