Oh, you wanted a bed with that?
October 10, 2010 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Renting a condo vs. a hotel room in Hawaii. What are the risks?

We are headed to Hawaii in January for our "babymoon" (yay!) and are considering staying a few nights in a condo rather than a hotel. We like the idea of having a kitchenette so we can at least have breakfasts at "home" and pack some lunches for our daily excursions. I did see a few hotels that offer a kitchenette but the reviews on TripAdvisor are mixed, and the condo reviews have all been positive. My main concern is the lack of hotel amenities, namely not being able to change rooms if there's something wrong with ours or if it's not as advertised on the booking Web site. I do know that most of those places at least have a maintenance person on staff in case something breaks, and a concierge to help with tours and shows, but I get the sense that we'd be screwed if we showed up and the room had no bed, for example. Any advice or warnings would be great.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér to Travel & Transportation around Hawaii (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A lot of beach-front condos don't have A\C. At least the one we rented on our honeymoon didn't. And it was really hot when we were there.

Most of the reputable places have actual pictures of the unit on-line, and you get what you see. You can save money doing the condo thing, and by cooking, but it's less likely to feel like the sort of luxury resort I think you're looking for by reading between the lines of your post. I mean, they're decorated by the condo owners... And our kitchen, while functional, didn't really have the best equipment for cooking... dull knives, non-stick pans that were long past needing to be thrown out, etc.

One of the nice things about Condos is privacy and smaller crowds. Our beach was very private, amazingly beautiful, and for the most part pretty empty. But, it turns out we're not beach-and-sand people, we're restaurant-and-museum people and we should have just gone to Paris or NYC.

We came home early, and the condo happily refunded our unused balance, so that was nice. The woman in the office was nice.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:54 AM on October 10, 2010

Response by poster: Just to clarify, we certainly don't need luxury per se. I probably should have worded my post differently and not said we need hotel amenities. Most of the condos do have their own pool but even that's something we could forgo for decently-priced accommodations. We discussed the possibility that the kitchen supplies could be meager and it looks like some places don't even have a stove, more or less an oven. But if we could save some money on breakfasts and lunches, that alone would be worth the extra cost, plus knowing we're staying in a place that is clean. We don't care about room size and fluffy towels and 500 cable channels on the 65" TV, but cleanliness is important.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér at 12:02 PM on October 10, 2010

Best answer: VRBO.com FTW!

These folks live and die by their ratings.
posted by k8t at 12:09 PM on October 10, 2010

I have used VRBO (though not in Hawaii) and never had a bad experience. Staying in a condo is a completely different experience from a hotel. For myself if the prices are the same, I will always take a condo over a hotel.

Reasons why I much prefer staying in an apartment or condo
- never wondering when housekeeping will show up
- if we don't want to go out for breakfast/lunch/dinner then we don't have to
- great having some nice food of my choosing in the fridge/cupboard
- usually more space to spread out and relax
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 12:38 PM on October 10, 2010

Never been to Hawaii but I have rented plenty of condos for ski trips. So I can speak to the general condo experience...

They're usually not the nicest places, think of your old college apartments. Cabinets/fixtures straight out of the 60s and the most haphazardly put together kitchens. Usually we just eat a cold breakfast and then (if we're not having lunch on the slopes) your standard deli meat lunch.

On the plus side, condos are cheaper than hotels, especially if you have a large group. And we've always had clean ones. Most of the owners hire a maid service to come in between guests. A lot of these places are actually managed as a group by a local business that rents them out (on behalf of the owners) and those are the better ones. The ones where the owners actually handle the rentals too tend to be less nice.
posted by sbutler at 12:38 PM on October 10, 2010

Seconding VRBO. We've had several good experiences renting places from there. Read the reviews; look at the pictures. I do think that the majority of condos have less fancy/less new furniture and fittings than you would find in a nice hotel, but if you're cool with that, it'll work for you.

Make sure you're clear about the cleaning policy. Some places tack on an extra fee, some places don't. Some places want you to clean the place yourself. I made that mistake once and spend the last day of my vacation doing loads of laundry and scrubbing bathrooms. Never again.

Lastly, my family has had some success with hotels that just have a refrigerator, not a full kitchenette. Having the fridge means I can do a marketing run and load it up with food for breakfast and snacks. That saves tons of dough, but we still got the amenities of a nice hotel.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:43 PM on October 10, 2010

We rented a condo in Maui last year and have nothing but good things to say about the experience. Look around online and make sure you're booking with a company and location that has favorable reviews, and you'll be fine.
posted by chrisamiller at 1:50 PM on October 10, 2010

Almost every condo in Hawaii I've stayed in was very nice. (One of them kind of smelled funny, and the spare bed we needed was not in good condition, and we ended up leaving on our own after one night.) Seriously nice. I wouldn't worry too much. Even the one with the spare bed issue was mostly okay, but I felt sorry for my cousin who got stuck with that bed.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:40 PM on October 10, 2010

The biggest difference is that the hotel offers uniformity of accommodations and service. What you see on the web site is what you get. Also, any hotel over a certain size is apt to have a professional staff on premises. Condos on the other hand can very wildly in a single building since they often do have individual owners with individual tastes. If you aren't renting a specific unit but rather a unit in a building, you might get some surprises. There will always be staff that you can call for say a plumbing emergency or something else but it is definitely not as easy as convenient as a hotel. With that said, like others above, a condo can be much cheaper and offer similar value. About 7 years ago, we stayed in a condo on the Big Island and were at most 20 feet from the ocean crashing up against the rocks. That was a helluva nice way to fall asleep each night. If I recall the room was something like ~$100/night. I couldn't imagine what a hotel would charge for that.
posted by mmascolino at 9:15 PM on October 10, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I had forgotten all about VRBO! Looks like some good options available, and most owners live nearby in case we have problems.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér at 1:00 PM on October 12, 2010

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