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Hawaii: Hilo hopes to woo Kona visitors with the east coast's first branded hotel

Hawaii: Hilo hopes to woo Kona visitors with the east coast's first branded hotel
The upgraded Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo will be the first branded hotel (DoubleTree by Hilton) on the island's eastern side. (Paul Zizka/Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau)

Looking for a reason to stay on the Hilo side of the Big Island? The multimillion-dollar renovation of the one-time Hilo Naniloa Hotel can provide 312 of them. Big upgrades are underway at the hotel which by late October will be renamed the Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo.

The property will be marketed as a DoubleTree by Hilton, making it the first branded hotel on the east side of the island. And that's a big deal.

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Following a multimillion-dollar makeover, the Grand Naniloa in Hilo will show off its new look in late October.
Following a multimillion-dollar makeover, the Grand Naniloa in Hilo will show off its new look in late October. (Aqua-Aston Hospitality)

"Brand has so much significance," Ross Birch, head of the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau, says. Until now, Birch called Hilo "a drive-through destination" for people staying at resorts on the island's west coast.

But the DoubleTree stands to change all that.

"A 3 to 3 ½ star hotel is not just something nice, but it's something that's going to be needed if Hilo wants to embrace the tourism industry," Birch says.

Lush foliage and stunning waterfalls are the result of frequent rainfall along the east side of Hawaii Island. This idyllic scene is along the Wailuku River just a few minutes from downtown Hilo.
Lush foliage and stunning waterfalls are the result of frequent rainfall along the east side of Hawaii Island. This idyllic scene is along the Wailuku River just a few minutes from downtown Hilo. (Dustin Lefevre / Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau)

There are more reasons  to make Hilo the base for exploring Hawaii Island too. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a mere 45 minutes away. And given that Hilo is on the rainier side of the island, lush greenery and waterfalls abound.

With the DoubleTree branding, the Grand Naniloa will boast a new fitness center and restaurant. The hotel will also offer free wi-fi and a free daily round of golf on the adjoining nine-hole course.

Rooms at the Grand Naniloa in Hilo will be considerably cheaper than on the more-visited Kona side of the island. Weekday rates will start at $139 a night.
Rooms at the Grand Naniloa in Hilo will be considerably cheaper than on the more-visited Kona side of the island. Weekday rates will start at $139 a night. (Aqua Aston Hospitality)

Prices for standard rooms start at $139 weekdays and $159 weekends, well below the going rate at the big resorts on the Kona Coast.

With nonstop flights from LAX, Kona International Airport (KOA) on the island's west side receives the majority of passengers. Birch said locals would like to see more flights into the Hilo airport (ITO).

"It's not going to happen unless we have accommodation that those individuals would stay in at least one or two nights," he explains. "The airlines won't move unless the demand goes with it."

Info: Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo, (808) 969-3333

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