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“Wow wow and wow...” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Waldo Arms Hotel

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Waldo Arms Hotel
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6011 Lake Rd., Kaktovik, AK 99747   |  
Hotel amenities
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Kaktovik
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Senior Contributor
34 reviews 34 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 25 cities Reviews in 25 cities
43 helpful votes 43 helpful votes
“Wow wow and wow...”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 17, 2013 via mobile

We wanted to see polar bears thats how we ended up in Kaktovik. We didnt go with any tour operators we drove to Deadhorse and took a plane with ERA to Barter Island. We pre-booked two nights at Waldos Arm with I think 8 hors of bear watching. Expensive as hell but what can you expect from a nice place in the Arctic Ocean?

How nature works our plans changed drasticly: the airstrip got flooded in Kaktovik so we got trapped in Deadhorse for three nights. We didnt even know if we can make it at all since we needsd to return our rental car to Fairbanks. We talked to Waldo and his wife Marylin(?) and they told us we can go even for an hour they will show us bears and we shouldnt worry about the price...

We ended up having a super crazy day. We finally got to a plane the last day available and had one hour or so on the island. We went to Waldos first and the little place is amazing. A container as everything else from the iutside but a warm cozy amazing place from the inside. Fresh burgers, library and so much much more.

They took us out first in a car ten in a van to see the bears and it was crazy! Polar bears everywhere. We saw at least ten different bears and got pretty close to some of them.

We almost missed or little plane but we managed to stop it from taking iff right in the middle of the strip. With a 30 years old van... Just like they do it in the movies:-)

it was one of our best experience and all we paid was 45 minutes of bear watching. They helped us with everything from the planning stage to the actual solution.

Great place with amazing people and loads of polar bears!

Thank you so much!

  • Stayed September 2012
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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16 reviews from our community

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    3
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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    3 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (5)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Senior Reviewer
8 reviews 8 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
11 helpful votes 11 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 9, 2013

Agree with kyle10014 and stanonpch's reviews.
Initially my wife and I were a little shocked/apprehensive. The hotel is a multiservice enterprise: the local restaurant/snack shop, Era agent and place for some of the local kids to hang out. In context, due to the location and limitations of supply to the area this place is a bit run down, but this is overcome by the extremely warm and welcoming hosts Walt and Merylin and their staff. It took about half an hour or so to relax as we remembered that we were there to see the bears and experience the community and accepted the hotel for what it is and why it is there.

To the bears, we were there in September 2012. There isn't any snow here at this time. The bears sleep in the gravel/sand or tundra and swim across to the bone pile. After sometime the bottom half of the bears become dirty...not that it matters but just so people know that it is not the scenes of white fluffy bears playing in powder snow or walking across ice as you might find in Churchill. This is still a truly amazing experience to see the bears and how they interact, plenty of photo taking time, don't even need much in the way of zoom because of the close vicinity to them.
Bears can be seen out on the spit as you come into land on the gravel/compacted run way. During the day the bears sleep out on the spit, viewable with binoculars from the windows of Waldo Arms, in the morning and evening there were heaps of bears at the bone pile ~20-40 bears at a time. We missed out on seeing a whale being brought in but the local fishermen were out as we were leaving.
We were there for two nights/three days and saw ~25 bears the first afternoon.
Very easy to arrange a boat tour there is always someone who can take you without notice (recommend Ketil, very knowledgeable plus has a heated cabin on his boat!), just ask Walt or Merylin.

Stayed September 2012, traveled as a couple
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Brooks, Georgia
Senior Contributor
21 reviews 21 reviews
11 hotel reviews
Reviews in 13 cities Reviews in 13 cities
24 helpful votes 24 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed November 20, 2012

Not many choices in Kaktovik but this is the best choice. The Bed & Breakfast is closed and for sale and the other hotel looks nicer but has no charm or character. The Waldo Arms was a pleasant surprise, very comfortable, clean, warm, and the food was great. What ever we needed they did their best to provide it. Don't be concerned about the exterior appearance. I would stay here again anytime.

Room Tip: If you can get a private room you will have room on the other bed to put your "stuff" came...
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  • Stayed September 2012, traveled with friends
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Homer, Alaska
Contributor
15 reviews 15 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 13, 2012

Waldo Arms in Kaktovik is exactly how the other reviews describe it! One of a kind but not to be missed!
I stayed there twice over the past couple months and had a wonderful experience. The owners, Walt & Merylin are very gracious and have lots and lots of stories to tell. The employees Greg, Chris & Sue are nice, fun and very accommodating. Food is plentiful and pretty much whatever you want. So you won't go hungry or get bored. There are usually many other guests that gather in the common area and chat about their adventures. Someone is always willing to get up before dawn to take you out to the bone pile to watch the Polar Bears and sunrise.
It is an amazing place to be able to get so close to the huge, beautiful polar bears!!! Locals with boats will even take you out (for a charge) to the barrier islands to see them up close and personal, or watch them swim right past the boat. What a thrill!!! Also a good place to possibly see the beutiful Northern Lights!
ALl the reveiws are correct in their descriptions of the Waldo Arms. But remember you are in an isolated village at the top of Alaska and it's amazing that you are provided with all the things you get TV, wi-fi, indoor plumbing, running water, food, drinks (non-alcoholic) and friendly service!!!!
I gave them an excellent rating because in that isolated environment it's amazing, and I have travelled to many of the Alaskan native villages.
Go, ENJOY!

  • Stayed October 2012, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Denver, North Carolina
Top Contributor
118 reviews 118 reviews
21 hotel reviews
Reviews in 49 cities Reviews in 49 cities
74 helpful votes 74 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed October 9, 2012 via mobile

So you go to kaktovik village on Barter Island to see polar bears. I think it is the most northern village in North America. It is inhabited year round by about 250 residents, most natives. They are subsistence livers. Waldo Arms is the best of two places to stay. When you first drive up, you are shell-shocked. I guarantee if your reading trip advisor, you never stayed anywhere like this in the US. It is a ram- shackle, jury-rigged complex of modular structures and metal storage containers. But it has plenty of hot water for showers, acceptable bathrooms, and acceptable rooms. The food and hospitality are excellent. And after two days of being outside touring, photographing, etc, you are happy to come back to the Waldo for a shower, some coffee, a great meal, and some excellent conversation with staff, locals, or fellow guests. Coffee,,snacks,soft drinks available 24/7. And where else can you wake up,at 3 am, go out to the common sitting area, and see the entrance way door being jammed with a shovel to prevent polar bears from coming inside. It is an experience you must have. I would go back.

Stayed September 2012, traveled with friends
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
NYC
Top Contributor
64 reviews 64 reviews
33 hotel reviews
Reviews in 38 cities Reviews in 38 cities
64 helpful votes 64 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed October 27, 2010

This is a tough place to review. Context is everything. You are in the Beaufort Sea and 150 miles from Prudhoe Bay which is 240 miles from nowhere. Remote doesn't begin to describe it. Nothing is easy this far north. Goods are a fortune to import, energy is rough to generate, plumbing is a challenge... There is one other lodging option as of this writing, and I did not see it but everyone who offered me an opinion felt Waldo Arms is the better choice.

What you can expect: Warmth and smiles from the staff; cleaniliness; hearty meals; good location as a base for setting off to see the bears and bone pile (if you are here, you know what that is); warm room and working facilities; a washing machine if you need it. Wireless internet (albeit a slow connection). Oh--a great experience of a lifetime!

What you should not expect: room service, phones, a swimming pool, valet parking, spa services. This is not a hotel like any other you've likely stayed in. It is a series of trailors and hodge-podge shack-like structures held together with lots of duct tape, plywood patches, and vigilent handimen who basically keep up best as possible with new leaks, holes, things that come loose or fall down or apart, etc. It is rudimentary. It is coarse. You may have to walk through a group bathroom to get to your room.

Bottom line: open your mind, expect nothing and be surprised by how quickly you can adjust to this unique inn at the end of the world. Everyone there has a story worth hearing and wisdom to share if you are willing to listen.

(Note: The ratings I give take into account the location and context of the place. If it were anywhere in the lower 48...well... the point is that the Waldo Arms isn't in the lower 48 so it gets its own rating scale.)

  • Stayed October 2010
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 2 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Calif.
Senior Reviewer
10 reviews 10 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
17 helpful votes 17 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed September 25, 2009

I hesitate to write this review. You would NEVER stop at a place like this in the lower 48
States. However, when you are far above the Arctic Circle in a 300 person Inupiat village its quite a different story. The Waldo Arms is a series of mobilehome/modular structures
joined together with a liberal use of unfinished plywood. After making your way though a
maze of running and not running trucks and heavy equiptment and are finally inside,
it's rather cozy. The cook will cook anything you ask for, if he has the ingredients and it's on the menu, any time you want it. The locals come in to buy cheeseburgers & fries.
The rooms are not en-suite. All are twin bedded. Amazingly, ours had flat screen TV w/cable. Walt, the 70 year old owner is a legendary bush-pilot who will meet your plane,
take you out at 4 A.M. in his pick-up, bring along a thermos of hot coffee and show you
the bears, which, after all is why you came to Barter Island in the first place. If you've never stayed in a rustic mountain cabin, a backpacker lodge or an older RV, Waldo Arms is not for you. Check out the native-owned Marsh Creek Inn on the web for a much newer
but somewhat less convivial environment. Note #1: Bear viewing is not included at Marsh Creek. Note #2: No alcohol is allowed in the Village of Kaktovik.

Stayed September 2009, traveled as a couple
Was this review helpful? Yes 12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Waldo Arms Hotel

Address: 6011 Lake Rd., Kaktovik, AK 99747
Location: United States > Alaska > Kaktovik
Amenities:
Restaurant
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Kaktovik
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 13
Also Known As:
Waldo Arms Hotel Kaktovik, Alaska

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