In my previous post, I wrote about Marriott's two Waikiki properties. This time, however, I will be writing about Marriott's superb West Oahu property: the JW Marriott Ihilani at the Ko'olina. For those wanting to stay at an upscale property on Oahu with great amenities and no resort fee (for now), Ihilani is the Marriott property for you! Or is it? That depends... let's discuss!
If the Ihilani is so great, why wouldn't you want to stay there? Well, for starters, it's location in the Ko'olina resort is far away from the main shopping & dining centers in Waikiki and downtown Honolulu. In fact, it'll take you 45 minutes to 2 hours (depending on traffic) to get to Ko'olina from inside Waikiki. So, Ko'olina is an isolated resort located on Oahu's west side in an area known as Honokai Hale. The nearest shopping and dining is going to be Oahu's second city of Kapolei. Here you'll find a few places to eat (local places & chains), as well as a few shops. Especially important here for those staying at MVC or as timeshare owners at Aulani are Costco, Target, and Walmart. However, the shopping and dining pales in comparison to Oahu's urban core. That will change in the coming years, though, as Kapolei continues to evolve and more shops and restaurants open. That being said, if you're looking for some nightlife, this isn't the area for you. If you want lots of shops and restaurants, then Ko'olina isn't for you either. However, if you're looking for a quiet, relaxing, luxurious resort, then the Ihilani is for you. If you plan on driving a lot and don't mind being away from Waikiki, then the Ihilani is also an option for you.
As already mentioned, Ihilani is located in the Ko'olina resort, which is a master planned resort community comprised of hotels, timeshares, a retail area, a marina, a golf course, single family homes, condos, and beaches. There are three man-made lagoons in the resort, all of which are opened to the public and are a favorite hangout for local people. The Ihilani is located on the first lagoon between the Paradise Cove Luau and Disney's Aulani Resort. Across the street, visitors will find a small shopping center that mainly houses eateries, but also has a deli/grocery/sundries store. There's also a Roy's Restaurant nearby, in addition to other eating options at the MVC and Aulani. Parking at the Ihilani is self or valet, with self-parking rates running a steep $35/day. Note, the parking garage is located far away from the lobby and shares it's space with the spa and the basketball/tennis courts.
Being a JW Marriott, the service at Ihilani is excellent. Staff members are always courteous and friendly, though they can be a bit too stiff for my liking. Relaxing a bit wouldn't hurt in my opinion, so long as they don't lose their service quality. That being said, check-in is a relatively quick process, considering the size of the front desk. Though the "lobby" area is quite large, occupying a beautiful atrium, the front desk is large enough to support no more than 4 employees at a time, so you may want to avoid high-traffic times. Within the lobby is also a MVC sales desk, concierge, and s small coffee bar with great areas to lounge around. There is no CL at this property, though that shouldn't be a surprise, as no Hawaii property has one.
So, how are the rooms? They are GREAT! All standard rooms at this property are a massive 640 sq/ft. This is a lot larger than typical hotels on Oahu, with these rooms being nearly triple the size of a standard room at the CY Waikiki. Each room also have a massive balcony with two chairs, a table, and a huge sofa/day bed. Inside, guests will find a single king or two double beds, a large HDTV, a large work desk, three chairs, another table, tons of closet space, a refrigerator, a coffee maker (complete with coffee, sugar, etc.), a safe, iron/ironing board, and a massive bathroom. The bathroom itself seemed like it was larger than other hotel's rooms and featured dual vanities, a large soaking tub, a separate glassed-in shower, and a separate room for the toilet with it's own phone. The rooms are well kept, and are especially nice having just been renovated a few years ago. In fact, the entire property is now undergoing a re-fresh and should be even better when completed in the next month or so. Of course, competition from neighboring Aulani will likely force Marriott to keep Ihilani in as pristine a condition as possible now. But I digress. During my one stay here, I didn't take the time to figure out where the ice machines were, but this property does have full room service and even turndown service.
Beyond room service, guests have the option of dinning at the pool bar, Naupaka Terrace, Ushio-Tei, and Azul. The pool bar has pretty typical offerings at resort prices. Naupaka Terrace offers buffets during breakfast/brunch and dinner, while also offering ala carte menus for all three meals. Ushio-Tei is the property's Japanese themed restaurant and also offers a dinner buffet and ala carte menu. And finally, Azul is the resort's signature restaurant, serving up homemade Italian food with fresh, house-made pastas, risottos, main dish items, and more. If you go to Naupaka Terrace and do not partake in the buffet for dinner, I'd highly recommend ordering the lamb and the piadina (appetizer). The lamb is marinated tea, roasted, then smoked with kiawe wood (mesquite). It has a mustard crust and is served with a red wine sauce & buerre blanc, as well as garlic mashed potatoes and roasted veggies. The Piadina is an awesome flat bread covered with prosciutto, arugula, parmesan, a sun dried tomato aioli, and a drizzle of truffle oil. Kinda salty, but addictive! If you dine Azul, ask for Stewart to be your server. He is super nice, attentive, and very personable. He loves to "talk story" so keep that in mind if you request him!
Here's a few sample photos: JW Marriott Ihilani
More to come!
So, to recap:
- West Oahu location is far from main shopping & dinning districts
- Quiet, secluded location great for relaxing
- Great on-site dining, with a couple of options around (Roy's, retail center, Aulani, MVC)
- No night life
- Great spa on-site
- Located on nice (but man made) beach/lagoon
- No resort fee
- Great service
- Massive, comfortable, luxurious rooms
- $35/day parking