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Hawaii Travel: Hotel or Condo?


Kona Coast on The Big Island of Hawaii
Photo by Shay Davidson

We thought that it would make an interesting experiment to compare the expense and amenities of choosing whether to stay in a hotel or condo when traveling to Hawaii.  We chose the Big Island of Hawaii as our destination, and stayed within the Kailua Kona area in order to compare apples with apples, so to speak. (Rates for hotels in the Waikoala/Kohala vicinity are priced at a much higher rate than those in and near Kona Town.) 

Then, we crunched the numbers for you.   We chose well appointed, oceanfront condo rentals and compared the prices and amenities for you.

Sunset on the Water from an Oceanfront Condo Lanai
Photo by Shay Davidson



Below are rates for an Ocean Front King room found in several Kona area hotels.  In order to give hotels a fair shot when comparing rates to those of condos, we eliminated the highest rates of the season by choosing dates following Labor Day weekend.  Fall is typically a low season time period; thus these rates are pretty good deals for hotel rooms. Hotel rates were obtained from Travelocity and do not include promotional discounts that may be offered from time to time.

1.Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehamehas Kona Beach Hotel—This hotel was one of the first built in the Kona area, though it underwent a complete renovation when Mariott purchased it.  It is considered a 3 Star Hotel and is part of the Courtyard by Mariott class. 

This hotel is literally IN Kona, which can be considered good or bad--depending on whether you like the crowded tourist scene with the ability to walk to restaurants, shops and bars, or if a short drive to town is a preferable tradeoff for being in a more peaceful, quiet setting.  This hotel is not listed as an oceanfront property.

We chose an oceanfront room with balcony.  The rate was $239. Including Taxes and fees, the total for our stay would be $2,402 or $267 per night.  The room included a King Size bed and sofa bed with free Internet.

2Royal Kona Resort—This is a beautiful, oceanfront hotel with open-air, “Don the Beachcomber” bar that serves an excellent Happy Hour menu.  It is rated a 3 Star Hotel but certainly should be put in a class above the King Kamehamhas, in this writer’s opinion.  The ambience is that of old Hawaii with a modern twist.  The hotel is within a few steps of restaurants and shops, but it is set back from the road, it is a bit removed from the hustle and noise of Kona Town. The Oceanfront room included King Bed or 2 doubles.  The rate was $257.  Including taxes and fees, the total cost of the stay was $2,583, or $287 per night.

Enjoy the rugged Hawaiian Coastline from the Lanai of your own Condo Rental!

Photo By Shay Davidson

3.  The Sheraton Hotel and Spa Resort at Keauhou Bay—Keahou Bay is a beautiful, quiet area located about 6 miles south of Kona Town.  Alii Drive takes you directly into Kona in about 10 minutes, depending on traffic conditions on this busy stretch of roadway.  The Sheraton is a beautiful property, completely renovated in 2012.  We found an oceanfront room with King Bed for a rate of $381 per night.  Including taxes and fees, our stay would cost $4,304, or $478 per night. Yikes!  In all fairness, Travelocity does offer sporadic special promotions with attractive discounts for the two larger hotels that we checked.  If you look for specials and book a nonrefundable room in advance, you might get lucky and land an oceanfront room for much less than the standard quote.  **Be aware that ocean view is NOT oceanfront when booking any vacation property.  Ocean view means that you can see the ocean, while oceanfront means there is nothing between your room and the water but beach, or perhaps a strip of lawn area.  This is really important to remember because there is a real esthetic difference between the two designations, not to mention that there is a real price difference, as well. 


Now Let’s Consider Condo Rentals


The Kona Makai—The Kona Makai is just one of many smaller condo complexes along Alii Drive, the most direct artery into Kona Town.  The condo we chose to price here is directly on the ocean.  The views are spectacular from a private deck.  The condo features 2 bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms.  We will add the link here so that you can see photos of condos and the complex.  The Kona Makai Condo Link.  Keep in mind, this is only one of many, lovely condo complexes along Alii Drive, located directly on the oceanfront. 

Note that in this condo, there is a full kitchen stocked with dishes, cooking utensils, pots and pans, etc., virtually everything you would need to prepare meals. 

The condo supplies linens, television, free wi-fi for Internet connectivity, and two bedrooms with 2 full bathrooms.  There are laundry facilities inside the condo unit.  The unit also has a wrap around lanai.  Why is this important?  The answer is simple: In Hawaii, life happens on one’s lanai.  At certain times of the day, the sun shines so hot on one’s lanai that it is unusable during certain hours.  With a wrap around deck, you have two completely different exposures, making your lanai useable at any time of day. 

This writer has personally visited the Kona Makai and has spent time in one of the condos.  The lanais are lovely and overlook the ocean directly below you.  This peaceful, quiet complex has a nice, albeit rather small pool, and tennis courts. 

Let’s crunch the numbers for this condo.  Comparing the same, exact dates that we used for hotels, one would pay $1,552 for the stay, (plus a possible cleaning fee of about $100 that we will add to the cost), for an approximate total of $1652.00, or $183.55 per night. 

Prices change by the season, as they do in any hotel or resort facility, as well.


Casa de Emdeko—Also located on Alii Drive, Casa de Emdeko is an older complex that has a lovely, quiet atmosphere with ocean view and oceanfront condos.  We are comparing a 2 bedroom, 2 bath unit on the 3rd and top floor of the complex.  The unit features wraparound lanai for all-day, comfortable sun exposure, the ocean directly below the lanai where it is possible to snorkel if one is a strong, advanced ocean swimmer. 

This writer has viewed this particular unit, and it can be truly said that this is Hawaii at its best.  Is the unit new and remodeled featuring updated appliances, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and limestone bathrooms?  No.  The kitchen, however, is well stocked for cooking, and functions perfectly well for all of one’s cooking needs. 

The unit is sparkling clean and fresh with comfortable wicker furniture, adequate lanai furniture and a big, comfortable king size bed.  The TV is old but useable, and there is a washer/dryer in the condo.  Color me happy

The outdoor barbeque area is especially nice with gas grills available and outdoor seating for dinner on the water after your food is grilled!  The pool is small but nice, and the complex also has a huge, saltwater pool directly on the beach.  All in all, this place is funky but magical and is a marvelous place to spend a week or two…or more!

Including taxes, fees and a cleaning fee, the would cost approximately  $190 per night, or about $1,710.00 for 9 nights, using the same week that we compared in hotels.

Here is the link to properties at Casa de Emdeko

As an aside, we also priced a one-bedroom unit in this same complex and found that it would rent for $125 per night.  The lanai does have a lovely ocean view, although the condo is not direct oceanfront.

As an additional comparison, we discovered an oceanfront condo, one bedroom property at the Kona Alii, (right in Kona Town) which rents for $120, depending on the season.  Link:  Kona Alii one bedroom

Casa de Emdeko's Saltwater pool directly on the Beach

Photo by Shay Davidson


The Keauhou Surf and Racquet Club—Located about 6 miles south of Kona Town, is the Surf and Racquet Club.  The Surf and Racquet is a premier oceanfront property.  The units are lovely, and this complex, especially for the athletically inclined, is a beautiful, right-on-the-ocean, right-on-the-money complex. 

This writer has also stayed at The Surf and Racquet.  The thing to be aware of here, is that each unit is different, not always equal in size, updated or not-so-much, but the property is beautiful and perfectly manicured.  It features a gate for security, Keahou is well outside of the tourist fray, a lovely beach right next door for snorkeling, and restaurants and grocery/drug stores are just a 2 minute drive away in Keahou.

Many of the residents of Surf and Racquet are full time residents, which gives the complex a homey feel.  The tennis courts are primo—just resurfaced this year.  The choice of rentals here runs from townhome style to one-story style unit.  The gardens are lovely and the pool is large--for those of you who want to swim laps!

Of course, there are barbeque grills for your use, and did we mention that the pool is huge?

Many folks feel the need to stay in Kona Town, and Keahou is most definitely not in or in walking distance of Kona Town.  Personally, this writer would never choose to stay in town, as it is quieter and less crowded outside of town.  Keahou perfect for the discerning traveler.  Keahou does have its own shopping center complete with Long’s Drugs and a supermarket.  (Don’t miss the Hawaiian Barbeque joint located behind the supermarket! It rocks!)

Here are two links to rentals within the Surf and Racquet Club:

Surf and Racquet Oceanfront 2 Bedroom/2 full bath  This unit rents for approximately $180 per night including taxes and fees.  Again, the rental fee changes with the season.

The property above has been visited by our group.  It is very nice, remodeled and clean—directly oceanfront and one story.  Beautiful!  Many other rentals are lovely here, as well!

We also for, but could not find a one bedroom listing, direct oceanfront at The Surf and Racquet Club.  Here is what we did find:  Two bedroom, two complete baths, direct oceanfront, $89-$139, depending on the season before taxes and fees.  At The Surf and Racquet Club, rates depend greatly on the location and style of the unit.  Townhouse style units rent for less that one story units; closer to the water and with a view will rent at a higher price. Here is the link: Surf and Racquet Club VRBO Listings


Hotels:  We have looked at 3 hotel properties in the Kona area for our stay.

The Marriott King Kamehamehas Kona Beach Hotel--with a rate of $267.00 per night, for an Oceanfront King Room.

The Royal Kona Hotel--with a rate of $287.00 per night, for a direct Oceanfront King Room.

The Sheraton at Keahou Bay-- with a rate of $487.00 per night, for a direct, oceanfront King Room.


Condominium Rentals:  We looked at several complexes:

The Kona Makai:  2 bedroom, 2 bath, oceanfront--$183.55 Per night including taxes and fees.

Casa De Emdeko: 

2 bedroom, 2 bath, oceanfront--$190 per night including taxes and fees.

1 bedroom, 1 bath, ocean view--$125 per night, plus taxes and fees—approximately $139 per night

Kona Alii:   1 bedroom, 1 bath, ocean front--$121 per night, plus taxes and fees—approximately $136 Per night

Keahou Surf & Racquet Club:  2 bedroom, 2 bath, oceanfront--$180 per night, including taxes and fees.  Cleaning may be extra.

Is There Really Any Comparison?

Now that you’ve seen the comparisons between hotels and condo rentals in just one, small area, on one island in Hawaii, why would one choose a hotel over a condo?

Perhaps you love luxury hotel and spa properties, where you can be completely pampered, order room service and call for cocktails to be delivered poolside.  Then a hotel would most definitely be for you.

For the rest of us, renting a condo in Hawaii is a no-brainer.  Condos offer so much more space than hotel rooms.  Amenities run from multiple bathrooms to kitchen and laundry facilities, to reasonably priced oceanfront living on large lanais.  Hotels cannot compete here, especially in the price range that we have chosen.

Some Things to Remember

In Hawaii, especially on the Big Island, you will need a car.  If you absolutely do not want to rent a car, then choose a property IN Kona Town, where you can walk to restaurants and shops.  There are not many choices here.  The Kona Alii, Kona Castle Resort, and two of the hotels we’ve noted, are among the available properties in walking distance to town.

Be aware that the Kona Castle Resort has master bedrooms that back onto a noisy, interior courtyard.  We have interviewed guests who chose to sleep in the living room, on the sofa sleeper, because they couldn’t sleep in the noisy bedroom.  It is a fabulous location, however,(if the noise doesn’t bother you), within a very easy walk to restaurants and shops.

Not all condos have amenities that are equal.  Be sure to check the individual list of amenities for each separate condo listing, as well as those for the condo complex itself.

There can be additional fees for air conditioning and cleaning.  Be sure to ask about them.  Some condos don’t have air conditioning; be sure to ask.

Some condos come stocked with boogie boards, water toys and noodles, even snorkel gear; others don’t.  A good agent should be able to tell you what is available for use in any condo you intend to rent.

You can rent directly from owners on or, but Hawaii’s laws make it difficult to rent directly from an owner any longer.  The only agency that we have actually used before this publication and would recommend for service, client communication and follow up, is Prince PropertiesTheir website, found here, is Boundless Hawaii.  They stand behind what they offer and check to see if you, the renter, are content with your rental.  Many other companies simply give you the lock-box number with the key inside; at that point, you’re on your own.

Neither this writer, nor has any affiliation with any property owners or managers mentioned in this article.  We note only properties that we have visited, or we have stated otherwise in the article.   

All condo rental prices are seasonal and subject to change.  Hotel rates vary as well, in fact, sometimes hotel rates will vary greatly in price, for the same room, for the very same day! If you do choose a hotel, be sure to shop for promotions and special seasonal rates.  Compare travel sites and look for bargains.  The first quote you get for a hotel room isn’t necessarily the best price you can get.

Whatever type of accommodation you choose, you must not miss Hawaii.  As a part of the US, there are no language barriers and you can be assured of a clean, beautiful environment.  The Big Island is an especially safe island, as well. 

Do not believe everything you’ve heard about the expense of traveling in Hawaii.  We’ve just shown you how to get around the high hotel rates and all of the trappings that come with staying in a hotel or resort facility, eating out in restaurants at every meal, and using only the hotel’s services.  Buy a ticket and get going!  Aloha!

Other Articles by This Writer:

Kona, Hawaii: Reviews and Photos

Mt. Kilauea: Hawaii's Active Volcano

Paris Travel: Hotel or Apartment?













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