Back of the House

A behind-the-scenes tour takes clients under the hilton Waikoloa Village

By: Marty Wentzel

At first glance, Keala Nui (Royal Pathway) seems like a misnomer for the 1.4-mile tunnel running beneath the Hilton Waikoloa Village. With exposed pipes hugging the ceiling, windowless corridors lined with laundry bins and motorized vehicles toting boxes of supplies, the road looks anything but regal. During the Back-of-the-House tour, however, clients find out just how appropriate that name really is. Without Keala Nui, the hotel simply couldn’t operate.

Stretching from the Lagoon Tower to the Ocean Tower, the subterranean corridor lets Hilton Waikoloa’s 1,400 employees access most hotel areas without inconveniencing guests. A world unto itself, the no-frills passageway buzzes with activity like the backstage of a play.

“We don’t use the public areas except when we are serving guests,” said Hilton concierge and tour guide Denise Kanda.

In the front of the house, guests glide around the resort on Swiss-made trams and Disney-engineered boats. Underground, employees walk or ride around on tuggers and three-wheel bicycles, minding the stop signs and other rules of the road.

Like a docent in a museum, Kanda relates fascinating facts about the inner workings of the 62-acre resort. In the luggage area, directly under the lobby, guests see how tagged suitcases, golf bags and duffels travel downstairs on an airport-style baggage conveyer belt for alphabetical storage. During an average month, the hotel’s staff moves about 156,200 pieces of luggage, Kanda said.

At the back of the hotel’s Convention Center, Kanda talks about how the Hilton serves 14,000 daily meals to groups. By the main kitchen, she rattles off mind-boggling numbers of ingredients used for the hotel’s nine restaurants: 800 pounds of meat and seafood per day, for instance, and 20 cases of pineapples. Clients also get a look at where the employees eat: the Lava Rock Cafe, a bright, air-conditioned setting serving as many as 2,500 meals daily.

In the wardrobe department, Kanda shares Hilton Waikoloa’s system for tracking over 25,000 staff uniforms, neatly arranged on hangers and racks. Equally astounding is the efficiency of the laundry room, which handles 35,000 pounds of dirty linen during peak occupancy.

Since Hilton Waikoloa recently won the Hawaii Green Business Award, Kanda points out areas where the resort has been especially successful at conservation. At the loading dock, a bailing press recovers 10,000 pounds of cardboard each month. In the laundry room, new machines and computerized technology have increased productivity while decreasing fuel intake. Other conservation efforts include installation of low-flow shower heads, ultra-low-flow toilets and energy-saving light fixtures.

“When the hotel first opened in 1988, we were using 9 percent of the island’s electricity,” said Kanda. “Through dedicated efforts, we’ve been able to reduce that figure to 4 percent.”

The Back-of-the-House tour ends as elevator doors open to the lobby level of the Palace Tower. Clients leave with a newfound appreciation for what it takes to run a 1,240-room resort, while the rest of the guests enjoy their vacation, oblivious to what’s happening beneath their feet.


Hilton Waikoloa Village’s free Back-of-the-House tour provides a glimpse into the inner workings of the mega-resort.

Tour times are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m. The tour lasts approximately one hour. Participants must be at least 12 years old. Groups are limited to 12 people, so clients should sign up ahead of time with the concierge.