Situated on the largest of Ko Olina's man-made lagoons, the elegant JW Marriott Ihilani is a solid option for families and couples, with two excellent pools, a top-ranked golf course and spa, five tennis courts, and excellent cuisine.
An elegant resort with perfect turquoise water, impeccably groomed grounds, and swaying palm trees.
A recent vacation spot for Paris Hilton and an occasional set for the TV series Lost, this elegant outpost 40 minutes west of Waikiki in the 640-acre Ko Olina Resort pairs a startlingly pretty 17-story, 387-room hotel serviced by a can-do staff with a man-made lagoon featuring imported sand from Australia.
The setting on the largest of the four Ko Olina lagoons and a lovely infinity pool have a calming effect and details like colorful koi fish in the entrance fountains, hammerhead sharks at the property's center pond, and modern sculptures inspired by Hawaiian culture give the resort a peaceful feel. The extensive on-site spa only increases the relaxation.
There's little else to do here except swim, drink something out of a pineapple, or contemplate one's navel on the beach. There's one of the island's more authentic luaus, Paradise Cove, next door, golfers can tee off at the top-rated Ko Olina course and foodies dine at an excellent signature seafood restaurant before retiring to large rooms — all of which were renovated in 2011 — with well-furnished balconies.
Solid, welcoming service is a professed priority at the Ihilani, where the team of staffers -- called "At Your Service" -- graciously assists guests with requests. And though there are extras here, like poolside drink service, that raise it a notch or two above lower-end sister, Marriott's Ko Olina Vacation Club, it's rare that a staffer offers to do something out of the blue. Services offered are generally what one would expect at a JW Marriott.
On-site, dedicated concierge
Turndown service available on request (most guests won't know this unless they read the in-room guest book)
Same-day drycleaning and laundry service for items turned in by 9 a.m., except on Sundays and holidays
Extra in-room items provided on request -- including bath salts, slippers, a selection of pillows, umbrellas, and additional toiletry items (razors, toothbrushes, and toothpaste).
Intra-resort shuttle leaves every half-hour from 6 a.m. to 10:50 p.m., stopping at Marriott's Ko Olina Vacation Club, various condos, the golf course, Paradise Cove (local luau), and the marina.
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. Driving into Ko Olina feels like entering a giant gated community, albeit one with a luxury hotel, a top golf course, and activities aplenty.
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 JW Marriott sits on Lagoon One or the "Whale Lagoon." Just beyond this 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 — the hotel feeds .
The 387 rooms were massively renovated in 2011. Rooms still feature large balconies and gorgeous bathrooms, but decor is more mordern and streamlined, with subtle (and stylish) nods to Hawaii's culture and traditions. Note, for example, the detailed headboards — the lovely design is actually a traditional Hawaiian quiliting pattern. The rooms also feature updated technology, including flat-screen TVs and iPod docks. Guest rooms start at 640 square feet and feature a king or two double beds, as well as a living area with mountain, golf course, or ocean views. For better ocean views, book the deluxe ocean view to be on a higher floor.
Five tennis courts -- three hard Plexipave and two softer Kramercourts are an uncommon amenity; hourly charges are $23 per court; racket and shoes can be rented for $5 a day; daily clinic is $24 per person.
Marine Life Program allows guests to interact with sharks, sting rays, and spotted eagle rays, as well as a wide array of local fish.
Small, though well-equipped, free fitness center divided into two rooms with plenty of windows and light; offers daily schedule of free classes
The business center is small, but has plenty of PCs, a printer, and a copy machine; open 8:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 24 hours on weekends
Wide range of daily activities like lei-making and fish-feeding are excellent for kids; convenient flier with the daily schedule is available at front desk.
A good selection of snorkel, sail, and sunset-cruise excursions depart from the on-site Ko Olina Marina; a convenience you won't find at most other Oahu resorts except for the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Lobby Wi-Fi and in-room wired Internet; both cost $12.95 per day.
A supervised kids' program offers a variety of activities for ages five to 12; fee varies depending on activities
Intra-resort shuttle operates every half-hour from 6 a.m. to 10:50 p.m., stopping at various condos, the golf course, Paradise Cove (local luau), and the marina.
There may be more exciting pools for kids than at the JW Marriott, (its time-share sister next door, Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club, has three lively ones), but the large, 3,215-square-foot, zero-entry pool attracts lots of children. Adults enjoy sipping cocktails on a pleasant pool deck that overlooks the turquoise lagoon, and they don't need to fight for poolside lounges in the early morning, like they do at Waikiki's Sheraton Moana and other in-town properties.
Main pool has a Jacuzzi, and plentiful lounge chairs and umbrellas; daily sunset guitarist and hula dancer; stays open late (until 10 p.m.)
A lap pool, located on the second level of the spa building, is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with views of the resort's grounds (and, currently, of next door's construction site).
The impressively large, 35,000-square-foot Ihilani Spa offers a long menu of services, including classic Hawaiian treatments utilizing local ingredients, along with lovely relaxation areas. The only other Oahu hotels with spa facilities that rival this one are the Kahala and the Moana Surfrider. The Kahala offers private, 550-square-foot treatment suites, while the latter boasts gorgeous oceanfront views.
Relaxation lounges have hot-water Roman pools, steam, sauna, and terraces
Charge for use of spa facilities without a treatment
Half- and full-day spa programs combining multiple treatments
Spa dining (breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks) offered on the terrace
Couples massage and private treatments in guest rooms are available.
The Ihilani is a good choice for families, with enough amenities to keep them busy, though it doesn't have the bells and whistles for kids that you'd find at spots like Waikiki's Hilton Hawaiian Village or some resorts on the neighboring islands of Maui and Kauai. And there's no waterslide as there is next door at Marriott's Ko Olina Vacation Club. Still, kids appear to enjoy the pool and the beach, and all of the free activities that keep them busy throughout the day.
Standard rooms are spacious enough for families; as is common in Hawaii, cribs are free; one rollaway allowed per room at no charge (many hotels charge for rollaways)
3,215-square-foot, zero-entry pool attracts lots of children, though there are more exciting pools in the area.
It's a top-notch wedding destination, just don't expect an intimate experience at this massive hotel.
Wedding Size: Up to 800 people; up to four weddings performed daily
Extra Fees and Restrictions: If you opt out of a package, you are responsible for the cost of virtually everything, including a steep ceremony site fee and an officiant fee.
Wedding Packages: Circle of Love, the standard wedding package, includes the ceremony location, an oceanfront room for one night, six chairs (each addition chair is charged), rose petals for the aisle, the cost of an officiant, a bridal bouquet or a lei, a boutonniere or a lei, a soloist for the ceremony, a bottle of champagne, a wedding certificate, and the help of an on-site wedding coordinator.
Reception Locations: Outdoor receptions held on the Lagoon Lawn; otherwise, there are various indoor meeting spaces, such as the Lurline Room, the Malolo Room, the Ocean Ballroom, and the Hokulani Ballroom.
Photographers and Videographers: Photo and vidoe packages start one hour rates; outside photographers and videographers permitted at no extra fee
Music: The ceremony options include a soloist, and for the reception a DJ can be booked for the night; outside musicians permitted at no extra fee.
Food: Plated dinners and buffets available.
Drinks: An open bar is available.
Cocktail Hour: Hors d'oeuvres from orderd in 100 pieces; specialty or carved items; artisanal cheeses and breads; action stations all available
Flowers and Decorations: While the standard wedding package covers the cost of most of the flowers, some of the add-ons include tiki torches or white lanterns (groups of 15 to 20).
Spa Treatments: Full menu of services, including hair styling and makeup
Honeymoon Suite: The hotel does not have a special "honeymoon suite" per se, but the huge, Ihilani Suite includes 1,440 square feet of space, a large foyer, one and a half bathrooms (to make getting ready before the wedding a little easier), a whirlpool tub, and a walk-in closet.
Airport Transportation: The resort does not provide an airport shuttle; a taxi from the airport costs about $90 one way.
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