We recently stayed for a month in a vacation rental condo in Scandia Towers in Honolulu, Hawaii. While I wrote reviews of the other Hawaii condo buildings we stayed at during our trip (here and here), I debated whether to write about Scandia Towers, because it’s a small building, and there’s truly not much to talk about in terms of amenities.
Still, it’s clear that the small building has a quite a few vacation rentals, and others might be wondering how it stacks up compared to other Waikiki rentals. If you’re considering booking a vacation rental in Scandia Towers, read on to see what the building and location is like.
Scandia Towers’ biggest selling point is the location: just a block from the calm, child-friendly lagoon at Kuhio Beach, a couple blocks from Honolulu Zoo, and within easy walking distance of most Waikiki attractions.
The location was nice, though we found that we preferred the beaches further into Waikiki, and closer to Diamond Head for swimming. It may have been partially due to the nearby construction, but the Kuhio Beach lagoon was often dirty and offered a small sand beach (also often dirty) to throw down towels, causing it to become crowded more quickly than nearby areas. Still, it was a quick walk in either direction to find a nicer beach (albeit less protected from the waves).
Situated on the Diamond Head side of Waikiki, it’s about 25-30 minutes of walking to get to the opposite side of Waikiki. Occasionally I opted for an Uber, but it’s not a difficult walk. In the evenings, we loved starting around Kuhio Beach and walking along the beach all the way to the Hilton Hawaiian Village (and just as frequently contemplated sneaking into their pools!).
Scandia Tower Amenities
First off, no the building does not have a pool. We knew this when we booked, but as the month wore on, we did end up wishing that we’d looked harder for a building with a pool that was within our budget.
Beyond that, the major amenity here is on-site parking, which allowed us to rent a car for a couple weeks and explore the island. (Do double check before you book a condo here that your unit has its own parking spot, but it seems that most do).
The building is built up from street level to create a semi-basement parking garage, as well as spots on the first level around the small lobby of the building. Because of this, the parking lot can be tight and best suited to compact cars, but you’re unlikely to have issues unless you rent a large SUV.
The building is secured by key fob entry, and once you’re inside the small lobby, you’ll need to use your fob to call the elevator as well. It felt very secure, though it would have been nice to to be able to buzz in delivery drivers. Still, in such a small building, it’s hardly a trek to meet them at the street.
There’s one elevator, and easily accessible stairs. Because it’s not a large building, we rarely had to wait long for the elevator, though you might end up waiting during peak tourist seasons. The lobby is tiny, with only the postal boxes, a bench, and a small bookcase to leave or take a book. This is the extent of the public spaces in the building.
Each floor of the building has a trash chute, which is convenient, but frequently smelly. Management had notes posted about proper trash disposal, but it didn’t seem to help. Our unit’s door was directly across from the trash chute, so it could be smelly when we stepped out the door, but fortunately the smell very rarely infiltrated the apartment.
Finally, while not quite a building amenity, food trucks were set up right beside the building, making for an extremely easy dinner if you don’t feel like going out.
Scandia Tower Condos
Scandia Towers was built in 1968, and includes 42 units across 12 floors. It’s likely that all units have seen some level of renovation since. The building does show its age with drab, dated public areas.
Most units are 2 bed, 2 bath, though some units appear to have higher square footage than the condo we rented. All units include balconies. Unfortunately, with larger buildings between the tower and the beach, I’m not sure any of Scandia Tower’s units have views.
Condo interiors will obviously vary according to how recently they’ve been renovated and how the owner has furnished them, but here’s what ours was like:
Our rental was a 2 bed, 2 bath that had been renovated relatively recently. Some areas like the windows betrayed the age of the building, but overall it felt clean and reasonably modern.
Our balcony faced the beach…but the view was completely obscured by several taller buildings. Still the balcony was spacious and a nice enough spot to eat dinner, work on laptops, or hang out.
The kitchen and living area wasn’t huge, but large enough for our group of 3. The owner had obviously made the choice to install a washer and dryer rather than a dishwasher in the limited space available. With a month-long stay, we’d specifically searched for a unit with a washer/dryer, and didn’t much miss having a dishwasher with so many good restaurants in Honolulu.
The master bedroom was spacious, and the second bedroom, though smaller, still had a sizeable closet.
Both bathrooms, however, were tiny. The images look weirdly cropped, but it’s all that would fit in the frame even with my phone’s wide angle setting on.
The Verdict: Would I Stay at Scandia Towers Again?
Our stay was okay, but I’d look for a different vacation rental with better amenities, and likely a different location if booking again.
Especially during a long stay, you start to miss the amenities that come with larger condo buildings. It was also a bit of a bummer not to have any kind of view. Again, to be clear, we did know all of these things before booking; we booked only about a month ahead of time, and simply didn’t have many choices in our budget range.
We also weren’t ultimately that impressed with the location. Our stay occurred during March 2021, when travel to Hawaii was rebounding, and a surge of spring breakers crowded the beaches. Though tourism was still below pre-pandemic levels, Waikiki beaches and sidewalks were packed, and nights were punctuated by the sounds of drunken singing and constant “woos.”
Which is to say, this is not the location to escape the crowds. It’s true that you’ll be hard pressed to find solitude in Waikiki– but if I had to do it again, I’d probably explore my options in a location slightly outside of Waikiki.
Alternatives to Scandia Towers
Ala Moana end of Waikiki
The other end of Waikiki and the adjacent Ala Moana area are just as conveniently located, but can be a bit less crowded. Ala Moana beach is great, and was much less packed than Waikiki beaches during our stay. If you’re traveling with kids, there’s two calm lagoons in the area: Magic Island Lagoon, and the Hilton Lagoon (which despite being managed by Hilton, is part of the public beach and open to all).
There’s a reason why the Illikai condo building is so popular–the amenities, views and location are superb. (Can you tell I regret not renting here instead?).
Diamond Head Neighborhood
If you’re looking for proximity to Diamond Head, and a more laid-back experience that’s still close to Waikiki, the Diamond Head neighborhood is perfect. With a leafy, residential feel, there’s a couple lovely nearby parks, and many properties with ocean views. You’ll find some nice condos in addition to drool worthy luxury homes (I can’t stop thinking about this beauty).
Ultimately it’s up to you! Scandia Towers isn’t a bad choice, it depends on what you’re looking for in a rental, your budget, and of course what else is available for your travel dates. I do think that if you’re planning ahead, there are nicer buildings available in the same price range.