This hotel has undergone significant renovations since our visit.
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A family-friendly atmosphere pervades at this time-share property in a master-planned resort community 40 minutes from Waikiki.
Nightly Luau activities
Built in 2003, this 745-unit, three-tower time-share in the master-planned resort community of Ko Olina offers loads of family-friendly fun on four beautiful, albeit man-made, lagoons. There's access to a top golf course, a marina, and a luau center -- and it's almost as close to the airport (a 30-minute drive) as Waikiki's megaresorts -- but the grounds are far less crowded and much more serene. It never feels busy in the way that other large in-town resorts -- like the Hilton Hawaiian Village -- do.
A calm, clear beach that feels private (though, like all of the island's beaches, it's is public), and plenty of free chaise lounges give it a relaxing feel not easily found in Waikiki. Meanwhile three grotto-style pools, a multitude of on-site kids' activities, and the numerous snorkel boats and sunset cruises that depart from Ko Olina's own marina make it a popular choice for families, who are definitely in the majority here. Still, there's a good number of newlyweds and couples of all ages, and enough patently adult enterprises, like a Texas Hold'em Tourney and a Shoulder/Rotator Cuff Secrets session. And there are even a few hours set aside every morning for a lap lane in the Lagoon Pool.
Those who want a less kid-focused atmosphere, however, should check out the next door JW Marriott Ihilani, which shares some amenities with the Vacation Club. And for a similar, out-of-the-way feeling outside Waikiki, families should consider Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu's North Shore -- though it's farther from Waikiki than the Vacation Club and it isn't as well maintained.
Well-meaning, but sometimes misses the mark
Service falls awkwardly between a full-service hotel and an impersonal time-share, and while it's friendly, professional, and well-meaning, getting what you need isn't always simple or easy. And it's a far cry from the service you'd get at the JW Marriott Ihilani nearby.
Guests have no less than three sources to turn to for information: an "Aloha" desk in the lobby that helps guests plan on-site activities, a concierge that books off-site excursions, and a welcome desk within each tower that primarily provides information on timeshare presentations. But having so many places to turn doesn't translate into an ease of getting information; instead, it leads to too many call transfers. It's as though everyone has a piece of the puzzle, but no one has the whole picture.
- Phones in rooms have an "at your service" button rather than buttons for individual services like housekeeping and concierge, which means various call transfers to get what you need.
- Daily housekeeping is included for guests paying nightly rate; those staying for a week have one mid-week "tidy service" (trash emptied, towels replaced, dishes done, beds made but linens aren't replaced).
- Weekly guests can pay for additional "tidy service," or upgrade their mid-week "tidy service" to a "full clean" service to get fresh linens and have floors and bathrooms cleaned.
In the 642-acre, master-planned resort complex of Ko Olina
Ko Olina translates to "place of joy," and that's an apt name for this master-planned resort complex that offers a clean, easy version of the Hawaiian vacation on four man-made lagoons with perfectly turquoise waters. It's no surprise that Disney built a resort here, named The Aulani, which opened in 2011. Driving into Ko Olina feels like entering a giant gated community, albeit it one with a luxury hotel (the JW Marriott Ihilani), a top golf course, and activities aplenty.
- A shuttle runs from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. with stops at the Marriott Vacation Club lobby, the JW Marriott, Paradise Cove Luau, the golf club, and the marina.
- Water-based tours, from snorkeling to sunset cruises, depart from the Ko Olina marina].
- Scuba boats to the Mahi wreck, one of the island's popular dive sites, leave from Ko Olina.
- Target, Costco, a 24-hour Safeway, banks, restaurants, and stores are a 10-minute drive into Kapolei.
- Honolulu airport is about 20 miles, or a 25-minute drive, away; rental car is recommended.
Right on the beach, and on a man-made lagoon
The Dolphin Lagoon at Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club
The larger Ko Olina resort community has four lovely, man-made lagoons open to all hotel guests and easily accessed via a nice paved walking path. The Marriott Vacation Club sits on Lagoon Three, or the Dolphin Lagoon, and just past Lagoon One (the Whale Lagoon), there's a natural beach that's been used as a location on some episodes of Lost."
- Lagoons have fine, white sand imported from Australia, and a bit of marine life for snorkeling.
- The Dolphin Lagoon has far more lounge chairs than the other lagoons; beach cabanas rent per day
- Calm, clear waters great for kids, but it can get dangerous near the rocks at the lagoon's opening
- Beach has a passably clean restroom and a ramp for handicap access.
- No lifeguard on duty (none of the Ko Olina lagoons have lifeguards)
- No surfing; for waves, head to Waikiki (40-minute drive) or Kaleola Beach for learning-to-surf waves.
- Lagoons are technically public, but feel far more private than beaches in Waikiki.
- Beach attendance is expected to increase when the Disney resort opens in late summer 2011.
Comfortable but some electronics lacking
Mountain View room
The majority of the resort's 745 time-share units are two- and three-bedroom units with full kitchens, but less expensive studio and one-bedroom units can also be reserved (they're actually just partitions of the larger units, per the time-share usual).
The entry level unit, the studio Mountain View, feels more like a typical hotel room. At 360 square feet, it's comfortable but not huge, with a queen bed and a sitting area with a sofa bed. By comparison, standard rooms at the nearby Ko Olina luxury hotel, JW Marriott Ihilani, start at a whopping 640 square feet. The decor -- dark woods, and a red, yellow, and green color palette -- doesn't exactly say tropical fun. At least there's a pineapple print shower curtain and artwork featuring beaches and coconuts. It's worth the upgrade to a one-bedroom villa because you'll get three times the space, a full kitchen, a separate shower and tub, and a better view.
- One-, two-, and three-bedroom units have full kitchens with granite countertops.
- Studio units have a kitchenette with sink, mini-fridge, toaster, microwave, coffeemaker, and dishware.
- A starter kit provides dish soap, coffee, and laundry detergent but no paper towels.
- All units have the brand's signature Marriott Revive beds with 300-thread-count sheets, though the mattress felt less comfy than the average Marriott.
- Studio bathrooms have shower/tub combos and small, scratchy towels, but do come with Paul Mitchell bath products.
- Disappointing electronics; some units have old CRTVs and a Sony alarm clock; the newest tower, Hale Nai'a offers units with flat-screen TVs.
- Wi-Fi is free but slow; supply of in-room outlets is lacking.
- Most units have DVD players (one can be requested for free if not); automated kiosks in each tower provide DVD rentals for a few bucks.
- Each building has its own parking structure, accessed via the elevator that takes guests to rooms.
Everything you need in a self-contained resort
Spacious fitness center
Three pools, seven Jacuzzis, a top golf course, a great fitness center, planned activities aplenty -- the list goes on and on at this amenity-packed property.
- Spacious fitness center with floor-to-ceiling windows, 20 cardio machines (without individual TVs), a large circuit of Cybex weight machines, and daily fitness classes (for a fee)
- The Spa by the Sea is essentially a massage hut between the pool and beach; for a full-service spa head to the JW Marriott Ihilani.
- Tennis available at the JW -- three synthetic cushioned grass and three Plexipave courts
- Expensive parking; time-share owners get free self-parking.
Volleyball at the Lagoon Pool
With three well-done pools and seven jacuzzis, it almost seems as though there's more water than solid earth on the hotel grounds. All of the pools are open to children; none are specified as "quiet pools." Yet, even though the water features make the resort something of a kiddie paradise, it isn't overrun with little ones.
- The Lagoon Pool: often the most lively with a basketball hoop, volleyball net, and a sandy, zero-entry area for kids; a few hours are set aside each morning for swimmers to use its lap lane
- The Beach Pool: closest to the beach and to Longboards Bar and Grill
- Nai'a Pool: fun design with a waterslide, waterfalls, a bridge to swim under, rocks to climb under and its own pool bar.
- Seven Jacuzzis are scattered throughout the grounds; some are rather private and for adults only (okay, not that private -- it's still a kid's place).
- All pools and Jacuzzis open until 11 p.m., and guests seem to take advantage of that.
One of the island's top public courses
Great Golf Course
Voted the best golf course on Oahu in 2008 by the Honolulu Advertiser, Ko Olina's Ted Robinson-designed course is a stunner. Since opening in 1990, the club has hosted both the LPGA and Senior PGA.
- Multi-tiered greens, occasional tradewinds, and uneven lies make for a challenging par-72.
- Scenic views of the harbor, dramatic waterfalls
- Fun, modern golf carts with ProLink GPS and food and beverage ordering features
- Signature holes: 12th, with its dramatic waterfall and pond with rare black swans; 17th, with harbor views
- Greens are well-kept; the Bermuda grass was replaced with seashore paspalum in late 2009.
- Pleasant clubhouse with a branch of the Hawaiian fusion eatery Roy's
- Locker rooms with steam facilities and Jacuzzis
- Greens fees are reduced for resort guests.
- Daily clinics Monday through Friday for a reasonable fee; private lessons can be arranged.
Great choice for families
Kids at the Fia Fia Luau
With three pools, a waterslide, kids' menus even at the luau, activities throughout the day, and calm ocean lagoons, this is a top family pick. For something that comes close, families would have to head into Waikiki, where the Hilton Hawaiian Village offers four pools, a kids program and countless amenities -- but is far less relaxing than Ko Olina.
- Three pools at the Marriott Vacation Club offer far more kiddie fun than the single pool at the next door JW Ihilani (the two Marriott properties don't share pools). For more, see Pools section.
- Nonsensically named poolside MAZE huts ("Marriott Activity Zone Experience") provide everything from towels (free) to shave ice or swim diapers (both at a cost).
- About a dozen different activities throughout the day from fish feeding (free) to yarn lei-making
- Twice weekly "Passport to Fun" program takes kids (five and older) out of parents' hair for four hours
- No full-day children's program, but guests can access the JW Marriott Ihilani's full-day program next door for kids aged five to 12; runs every day in high season, four days per week in low season.
- Concierge provides baby-sitting contacts, but guests must make the arrangements themselves.
- Longboards Bar & Grill has a children's menu and provides crayons for kids; buffet at the weekly Fia Fia Luau has a kids' table with tot-friendly options
- Standard rooms have just a queen bed, a sofa bed and a microwave; families are better off in two- and three-bedrooms units with full kitchens.
- Free cribs; no rollaway beds
Rooms and public areas are well maintained. The oldest, main, tower underwent light renovations in 2009, and the second tower opened in 2006 and completed renovations in 2012.
Two restaurants, a small market, and barbecues
Dinner at Chuck's Steak House
The hotel has two full-service restaurants and a casual takeout cafe.
- Longboards Beach Bar & Grill -- just off the pool with lagoon and beach views -- is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- The mediocre Chuck's Steak & Seafood serves typical island entrees
- The Market Place, open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., sells take-away sandwiches, salads, groceries, and booze.
- Guests can grab a shuttle to Azul at the JW Marriott Ihilani or Roy's at the golf club.
- Costco and a 24-hour Safeway are a 10-minute drive into Kapolei.
- Guest barbecue areas have modern gas grills and tongs.
- Poolside MAZE activity huts serve shave ice (snow cones) in the afternoons.
- Both the bar at Longboards and the Nai'a Pool bar closes early -- around 10 p.m.
With 745 units, three pools, seven Jacuzzis, activities aplenty, and numerous shared amenities -- including a top golf course -- this family-friendly time-share in the Ko Olina complex has almost everything, save for surfing and flat-screen TVs. And it's far less crowded and more serene than the megaresorts in Waikiki.
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Things You Should Know About Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club
- 92-161 Waipahe Place, Kapolei Oahu, HI 96707
Hotel is Also (or Was Formerly) Known As
- Kapolei Marriott
- Ko Olina
- Ko Olina Beach Club
- Marriott Kapolei
- Marriotts Ko Olina Beach Club
- Marriotts Ko Olina Beach Hotel
- Marriott Vacation Club Kapolei
- Guest Room Mountain View
- Guest Room Ocean View
- One Bedroom Penthouse Mountain View Villa
- One Bedroom Penthouse Ocean View Villa
- One Bedroom Penthouse Suite Ocean View
- One Bedroom Villa Mountain View
- One Bedroom Villa Ocean View
- Penthouse Guest Room Mountain View
- Penthouse Guest Room Ocean View
- Three Bedroom Villa Ocean View
- Two Bedroom Penthouse Mountain View Villa
- Two Bedroom Penthouse Ocean View Villa
- Two Bedroom Villa Balcony
- Two Bedroom Villa Mountain View
- Two Bedroom Villa Ocean View