If you’re looking for a Hawaiian resort with a heavy dose of warm aloha, look no further than the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa in Honolulu. Although I have made over 25 trips to Hawaii in 25 years, I have never stayed at the Marriott property in Honolulu. I was intrigued by the new third floor Queensbreak pool and amenity deck at the luxury resort. It has both an adult and family pool, private cabanas, children’s lawn, fire pits, and an open-air restaurant with live music and entertainment. I can highly recommend this property for families and couples – especially honeymooners – as the resort offers just about everything you could want in a Hawaiian property, where you can receive top notch R&R in a great location on Oahu (more on that 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 once housed the Queen’s two summer residences. It was here that she spent much of her time welcoming family and friends, composing her songs (her most famous is Aloha Oe, the most typical Hawaiian song with the lyrics “until we meet”. Like the Queen, the Waikiki Beach Marriott continues the tradition of welcoming guests to the shores of Oahu.
The property spans 5.2 acres and is across from Waikiki Beach. So the warm waters of the Pacific welcome 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’re perfectly located to see all the surfers at Queen’s popular break in the water. Be sure to bring a float from home – or just buy one from one of the ubiquitous ABC stores (there’s one on every corner). There really is nothing quite like parking your posterior in the Pacific, where you can enjoy magnificent views of Diamond Head and Waikiki. The beach that’s right in front of the Marriott has a breeze wall, which creates a shallow, wave-free lagoon-like environment that’s great for small children — and for floating around. Think of it as your own private plunge pool.
It’s so interesting to be in Waikiki – people are walking down Kalakaua Avenue with their surfboards, wearing only their bathing suits, barefoot – even though you’re in an urban environment in Oahu with stop lights at all corners. People watching is excellent.
There are five dining concepts at Marriott. Arancino is an open-air, street-side Italian venue that serves authentic Italian cuisine. This is where you can enjoy a blood orange soda, an island ginger cooler or maybe even a glass of Moscato d’Asti. Just the insalata brimming with parmesan cheese was excellent, as was the Arrabbiata prawns and grilled branzino. The signature dessert of the house, the homemade tiramisu, was particularly noteworthy.
We also dined at DK Steakhouse, which I would call the best restaurant on the property, run by award-winning chef DK Kodama. The restaurant is famous for its dry-aged rib eye that is coated in salt for about 30 days, to extract moisture and make the flavor more concentrated. It is the only restaurant on the island of Oahu that ages and butchers its meat in-house. All meat comes from 100% organic, grass-fed cows from Nature’s Naturals in Arizona.
My husband Bill ordered the filet mignon and said it was hands down the best filet mignon he had ever had. He described it as “sweet and flavorful – and barely needed chewing”. I ordered the fish opah in a ginger-chili-lime butter, and it was also very good. Save room for the chocolate brownie whose recipe was passed down from Chef Kodama’s grandmother. Once you start eating it, it’s hard to stop, it’s so good.
The daily breakfasts at Kuhio Beach Grill were sumptuous and quite good – but cost $48 per person, which is rather expensive. (Remember, most things in Hawaii cost almost twice as much as on the mainland.) It has omelet and waffle stations, all types of sausage and bacon, a wide variety of muffins, and of breads, gorgeous fruit bowls, yogurts, cereals, oatmeal, pastries and even a creme brulee for breakfast.
Queensbreak pool is really beautiful and the pools are heated. Definitely order lunch here: I had the excellent fish tacos and a papaya filled with fresh berries and fruit. Here’s my only complaint about this area of the property: the gray tiled floor of this open-air restaurant gets scorching hot from the sun, and you definitely need to wear sandals to walk in this area. The hotel management needs to replace this stone floor with a lighter material that does not absorb the sun’s heat as much as the current material. (In other words, don’t go barefoot from the family pool to the adult pool.) Some nights they screen movies on the lawn in this area; one evening they showed Encanto and to me it seemed like everyone was having a good time. Families will definitely love it here.
The resort is also home to a 24-hour gym, and it’s a good one — stocked with treadmills, free weights, Nautilus machines, and more. (If you want to dine deliciously — and guilt-free — at all of the hotel restaurants, I recommend visiting the gym.) I also saw people doing lawn yoga and workouts personal.
The hotel also houses the Royal Kaila Spa, and that was also very, very good. My Japanese masseuse gave me an Elemental Nature massage with perfect Swedish pressure – nice and light – which I really enjoyed. The spa is beautifully maintained and also sells Aveda products. I actually felt totally pampered, as I requested that lotion, not oil, be used in my massage. It was heavenly.
I only have a few negative comments. First of all, I didn’t have a good experience with any of the concierges. I asked if they could just send a letter for me, and the young manager said he couldn’t provide me with a stamp, and neither could reception. He just told me to go to the post office. That was the end of the conversation; useless. In most luxury hotels I frequent, they will not only send you a note or a postcard, free of charge – they actually give you the notes and postcards, and put your letter in the hotel’s outgoing mail box. I was disappointed with his response.
Also, just calling the front desk or concierge was an exercise in frustration, and most of the time we called with a simple question, no one answered. This may be due to the understaffing the establishment is still experiencing at the time of this writing, but in the interest of customer service, it needs to be addressed.
But overall, despite everything, this property is one the queen herself would love to stay in.
For more on my Wanderlust trips, please follow me on Instagram at @DebbiKickham.