(Left) The cozy setup inside the rooms. (Right) Yaling getting ready for some poolside fun!

For most of us, a trip to Hawaii or a similar exotic destination is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. That means we have to save money and plan. One of the most important decisions we make is which hotel to choose. Most of us have higher expectations than we normally do when we check into a hotel, especially when we’ve paid big bucks. In other words, things that would normally not bother us may be an issue when we’re on vacation.

I mentioned this on the outset of this review because I’ve come to the conclusion that having realistic expectations about the hotel you choose is very important. Very few things in life are “perfect” so if a little thing bothers you at a hotel, you may want to think twice before you make a “big deal” out of it. Case in point; this weekend, we had an opportunity to stay at the JW Marriott in the Ihilani Resort in Kapolei. I ordered French toast, and it wasn’t to my liking (very dry), but it wasn’t so bad that I had to return the dish and enjoyed it anyway. Less stress, hassle and awkwardness.

Overall the JW Marriott Ihilani was a great experience. When we arrived at the property, check-in went smoothly. We were extremely happy to find out that our room was ready at 9 a.m. and that we got upgraded from a mountain view room to an ocean view room.

The hotel rooms have been recently renovated and are absolutely magnificent. The room was over 600 square feet with the lanai. The bathrooms are large with a soak in tub, separate shower and his & her sinks. The room is equipped with a spacious desk with plenty of places to plug in electronic devices. There’s also an electronic control center next to the bed which can be used to control the lighting and climate from one central location. Unfortunately, this system didn’t work properly in our room. No big deal. Another really nice touch was a lighted headboard which gave the room really nice ambience in the evening. The decor is very tasteful, nice wood tones combined with light blue chairs made it feel very modern and comfortable.

The food we sampled was excellent. We especially love the menu at the pool which had sashimi and poke. There are also healthy choices, including salads. Resort guests can choose from a variety of dining experiences, including Azul, an elegant and award-winning restaurant offering a unique blend of local and international cuisine. Other dining options include an intimate Japanese restaurant, a contemporary all-day restaurant and a fresh poolside bar. Healthy spa cuisine from the Ihilani Spa is available at all dining locations. Guests may also choose to enjoy Fia Fia, a unique dinner show that takes place every Thursday night beside the lagoon.

Fresh poke and sashimi at the pool.

The service at the property was filled with Aloha. Everyone from the housekeeping to the pool staff were gracious and friendly. We encountered smiles and friendly faces in every part of the property. The concierge staff was extremely helpful when I asked for more information about the property and even provided me with hotel collateral.

The day we were there, the pool area was quite busy. There were lots of kids there, which made the pool seem like a large kids pool. Because of this, it was difficult to relax completely. But that’s really not a problem, as you can easily go down to the beach and get a cabana for a much more private experience.

Don’t be surprised if you get a gift from the pool staff in your room. It invites you to enjoy a day at the cabana as well as check out the Marriott Vacation Club. Before getting the cabana, staff will try to enroll you in a tour for their timeshare program. I highly recommend getting the cabana. We really enjoyed it. You can get drinks and eat right on the beach. They also have complementary paddle boards and kayaks you can enjoy.

Hang by the pool or get a private cabana for some fun in the sun.

A great day at the resort is not limited to rest and relaxation. Avid golfers are sure to enjoy the Ko Olina Golf Club, an 18-hole oceanfront golf course designed by Ted Robinson. Sailing, scuba ping and surfing are offered at nearby locations within a mile of the resort. On-site parking is available for $35 per day, and resort guests eager to explore other parts of the island can easily travel to Pearl Harbor, Waikiki Beach and Oahu’s beautiful North Shore. Those looking to shop while on vacation can take advantage of the daily shuttle service to the Waikele Premium Outlet shops.

My wife and I both really enjoyed our stay at the JW Marriott Ihilani, and with the renovations combined with the 5-star service we received, we recommend this property especially for those who want to stay outside the hustle and bustle of Waikiki. For adults, we like this property much better than the Disney Aulani directly next door.


  1. I may have to check this hotel out soon..as its a vacation away from home, but on same island, so no plane fare to purchase.. Thanks for the great info Bruce!

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