Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

The Big Island of Hawaii’s east coast welcomed its first branded hotel earlier this week when the Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo officially celebrated its opening as a DoubleTree by Hilton property Nov. 10.

Work on a $30 million renovation at the 320-room, bayfront hotel has been underway much of this year, and while guests have been staying at the property throughout some of the overhaul, work to elevate the product to DoubleTree by Hilton standards wrapped up only recently.

Upgrades included renovation to all of the public spaces, meetings spaces, and guestrooms. According to general manager Phyllis Branco, the improvement effort “touched everything.”

“Everything is brand new: carpet, drapes, all the case pieces,” she said of the guestrooms. “We’ve got 40-inch TVs, all the bells, whistles and plugs for all of people’s devices. They really did a nice job trying to get all the creature comforts for the guests.”

The 70-acre property, which was acquired by Honolulu-based Tower Development in 2015, will continue to be managed by Aqua-Aston Hospitality and provides the Big Island’s eastern coast with a name-brand product that Branco believes travelers can trust.

“This is a really big deal for Hilo, because Hilo in the past has not had a full-service, branded property,” she explained. “Being with Hilton, specifically DoubleTree, that just ensures a quality experience for the guests.”

Branco said visitors may have hesitated to stay in Hilo previously, because they didn’t know the region and didn’t know much about the independent hotels on offer there, “So this is totally going to change the visitor experience in Hilo.”

Just a 45-minute drive from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hilo offers travelers not only close proximity to the Island of Hawaii’s most popular geological attractions but also a range of botanical gardens and stunning waterfalls.

Branco said at the moment guests are averaging around 1.5 nights at the property, but she’s hopeful that number can improve to two or three nights and become part of longer, seven- or even 10-night stays on the island that would also include the popular beaches and resorts of the western Kona coast.

“We certainly think there’s enough to come over on this side for three nights,” said Branco, noting that the island’s east coast is popular for adventure seekers. “Do the volcano. Do the gardens. Do the waterfalls. Do all those things and just enjoy the Hilo lifestyle.”

Rack room rates at the Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo — a DoubleTree by Hilton start at $309 a night. 

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