- Expensive, average food
- 40-minute drive from Waikiki
- Early checkout time
- Slow Wi-Fi
- Limited housekeeping
- Old TVs in some units
- Expensive parking
A family-friendly atmosphere pervades at this time-share property in a master-planned resort community 40 minutes from Waikiki.
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.
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.
Right on the beach, and on a man-made lagoon
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."
Comfortable but some electronics lacking
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.
Everything you need in a self-contained resort
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.
One of the island's top public courses
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.
Great choice for families
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.
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
The hotel has two full-service restaurants and a casual takeout cafe.
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