If you’re seeking a Hawaiian resort with a heavy dose of warm aloha, look no further than the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa in Honolulu. While I’ve taken more than 25 trips to Hawaii in 25 years, I had never stayed at Marriott’s Honolulu property. I was intrigued by the luxury resort’s new third-floor Queensbreak pool and amenity deck. It features both an adult and family pool, private cabanas, kids’s splash lawn, fire pits and an open-air restaurant with live music and entertainment. I can highly recommend this property for families and couples – especially newlyweds – as the resort offers pretty much everything you could want in a Hawaiian property, where you can receive first-rate R&R in an excellent location on Oahu (more on this in a minute.)
Of course, much of the aloha spirit stems from Queen Liliuokalani herself, the last sovereign monarch of the Hawaiian islands. The land on which the Waikiki Beach Marriott is built used to house the two summer homes of the Queen. It was here that she spent much of her time hosting family and friends, composing her songs (her most famous is Aloha Oe, the most quintessential Hawaiian song featuring the lyrics “until we meet again.”) As did the queen, the Waikiki Beach Marriott carries on the tradition of hosting guests to Oahu’s shores.
The property spans 5.2 acres, and is across the street from Waikiki Beach – so the warm Pacific waters greet you every day, and accessibility couldn’t be easier. Let’s face it – you travel to Waikiki to be on the beach, and there’s a cool vibe there – especially when you are perfectly situated to see all the surfers out at the popular Queen’s break in the water. Make sure to bring a floatie from home – or just pick one up at any of the ubiquitous ABC stores (there’s one at every corner). There’s really nothing like parking your posterior in the Pacific, where you can indulge in magnificent views of Diamond Head and Waikiki. The beach that is directly across from the Marriott features a break wall, which creates a shallow, lagoon-type of environment without waves, which is ideal for small children – and for floating. Think of it as your own private plunge pool.
It’s so interesting to be in Waikiki – people stroll down Kalakaua Avenue with their surfboards, wearing just their bathing suits, barefoot – even though you are in an urban environment on Oahu with stop lights at all corners. The people-watching is excellent.
There are five dining concepts at the Marriott. Arancino is an Italian venue, outdoors and streetside, which serves authentic Italian cuisine. Here’s where you can enjoy a blood-orange soda, an Island ginger cooler or even perhaps a glass of Moscato d’Asti. Just the insalata overflowing with Parmesan cheese was excellent, as was the shrimp Arrabbiata and grilled branzino. The signature house dessert, the homemade tiramisu, was especially noteworthy.
We also dined at DK Steakhouse, which I would rate as the best restaurant on property, headed by award-winning chef D. K. Kodama. The restaurant is famous for its prime, dry-aged bone-in rib eye that is covered in salt for about 30 days, to draw out the moisture and make the flavor more concentrated. It is the only restaurant on the island of Oahu that dry-ages and butchers its meat in-house. All the meat comes from all-organic-, grass-fed cows from Nature’s Naturals in Arizona.
My husband Bill ordered the filet mignon, and told me, without a doubt, that is was the very best filet mignon he had ever eaten. He described it as “soft and flavorful – and barely need to chew.” I ordered the opah fish in a ginger-chili-lime butter, and it, too, was very good. Save room for the chocolate brownie whose recipe was handed down from Chef Kodama’s grandmother. Once you start eating it, it’s hard to stop – it’s that good.
Daily breakfasts in the Kuhio Beach Grill were lavish and quite good – but cost $48pp, which is rather pricey. (Remember, most things on Hawaii cost almost twice as much as they do on the mainland.) It features omelet and waffle stations, all types of sausages and bacon, a wide variety of muffins and breads, gorgeous bowls of fruit, yogurts, cereals, oatmeal, pastries, and even a breakfast crème brulee.
The Queensbreak pool area really is beautiful, and the pools are heated. Definitely order lunch here: I had the excellent fish tacos and a papaya filled with berries and fresh fruit. Here is my only complaint about this area of the property: The gray flooring tile in this outdoor dining venue becomes sizzling hot due to the sun, and you definitely have to wear sandals to walk in this area. Hotel management needs to replace this stone flooring with lighter material that doesn’t absorb the sun’s heat as much as the present material does. (In other words, don’t go barefoot from the family pool to the adult pool.) On some nights, they show movies on the lawn in this area; one night they showed Encanto and to me it looked like everyone was having a great time. Families will definitely love it here.
The resort also houses a 24-hour gym and it’s a good one – filled with treadmills, free weights, Nautilus machines, and a lot more. (If you want to dine deliciously — and without guilt — at all of the hotel’s restaurants, I recommend that you visit the gym.) I also saw folks doing yoga on the lawn, and guests being given personal training sessions.
The hotel also houses the Royal Kaila Spa, and it was also very, very good. My Japanese masseuse gave me an Elemental Nature massage with pitch-perfect Swedish pressure – nice and light – which I enjoyed thoroughly. The spa is beautifully maintained, and also sells Aveda products. In fact, I felt totally pampered, as I requested that a lotion, and not oil, be used in my massage. It was heavenly.
I have only a few negative comments. First, I didn’t have a good experience with one of the concierges there. I asked if they would simply mail a letter for me, and the young man in charge told me he couldn’t provide me with a stamp, and neither could the Front Desk. He simply told me to go to the post office. That was the end of the conversation; not helpful. At most luxury hotels I frequent, they will not only mail a note or postcard for you, complimentary – they actually give you the notecards and the postcards, and place your letter into the hotel’s Outgoing Mail box. I was disappointed in his response.
Also, just calling the Front Desk or the Concierge Desk was an exercise in frustration, and most times we called with a simple question, no one picked up. This may have been due to staffing shortages still being experienced by the property at the time of this writing, but in the interests of guest service it needs to be addressed.
But all in all, notwithstanding, this property is one that the Queen herself would enjoy staying at.
For more about my Wanderlust travels, please Follow me on Instagram at @DebbiKickham.