I am giving this hotel a "poor" rating because of what you get for the price. Generally, in the universe of hotels, the New Otani is probably "average" or just below average. But when the price hovers around $400 per night (then add valet parking, the "resort fee" for which you get the use of beach towels and spotty internet and not much else that I could see, and the cost of having to eat out for most meals for the term of the stay to that per-night cost), the experience should be, at the very least, very good. This was not. We've stayed at the Grand Hyatt and at Kuhio Shores condos on Kauai, the Ritz on Maui, and Horizon House on the Big Island, and by comparison the New Otani has the terrible honor of having been the most expensive and the worst - by far - of the bunch.
The view from the Queen suite was a show-stopper, that's true. But after staying there 9 (yes, that's nine) days, my perspective is that we were pretty much paying only for that view.
The staff was - with a couple of exceptions - not very friendly, or very helpful. There was one valet (mentioned in other reviews on Yelp, I noticed today) who was very nice, helpful by offering tips for snorkel sites and directions, and who was also very interesting and talked with us about the hotel's (in my opinion short-sighted and antiquated) policy of not permitting staff to have tattoos showing even when the tattoos are expressions of native culture being worn by Hawaiian people. He was kind and welcoming to us, and actually remembered that we were guests there when we saw him day after day, unlike his co-workers.
The other valets seemed annoyed by us. At other hotels we've stayed at, valets would help (or at least offer to help) with our snorkeling equipment and bags from our day trips; here, they uniformly did not ask whether we needed help, and would stand there as we struggled to get everything out of the car quickly so as not to hold up the valet line. A couple of the valets either couldn't remember or pretended that they didn't remember that we were actually guests (asking us if we were checking in when we'd been staying there almost a week and had encountered this particular person multiple times), and that we were together (asking my partner for her valet ticket number, and then asking me for mine, even though we were standing inches apart, had come down the stairs together, were engaged in conversation with each other, and were pretty obviously "together" - traveling together at least, even if these individuals didn't recognize us as a couple).
Other staff members questioned my request for four beach towels for two of us ("Four of you in your room?!" "Um, no, but as you can see I'm a larger person, so it's helpful for me to have two towels..." and do I really need to explain this to you when I'm standing right in front of you, there is a closet full of towels right there next to us, and I've only asked for 4 of them for 2 people for a day of swimming, which doesn't seem excessive?). Another gave us partial and incorrect information about the hotel restaurants. The beachfront restaurant, while always crowded for dinner, had limited hours and likewise limited and also somewhat strange food options (very little for the vegetarian; didn't even have any bread that they could serve with her paltry iceberg salad). The hotel has a very limited room service menu and room service hours. The hotel tower is also motel-like in that the doors to each room exited to the outside, and the hallways ringed an interior courtyard-type area. The venting from the hotel restaurants apparently goes up that interior courtyard, so each day when we left the room we were greeted with different but equally overpowering smells - morning fried bacon, afternoon tempura, evening steak smells. This wasn't a little waft. This was full-on, standing outside a restaurant kitchen vent stink, which was at times a bit nauseating.
This next point I make carefully. We are from Seattle, we have traveled and are used to interacting with friends, clients, and other people in the world for whom English is not a first language, and we made the reservation perfectly aware that we were going to a Japanese-owned hotel. We expected many of the staff might speak English as a second (or third, fourth, so on) language, and that in this context we would be the ones with the accents. It was, however, surprisingly and exceedingly difficult to obtain information from some staff members including the gentleman who checked us out, because of a language barrier. He literally could not communicate with us about our questions about the bill, and there was no one else there with whom we could speak at the time. Given the bill we were being asked to sign was in the mid-four figures, and that the hotel is not advertised as being exclusively Japanese, we were surprised that there was not an English-speaking front desk person available when some number of the people checking in or out would, presumably, not be able to speak Japanese.
Another front desk staff member was, frankly, rude and not helpful when we (gasp!) wanted information about the 3:30 AM fire alarms that went off one night (Hi, front desk? The fire alarm just went off, and we started to leave but noticed no one else left their rooms. Is there a fire somewhere? Fire alarm - is there a fire? Fire? No fire? If you're sure it wasn't a fire, do you know why the alarm went off? Was the alarm just in our room? Oh, you were testing them? In the middle of the night? Oh, not testing, but resetting them? What does that mean - are the alarms broken? Wait - I hear it on the other side of the hotel now - are you sure there's no fire? Ok, then, can you tell me when the weird residual static noise emanating from the alarm speaker in the ceiling of our room will stop, so we can get some sleep? No? Can you do anything to stop it? No? Ok, thanks, bye).
The housekeeping staff did a good job, and the day we checked out we left a tip for them, accordingly.
As other reviewers have noted about their rooms, our room (a suite in the "new, renovated" area) smelled strongly of mildew. Given housekeeping seemed to do a good cleaning each day, we could not determine the source of the smell. In the end we opined it was the a/c system, but who knows.
The beach in back of the hotel was lovely. We watched the sunset there almost every evening, and the crowd gathered there was a nice mix of locals, others who live on the island, and tourists. I recommend reef shoes if you enter the beach in the middle to the left. The right is more sandy. We swam a bit there, but we snorkeled elsewhere.
As others also state, the hotel is on the quiet end of Waikiki. Again, the view from our room was stunning, of the ocean and downtown. However - and this is of course no reflection on the hotel - the jellyfish were visiting our first few days, and because I was anxious to get in the water we actually went and double-stayed one night at the Hilton Hawaiian Village so we could have use of their saltwater lagoon and other pools. At the Hilton we stayed in a tower with its own pool, not far from the lagoons, and paid over $100 less than we did for the New Otani room. For those who haven't visited Waikiki before - the walking distance between the New Otani and the hotels at the top of the strip (Hilton Village, Royal Hawaiian) is around a mile, but in the heat and the humidity and depending on what you are carrying and your level of activity, the walk may or may not be something you are up for multiple times per day. We ended up driving back and forth to visit restaurants, etc. Information about buses and taxis were not readily available at the New Otani. The "travel desk" was most often empty.
We tried to borrow or rent one of the paddle boards stored on the side of the hotel. The front desk person couldn't help us, and referred us to the "travel desk," gesturing to the empty table across the lobby. We never ended up in the lobby when the mysterious travel desk person was there, so no paddle board for us. (At least not there; we rented one at the Hilton, $30 for an hour, but it was fun and worth it).
The convenience store onsite was a sad, sad step-down from the 39 ABC Stores in Waikiki. We wistfully wished for an ABC Store onsite.
(There is no swimming pool - the very good is for the beach onsite).
In the end, the view was breathtaking, but the absence of helpful service and enjoyable food options on-site rendered this place an overpriced mistake. If you stay and, as some on Yelp have, can get some super deal where you are paying $150 or less per night, then you might be getting what you pay for. But the postcard view wasn't worth the $400+ per night; this hotel just doesn't offer what you expect when you are paying that much. We will choose more wisely next time, and we won't stay at the New Otani again.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.