A common debate I see is where do I stay in Waikiki? Marriott has two different properties in Waikiki located in two different locations. One, is the more budget minded Courtyard by Marriott Waikiki Beach, while the other is the full service Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. So which one should you stay at? Let's discuss!
The Courtyard Waikiki is located on the western end of Waikiki on the corner of Kuhio Avenue and Royal Hawaiian Avenue. Kuhio Ave. is the secondary thoroughfare of Waikiki, located mauka (towards the mountain) from the better known Kalakaua Avenue. While you might think that this would make the CY more quiet, you'd be wrong. There are a number of bus lines (public & private) that go through this area. What's more, Royal Hawaiian Ave. is the shopping Mecca of Waikiki. The CY is located next to the DFS Galleria, which itself is located across the street from the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center and the Beach Walk shopping/dining district. So, there is actually quite a bit of traffic noise at the CY at all times of day and night. But it's located on the beach right? WRONG. Although the name says Waikiki Beach, the CY is actually located about 10 minutes (by foot) away from the beach. So, if being on the beach is important to you, this is not the property for you. But there are a lot of great shopping and dining options within easy walking distance of this property.
Location aside, how is the Courtyard Waikiki Beach? Well, this hotel used to be a boutique hotel called the Wyland. The hotel was formerly owned by famous marine artist Robert Wyland. His influence can still be seen throughout the property, especially in the guest rooms, which still contain his artwork. Being more of a boutique hotel, the lobby has a nice, modern look to it (sorry no pictures), though its a bit on the small side. In the lobby there is a business center, Spa Pure, Kimo Bean Coffee, a marketplace, and Spada Lobby Bar. Adjacent to the lobby is the Spada Italian restaurant and the pools (there are a small freshwater and a small saltwater pool, which is shared with the spa). The first thing you'll notice here is that the staff are consistently friendly, professional, and quick. There are two towers here, the main one with the lobby, and the other in the back across the parking lot (valet only). I've heard that the back tower is a bit more quiet than the front tower, but I think that won't make a difference... Why? Read on!
To get to your room, you'll have to go up one of two elevators in the main tower. The rooms tend to be somewhat slow and require card keys for access, which doesn't always work that well. If you have the misfortune of being put in a room next to the elevators, you'll find out that they're actually very noisy as well! But that pales in comparison to what awaits. At this property there are 3 basic room categories: standard, larger, and one-bedroom suite. The standard and large rooms are pretty much the same, with a standard style room with a small bathroom containing only a (tiny) shower stall. Want a shower/tub combo? You'll have to upgrade to the one-bedroom suite. And upgrade you must! The extra cost is minimal at about $50/night last time I stayed earlier in 2012. However, you'll get a lot more space with two TVs, two phones, a sofa, and a larger bathroom with shower/tub combo. All rooms come with free high-speed internet, but the connection is wired only. No wifi is available, nor is there any room service. Ice machines aren't available on every floor either. The biggest annoyance for me, however, are the window-mount A/C unites that this property uses for climate control. They are extremely noisy and have spotty reliability. So, if your unit does actually work, the main benefit of them is that they are so noisy, they will drown out some of the street noise!
For some sample pictures of the rooms at the CY, check out this album: Courtyard by Marriott Waikiki Beach
So, looking for something quieter on closer to the beach? The Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa is the Marriott property for you! It is located on the far east end of the main Waikiki strip on Kalakaua Avenue. It is not located directly on the beach, but right across the street from the beach. While this property says "resort" in its name, it's hardly a resort by a long shot. There are barely any amenities you'd expect in a resort, but does have a pool, pool bar, great dining options, (limited) activities, and a good spa (by Paul Brown). Guests here have the option of valet or self-parking (unlike the CY) and can even rent a car or motorcycle from the onsite Hertz and Harley locations. The unwelcome feature this property has that the CY doesn't, though is the $25/day resort fee. This fee is especially annoying for Gold & Plat Elites, as the fee entitles one to "high speed internet access, local calls, long distance/international calls up to 60 mins. per day, faxes up to 20 pages per day, daily Fitness & Cultural classes, $10 off Stand Up Paddle or Surf lesson, local newspaper and one Mai Tai drink per day."
As you can see, the resort fee is a joke, especially for Elite members. You could try to get it waived, but if not, be sure to ask about the free Mai Tai amenity. In my experience, this amenities is not mentioned to you when the rest of the resort fee amenities are explained. That being said, service does tend to be an issue at this massive property. Service is very hit or miss and can tend to be slow. Recognition of Elite status is also a bit spotty... in fact, the second time I stayed here I was questioned when I stood in the Elite line and wasn't given an Elite room key. This past time, I gave my MR card to the receptionist rather than taking risks. Beyond the spotty service, though, this property is a good one.
The property is actually split up into two towers. The main, rear tower is known as the Paoakalani Tower, which contains the lobby, porte cochere, sundries, and a Seattle's Best. The rooms in this tower are more dated than the other tower, but are still of good size and comfort. The other tower is the one fronting Kalakaua Ave, and is known as the Kealohilani Tower. This tower contains a shopping arcade, all the restaurants, the pool, the Spa, the ballrooms, and another Seattle's Best. This rooms in this tower a much nicer, and have been renovated more recently. So, while the Paoakalani rooms have a more tired green motif, while the Kealohilani rooms have a more modern, bright red & orange tropical theme (doesn't look cheap & touristy though). Regardless of category, each room has a balcony, HDTV, workstation with tech panel, refrigerator, shower/tub combo, etc. Rooms vary in size depending on tower, location and type. There are ice machines on every floor, and this location does have full room service.
Don't feel like eating in your room? The Marriott has great dining options. The resort does have it's own restaurants, the main one of which has a nightly buffet and daily breakfast buffet, which I hear is good. However, the main attractions(s) here are Sansei Seafood Restaurant (sushi) and DK Steakhouse. Both are owned by local celebrity chef DK Kodoma and share a bar with full bar service and a large wine selection put together by master sommelier Chuck Furuya. Both offer great food, and Sansei offers 50% most of the menu on Sundays. There's also a good, but decently priced Italian restaurant called Arancino di Mare, which has a good selection of pastas, pizzas, and heartier entrees. Arancino also recently began a breakfast service, serving up Italian breakfast crepes with a drink (tea, coffee, and juice) bar.
As mentioned earlier, the Waikiki Marriott is located on the far east end of the main Waikiki strip. So this means this location is on the quieter side, as the streets are less crowded. But it also means you'll be walking about 15 minutes to get to the main shopping and dining sections of Waikiki. For some samples of rooms in both the Paoakalani and Kealohilani Towers, please see the following link: Waikiki Beach Marriott
So which is for you? Let's recap:
Courtyard By Marriott Waikiki
- Central location with easy access to shopping and dining
- Far from beach, with small on-site pool
- Limited on-site dining options, with many good options nearby
- Noisy rooms with spotty climate control that may be even noisier than the streets
- Consistently friendly staff
- No resort fee
- Free WIRED high-speed internet access
- No room service, and ice machines located only in central locations
- Valet parking only
Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
- Quieter location on eastern end of Waikiki
- Good dining options on-site
- Spotty service from staff
- Room service available, with ice machines on every floor
- Larger, nicer rooms
- Valet & self-parking with options to rent on-site
- No free wifi
- Daily resort fee
- Far from main shopping & dining areas of Waikiki
Update: Courtyard Waikiki now has resort-wide wifi and it's still free!