Originally a Nikko hotel, the Doubletree by Hilton Naha Shuri Castle was rebranded in July 2016 with all rooms undergoing renovation – a process that was completed in April this year. With 333 rooms and suites, this four-star upscale hotel is one of the largest in Okinawa.
WHERE IS IT?
In the main town of Naha but slightly out of the downtown district, on a hill that leads up to the World Heritage Shuri Castle. This is a USP for the hotel, which boasts better views than any of its competitors across the city and island as a result (a recent government ordinance has stopped new skyscrapers being built near the castle). Naha International Airport is 30 minutes away by taxi (¥2,000-2,500/US$18-22), or take the Yui monorail from the airport to Asato station (¥300/US$2.7) and a taxi to the hotel from there (¥700/US$6.5).
An hourly shuttle bus (costing 100 yen/US$1) is available in the evenings to Makashi monorail station near the top of Kokusai-dori Street, the main downtown focal point for shopping and eating. An entrance onto the fast Okinawa Expressway that travels the length of the island is also only minutes away if you are using a hire car.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
A gleaming white, 19-storey building with no comparably tall structures nearby, the hotel has a layout that is initially slightly confusing but easy to grasp once you’ve explored it. The lifts go to floor 20 (there’s no floor 13), but the main lobby entrance is actually on level 4 – because of the hotel’s hillside location there are three floors below the lobby.
First impressions are of a very busy property, with groups frequently milling about in the lobby. However, there were always enough staff ready and willing to provide assistance – a combination of typical Japanese service quality and Hilton’s own emphasis on personable, friendly help on call at any time.
All four room types utilise twin beds and there are family rooms, wheelchair accessible rooms and a tatami family suite. Like all Okinawa’s hotels, leisure is the key income market, but business travellers and event delegates are also courted and catered for with finesse.
I was in a Twin Premium room on the 17th floor – the premium rooms are on the higher floors for better views. At 30 sqm it was compact, but in typically Japanese fashion everything was neatly designed to make limited dimensions seem spacious.
The standard rectangular floor plan followed the usual blueprint of short entrance corridor with wardrobe on one side and bathroom on the other, then beds facing a wall-mounted TV and wood-veneered bench-shelf-work table. A single sofa chair with small round coffee table was next to the bay window, which was a bonus as that provided a wider view – a real highlight, as you can see right across the city to the ocean, and even as far as the Kerama Islands in the west.
The décor was reds, browns and beiges – the Doubletree style is to use elements from local cultural themes, and these included coral patterns in the carpets and the red colouring matching that of the lacquer used at the World Heritage Shuri Castle nearby.
The sideboard-cum-work area was just big enough for a laptop but not somewhere you could spend any length of time working. Electrical sockets were plentiful around the room, but were all the twin flat-pin variety so adapters may be required (they are available from the front desk if you’ve forgotten yours or need extras).
Between the two queen beds (with thick, comfortable mattresses) was a digital alarm clock with USB port, plus clearly marked master light switches and powerful spot reading lights on both sides. The room also offered an empty mini fridge, kettle for instant coffee/tea, iron and ironing board, plus a good-sized safe.
The bathroom was tiny but functional, with Crabtree & Evelyn products and a combination bath-shower. I’m usually disappointed to see these in a modern hotel room, but this one was spacious, with excellent grip strips on the floor of the bath to stop you slipping, a large shower curtain (that for once stopped any spillage) and a powerful showerhead.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS
The three restaurants include the Grand Castle Café and Dining on the lobby level, offering buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner; and one floor down (3/F) the Shunten Chinese restaurant (Cantonese) and Fuji Japanese restaurant (Okinawan and Kyushu cuisine). Private rooms are available in all three eating establishments. On the 20th floor is the dark, plush Sunset Lounge, a “sky bar” with possibly the most expansive views in Okinawa.
There are a total of ten meeting rooms, most located on the second floor, where you’ll find the Shuri ballroom (568 sqm with room for 400+ people) and Shurei ballroom (448 sqm). There is garden space and a wedding chapel on the ground floor, but the highlight event space is the 20/F Sky View Plaza, whose 300 sqm area provides panoramic views to the north and south.
There is no fitness room, but on the ground floor are three outdoor swimming pools, one of which is 25 metres long and is the largest hotel pool on the island. It’s only open 10am-6pm though. In the lobby are two privately run shops selling coral and pearl jewellery, and there’s a Family Mart convenience store here too, selling snacks, suncream and other useful knick-knacks.
Its location close to but just outside the bustling city centre is a real plus, and the service levels are excellent. A reliably good experience at the price point makes this a rightfully popular choice for travellers to this Japanese island.
Internet rates for a midweek stay in a Twin Premium room in mid-November start from ¥15,500 (US$143) per night.
1-132-1 Shuri Yamagawa-cho, Naha-shi, Okinawa 9038601; tel +81 098 886 5454; doubletree3.hilton.com