Aqua Palms & Spa
Hawaii hotelier Mike Paulin pulled out all the stops when he
introduced Aqua Palms & Spa into the Waikiki market. One of
Aqua Hotels & Resorts’ three AquaSPA properties, Aqua Palms is
the only member of the Aqua Boutique Hotels portfolio featuring all
“Seven Pillars” of the company’s branding newly renovated
accommodations, kitchenettes, spa, fitness center, complimentary
in-room high-speed Internet and/or Wi-Fi, complimentary daily
continental breakfast and 24/7 hotline access to Paulin.
I had stayed here when it was operated in the late 1990s as the
Waikiki Parkside. While Aqua has completely gutted and
reconstructed the boutique hotel in a stylish, retro-Hawaiian
motif, one of the things I appreciated most has remained the
Located at the entrance to Waikiki on Ala Moana Boulevard, the
Aqua Palms is ideal for those preferring to avoid a rental car. And
that was my case on this most recent visit. The property lies
directly on both The Bus and Waikiki Trolley lines, and is also an
easy stroll to Ala Moana Shopping Center. The Hawaii Convention
Center and Waikiki Beach are nearby, as well.
Under Aqua’s flag, the AAA Three-Diamond hotel features 262
tastefully appointed studios and suites. Studios are decked with
silk and sand wallpaper, vibrant artwork and the trademark aqua
touches in this case, the aqua headboards.
“Waikiki’s evolution into an unabashed, fun urban resort
complements Aqua’s theme of ‘Beach Life Urban Vibes,’ and Aqua
Palms has been our lab test,” said Paulin. “It was the first Aqua
of three to consistently be in TripAdvisor’s Top 10. So I believe
we’re fulfilling our mission.” If a guest disagrees, they have
access to “the boss” via phone around the clock.
“Our ‘Seven Pillars’ are geared to the Gen X and Y market with
the amenities and services appealing to this segment most,” Paulin
said. “Our Aqua Promise allows guests to contact me 24/7 with any
problems. It’s aimed at supporting the travel agent’s decision to
call out Aqua for their clients.”
Guestrooms have been renovated.
From an accommodations standpoint, all studios are a spacious 325
square feet. What differentiate the three studio categories are the
views. I landed in a deluxe room with a wonderful panorama of
Diamond Head, Fort DeRussy Park and the Pacific. Pleasant and
bright, it featured a king-size bed, sleeper sofa, pair of
nightstands, three-drawer dresser, desk, small table with two
chairs and private standing lanai. In spite of being so amply
furnished, it felt far from cramped.
I especially enjoyed the AquaKIT Pillar, which equips with a
microwave, mini- refrigerator, coffeemaker and coffee. Other
amenities included a safe, flat-screen television with DVD player
and 77 channel access, clock radio, complimentary local and
toll-free phone calls, plush Aqua robes and custom bath
Each morning, guests can venture down to the lobby for a
continental breakfast comprised of fresh fruits, pastries, tropical
juices, coffee and tea. Since the lobby is somewhat small, some
opted to enjoy theirs on the second level pool deck or ventured
back in their studio to eat on the lanai. Although I missed the
Wednesday evening manager’s reception, it was nice to note that
daily newspapers, coffee, tea and apples were always available in
the front lobby. According to Paulin, the property will add a
restaurant with room service this fall.
I also viewed a one-bedroom suite, which is a luxurious upgrade
for those preferring more space and upscale touches. This beauty
was lushly designed with a complete kitchen that sparkled with
stainless steel appliances, marble countertops and vanities,
plasma-screen television, separate dining area in the living room,
desk and large closet.
Perhaps the highlight of my stay, however, was a Hawaiian-style
lomi lomi massage at the hands of an exceptional therapist named
Kipapa. Just off the pool area, the modest cabana-style spa is
perfectly fitted to the boutique concept of the property.
While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of larger spas,
the two-table haven is ideal for those simply seeking a treatment
and even those who may be intimidated by the trappings of a mega
A combination of long, smooth moves and scents of orange,
eucalyptus, tea tree and lavender blended for such a wonderful
escape that I knew I’d be back for another treatment whether
staying at the Aqua Palms again or just being in the
Aqua Palms & Spa
Rates to Dec. 21: Studio Moderate $220; Studio Superior $235;
Studio Deluxe $255; Junior Suite $305; One-Bedroom $395
The hotel’s Spa-licious Special includes accommodations and two
spa treatments (Swedish, lomi lomi, shiatsu, sports or
reflexology), from $160 per night based on a minimum three-night
Commission: From 10 percent
ABOUT AQUA HOTELS & RESORTS
In October 2005, Michael Paulin launched Aqua Boutique Hotels, a
select group of properties responding to the sense of style and
attitude of today’s sophisticated traveler. Naturally, all feature
the “Seven Pillars” of the Aqua Hotels & Resorts brand and key
lifestyle amenities, such as free in-room high-speed Internet and
daily continental breakfast. Aqua Boutique Hotels include Aqua
Palms & Spa, Aqua Bamboo & Spa and Aqua Waikiki Wave &
With 94 rooms and suites, Aqua Bamboo is an intimate Southeast
Asian-inspired boutique hotel on Kuhio Avenue. Its lush outer
sanctuary is home to AquaSPA facilities, a saltwater pool with
waterfall, jet spa, sauna and cabana.
Also a block off the beach on Kuhio, Aqua Waikiki Wave is a new
boutique hotel with spacious rooms in a hip-hop décor. AquaSPA
facilities will open this late this summer.
Through December 21, respective rack rates at the two properties
begin at $195 and $220.
Other Aqua collections, Aqua Lite and Aqua Elite, were named as
two new groups to differentiating Aqua’s growing product inventory.
Featured as Aqua Lite Hotels are Aqua Coconut Plaza, Aqua
Continental, Aqua Island Colony and Aqua Marina.
As the name implies, Aqua Elite Hotels is reserved for
properties with exceptional amenities and service. Aqua’s future
plans call to have several properties in this classification
available to consumers.
According to Beth Churchill, Aqua’s Vice President of Marketing
and Guest Services, Aqua’s concept is to address travelers tired of
paying additional fees for amenities they feel should be part of
their daily hotel rate.
“We understand our guests want incredible service along with
upgraded amenities to enhance their overall travel experience,”
said Churchill. “Based on this, each of our Aqua collections offer
everything the smart traveler wants without paying the luxury
Last year, the company invested over $26 million upgrading Aqua
Hotels & Resorts’ properties throughout Waikiki as part of
Paulin’s AquaFRESH brand promise for like-new accommodations.
Worked scheduled for completion in 2007 totals over $8 million.
Paulin noted how this Aqua investment in refurbishments and
product improvements has positioned the company well, especially in
light of a recent Oahu Visitors Bureau campaign initiative to
promote a revitalized Waikiki in 2007.