- No beach chairs provided
- Older-looking rooms in Paoakalani Tower
- No all-day kid's program
- No iPod docks
An enormous -- but still cozy-feeling -- 1,310-room beachfront resort that delivers family-friendly fun, plus a little more.
The Marriott Waikiki delivers both what you'd expect from the reliable chain -- comfortable beds, consistent service, clean rooms -- and more than you'd expect -- a great sushi restaurant and lovely spa on-site, and service that goes above and beyond your typical mega resort.
The large, open-air lobby that welcomes guests comes complete with not just the obligatory Outrigger canoe (though that's surely there) but also waterfalls and a miniature volcano that regularly erupts, weather permitting. Throughout the ground floor, from the lobby to the shopping area, the landscaping is lush and inviting. Sure the Marriott has concrete towers, like every hotel in Waikiki proper, but it also has plenty of tropical flora -- nice, for a hotel in this price range.
Families make up the core of the hotel's business -- it was a rare elevator ride I took that didn't involve a small child gleefully pushing the buttons for me -- but there are also large groups (like the 400 preteen choir girls there when I was) and the occasional solo business traveler racking up Marriott points while taking advantage of the beachfront location, 24-hour business center, and conference facilities.
Despite its two towers and 1,310 rooms, the hotel feels smaller and more intimate than the Hyatt Regency Waikiki, a half-dozen blocks away in a busier section of Waikiki, or the huge, typically crowded Hilton Hawaiian Village. While the Marriott boasts a few dozen stores, including its own ABC convenience store and a shop devoted just to banjos, it doesn't have its own full shopping mall, like the Hyatt Regency and the Hilton Hawaiian Village. What it does have is a cozier vibe and a mellow atmosphere. There are Hawaiian craft demonstrations in the lobby each morning, and while guests might have to wait in line at check-in, they shouldn't have trouble finding a free lounge chair around one of the two pools. Overall, this is a solid pick for families looking for reasonably priced good times.
Professional, friendly service; plus a dash of Polynesian charm
The Marriott brand is known for accomodating, unpretentious service, and the Marriott Waikiki doesn't disappoint. Service for the resort's many guests ranges from perfectly adequate to going-the-extra-mile.
In Waikiki, across the street from the beach, on the slightly quieter eastern end
On the quieter, eastern end of Waikiki, the Marriott sits amongst some of the smaller, quieter hotels in the area, like Hotel Renew. Most of Waikiki's shopping malls and its iconic hotels, like the Moana Surfrider and the Royal Hawaiian, are a five- to 10-minute walk west, and there's a feeling, for better or for worse, that the Marriott is just on the border of where the action starts.
The hotel's rear entrance sits on Waikiki's main drag, Kalakaua Avenue, a touristy, milelong stretch of shops, restaurants, and high-rise hotels that runs along Waikiki Beach on Oahu's southeast coast. Kalakaua offers a curious blend of mainland creature comforts and local flavor. On the sidewalks, Japanese tourists intermingle with tanned locals, surfboards under their arms, on their way to the beach to catch a few waves after work. On both sides of the street, high-end retailers -- Tiffany, Cartier, and yes, even an Apple store -- are interspersed with indoor malls and streetside vendors hawking cheap seashell jewelry and T-shirts. Seemingly every mid-market chain restaurant can be found here -- Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen, Tony Roma's -- along with more than a handful of Starbucks and fast-food joints. And towering above it all: 40-story, thousand-room hotels like the Grand Hyatt and Princess Kaiulani dotting the landscape like pins in a cushion.
Loosely speaking, the entire 1.5-mile stretch of sand alongside Kalakaua Avenue is known as Waikiki Beach. In reality, it's more like three separate beaches, the borders of which vary depending on whom you ask. The Marriott is just across the street from the Kuhio section, known to some as "the wall" for its 50-yard concrete pier that juts out from the sand at the corner of Kapahulu Avenue. (The kids who jump off the pier are known affectionately as "wall rats.")
Clean, comfortable, and up-to-date; but the decor and views vary greatly between the two towers
Request a room in the Kealohilani Tower. Completely renovated in 2008, these rooms have a brighter, more attractive look than the rooms in the Paoakalani Tower, which haven't been renovated since 2001. The Kealohilani Tower is also closer to the ocean, making for better views. The two entry level rooms, the City View and the Partial Ocean View, are in both towers; guests can specify a tower when making reservations but it can't be guaranteed. For a more reliably modern room, consider the Hyatt Regency.
With two pools with ocean views, a 24-hour business center, a full-service spa, and numerous shops and activities, there's plenty to do at the Marriott. Sure it doesn't have the five pools and 100 plus shops that the Hilton Hawaiian Village has, but it also doesn't have the Hawaiian Village's crowds and lines. Securing lounge-chair real estate typically isn't a problem.
Great Waikiki pick for families
Two pools, a beachfront location, and family-friendly dining and sleeping arrangements make the Marriott a great pick for families. But it doesn't have daily kids' programs like Hilton Hawaiian Village and Hyatt Regency.
Clean and well maintained throughout
For such a large hotel, the Marriott is quite clean. Common areas are bright and fresh, and I did not witness any lingering spills or trash. My room in the Kealohilani Tower, last renovated in 2008, felt thoroughly clean and the carpets looked as though they'd only seen a few steps. Rooms in the Paoakalani Tower, which haven't been renovated since Marriott took over the property in 2001, don't have that brand-spanking-new feel, but they are still in good condition.
Five on-site restaurants, including the best sushi in Waikiki
"The tuna you're eating was probably swimming today," or so says the sushi chef at Sansei Sushi. It certainly tasted like it.
While the Marriott brand is not typically known for its delicious restaurants, the Marriott Waikiki well surpasses expectations. The two best restaurants in the hotel, Sansei Sushi and d.k. Steak House (both only open for dinner), are both helmed by noted Hawaiian restaurateur and cookbook author Dave Kodama.
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