Trains and Boats: Hilton Waikoloa’s Fun, Free, (and Efficient) Transit System

I think I mentioned before that during our recent trip to Hawaii, we didn’t rent a car for the first portion of the vacation. Why? Well, given that car rentals at that time of year around Christmas-New Year’s run approximately $1300 for the week, it became somewhat cost-prohibitive. We were going to the Big Island to relax anyway, so what better way to relax than to skip the rental car and restrict oneself to the large resort that we booked for that very reason. And as you can see from my posts this week (with more to come about said R&R), we did a pretty good job at doing just that.

Happy Holidays from the Hilton Waikoloa monorail!

Happy Holidays from the Hilton Waikoloa monorail!

The canal boat tram at the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort.

The canal boat tram at the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort.

However, the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort is a large (62-acre) resort. It’s  near-impossible to get around to get all that relaxing done without some sort of transit system, so it’s a good thing that they have an extensive tram system in the form of a monorail (daily from 6 a.m. to Midnight) and canal boats (rumored to have been built by Disney back in the day before the resort was purchased by Hilton, though I cannot find anything online to confirm this).

A view from one of the canal boats at the Hilton Waikoloa. Sit back and enjoy the ride!

A view from one of the canal boats at the Hilton Waikoloa. Sit back and enjoy the ride!

While some take to the popular travel sites to complain that the Hilton’s transportation system is “slow” and “unpredictable,” we prefer to look at it much differently. We find that the tram systems force us to get on Island Time. Read: Slow down and enjoy our vacation… and the ride! Though if you must be on a “schedule” then you can check monitors for the next scheduled pick-up at or near most train-boat combo stops.

Speaking of rides, I recommend a ride on the canal boats in the evening after dinner (boats run daily from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.). In fact, we did this nightly. We’d grab a drink from the room (or you can buy one at the “Boat Drinks” stand at the Boat Landing Cantina), take a seat in the open-air area of the boat, and simply look up. We couldn’t believe how incredible the view of the sky is from this part of the planet. It’ll literally leave you star-struck, I promise.

T enjoys the ride on (and view from) one of Hilton Waikoloa's canal boats.

T enjoys the ride on (and view from) one of Hilton Waikoloa’s canal boats.

Hilton Waikoloa’s transportation staff are nothing short of exceptional, professional, and friendly. Our family has befriended a few members of the staff over our three visits in these last 18 months that we’ve stayed at the resort, mostly because T loves riding those trains and boats. And turns out, the staff seems to have taking a liking to T as well.

T "driving" the monorail at the Hilton Waikoloa. That's in quotes because it's more like he got to ride up in the front of the train than anything really (both I and the staff person accompanied us the entire time while he "drove."

T “driving” the monorail at the Hilton Waikoloa. That’s in quotes because it’s more like he got to ride up in the front of the train than anything really. Both I and the staff person accompanied T the entire time while he “drove.” (Spring 2012)

There's C on the "little TV," what T calls the security cameras on the Hilton Waikoloa's monorail. T watched the closed-circuit TVs more than anything as he "drove" the train. This was on our previous trip in Spring 2012.

There’s C on the “little TV,” what T calls the security cameras on the Hilton Waikoloa’s monorail. T watched the closed-circuit TVs more than anything as he “drove” the train. This was during our previous trip in Spring 2012.

T gives Hilton Waikoloa guests permission to come aboard the canal boat tram one evening during our most recent vacation.

T gives Hilton Waikoloa guests permission to come aboard the canal boat tram one evening during our most recent vacation.

Did I say T liked riding the trains and boats? Well, let’s just say that as with the United cockpit visit, so long as you ask politely, oftentimes you’ll be surprised at what you might be allowed to experience. Turns out that the Hilton transportation staff is more than willing to allow keiki a hand at “driving” the various tram vehicles. Don’t worry… again, think Disneyland rides. Both the train and boat systems run on set tracks with a few built-in computer programs that make the entire system fairly automatic. And of course, Hilton transportation staff are standing by (literally standing right next to the child) to operate the heavy machinery portions of the transportation tasks (tying off the boats to docks, engine rev-ups and power downs, train brakes and throttles, etc.) and in case of emergency.

T and his transportation friend Andrew aboard a canal boat at the Hilton Waikoloa.

T and his transportation friend Andrew aboard a canal boat at the Hilton Waikoloa.

T gives the boat the go-sign as he and a "vacation friend" co-captain a canal boat at the Hilton Waikoloa.

T gives the go-sign as he and a “vacation friend” co-captain a canal boat at the Hilton Waikoloa.

Yummy! Good work, T! I wish I was paid in cookies.

Yummy! Good work, T! I wish someone paid me in cookies.

While T didn’t have an opportunity to drive the train on this visit (as he did last Spring), he did get to captain the boats. Several times. He captained the boat solo. He co-captained with a “friend” he met at the resort. He even got to do two full loops one evening when the boat wasn’t too busy (and no other kids wanted to drive). One evening, he even received a special delivery from his friends down at transportation for all of his “hard work” (thanks again for the cookies, Crystal!).

"Next stop, lower lobby!" T playing "boat" after our Spring 2012 vacation at the Hilton Waikoloa Village.

“Next stop, lower lobby!” T playing “boat” after our Spring 2012 vacation at the Hilton Waikoloa Village.

Wait, let me properly dock the boat before you come aboard... T's attention to detail in his pretend play is so completely awesome!

Wait, let T properly dock the boat before you board. T’s attention to detail in his pretend play is so completely awesome!

All aboard who's coming aboard! T inviting passengers onto his "boat tram."

Permission to come aboard? Yes! T inviting me (a passenger) onto his “boat tram” after our Spring 2012 trip to the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort.

Oh, and the boat driving doesn’t end there. After our Spring 2012 trip, T came home and almost immediately set up his own version of the boat tram in his bedroom, complete with a boat dock to tie-off at! I absolutely love my child’s creativity, and I hope it never ends. It also is a huge testament of proof that taking T on vacations with us hasn’t and isn’t a waste of time or experience. Apparently, T is right there making memories along with us and despite his “young age” is able to remember and retell the good times from his travels in his own special ways. And this means the world to us.

Shaka! T and C say aloha to Andrew at the end of our Spring 2012 trip.

Shaka! T and C say Aloha to Andrew at the end of our Spring 2012 trip.

Another fun trip thanks to Andrew, a long-time staff member at the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort.

Another fun trip thanks to Andrew, a long-time staff member at the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort. Mahalo for all the great times and wonderful memories!

After formally checking out, T takes one last spin with Crystal before we say Aloha to the Big Island. Mahalo again, Crystal!

After formally checking out of the Hilton during our recent stay at the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort, T takes one last spin on the boat. And guess who just happened to be driving? Mahalo again, Crystal!

I know this entire blog post reads as a huge thank you note to the Hilton Waikoloa’s transportation staff. Well, that’s because it is. Mahalo again, specifically to Andrew and Crystal, for making our time spent on the resort’s transportation system fun, relaxing, and memorable. You did so much more than move us to and from points A and B (and XYZ in between, or nowhere in particular at all most times), though I suspect you already know this given our ride frequency (nightly, sometimes twice-nightly!). Keep on moving, and we’ll see you again next time! Shaka!

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2 responses to “Trains and Boats: Hilton Waikoloa’s Fun, Free, (and Efficient) Transit System

  1. Pingback: T’s “Vacation Friends” | Real Mom Time (RMT)

  2. Pingback: Aloha, Take Two! | Real Mom Time (RMT)

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