Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort Review
“Avoid Waikiki” was the advice I’d gotten. But with few other hotel options on Oahu where I could easily, my hand was forced. After perusing a number of options, I booked the Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa for the majority of a recent trip to Hawaii with my two sons. In this review I tackle how I booked it, my general impressions, and how the various resort amenities, activities, and dining all stack up.
Overview and Pricing
Our trip was during Hawaii’s autumn “off season” before the winter holidays. Expect to pay about $300 per night before taxes and fees. For our stay over November 10-15, 2022, I would have paid around $2,050, including all taxes fees.
In order to use Marriott’s 5th Night Free perk, I stretched our stay to five nights (out of six-night Oahu trip), paying 211,000 Marriott points. There’s no way around the resort fee, unfortunately, even with elite status. This is a steep $50 plus taxes at the Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort, so I still had to cough up nearly $300.
For the bean counters, I got 0.83 cents per Marriott point. Reasonable enough for me.
If headed back to Oahu, I would avoid Waikiki Beach. It’s busy. The Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort is located at the east end, near the Honolulu Zoo. It’s across the boulevard from the beach, which is as close as you can get to the sand at this end of Waikiki. There are plenty of shopping and dining options nearby.
The beach access is great. However, the actual beach at Waikiki isn’t all that impressive. The best Oahu beaches are all away from Honolulu. The proximity to dining and shopping is great if that’s what you’re looking for, but I’d prefer to stay out of the city on our next visit.
Parking. Don’t get me started on it. It’s expensive. I plan to write a whole post about how I avoided exorbitant parking charges for four nights before ditching the car to catch our flight.
Lobby & Check-In Experience
We arrived in the evening after landing at Honolulu International Airport earlier than expected. The lobby of the Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort is open air, as many places are in Hawaii. Makes sense, when the temperature varies so little.
I was glad there was no line at the front desk, as we were able to check in immediately. It did take longer than expected, as they reassigned our room. I’d responded to a welcome email from the hotel a few days before, asking if they could switch us to a king room with a sofa bed instead of a two queen room. They were able to accommodate, but I was surprised this hadn’t been handled ahead of time. The Marriott had reached out an asked. Not me.
We each got to pick out a lei, choosing between either flowers or shells.
We didn’t spend much time in the lobby, aside from walking through it to go to breakfast or leave the hotel. It’s fairly expansive. There is plenty of seating. You can find a Starbucks and small ABC Store at the Paoakalani end. This is also where the resort offers the nightly sunset painting classes.
Between the two hotel towers is a walkway with several more shops. At the other end, under the Kealohilani Tower, is a courtyard area with picnic benches, surrounded by a bunch more shops.
Paoakalani Tower Standard King Room
I do have to say that our room at the Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort was smaller than I’d expected for a resort hotel. It would do, but it certainly wasn’t spacious for three. Maybe it would have been better to go with the two queens. Traveling with the boys poses the perennial problem of having to share a bed. And but I get much better sleep when we share a king.
Other than that, I thought the room was nice. The style is fairly bland, with the décor over the bed the one real touch. I found the king bed to be comfortable, and aside from waking up super early (thank you jet lag), I slept well most nights.
Other room amenities included in-room coffee, a minifridge, a larger-than-average safe, and a smart TV.
I thought the bathroom was nice. No tub, but the shower is honestly better. Especially when we were getting sand everywhere most days. As is typical these days, Marriott offers large wall-mounted amenity bottles rather than individual ones. Housekeeping was great, changing all towels and making the beds every day. I often opt out. But it’s a must on a beach vacation with kids.
I do have to say that even though our balcony offered the tiniest of ocean views, it was a great place to start the day. Most mornings I would slip out, grab a coffee, and quietly sneak back to read on the balcony while the sun slowly rose. This is a must-repeat Hawaii experience. I just want to be away from Honolulu next time.
Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort Dining
The Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort offers six dining options. Seven if you count the lobby Starbucks. Three are dinner only, and these include: Arancino di Mare, d.k. Steak House, and Sansei. These are the most upscale offerings. Rounding out the offerings are the breakfast restaurant and poolside restaurant: Kuhio Beach Grill and Queensbreak Restaurant, respectively. Last, but not least, is Island Vintage Shave Ice, which faces the street.
None of the restaurants, aside from Starbucks, are in the Paoakalani Tower.
Breakfast at Kuhio Beach Grill
Marriott leaves me underwhelmed with their breakfast benefits. Breakfast for two isn’t especially helpful for family travel. I much prefer Hyatt’s benefits (i.e. up to two adults and two kids are free). But we made do.
Not to mention the full breakfast is expensive at the Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort. I knew Hawaii is expensive. But $48 for the adult full buffet?! The child full buffet is $20. If you only want the continental breakfast, adults are $31 and children $15. Children 4 and under are free.
As a Bonvoy Platinum member, I received complimentary continental breakfast for two of us each day. This meant breakfast cost a minimum of $15 for us before tip. The server waved me away the first day when I said I needed to pay for one of the boys, which was very kind of her. But for the remaining days I paid for one kid’s continental breakfast. Only once did I decide to upgrade to the full breakfast, just to give it a try.
The food selection is good. There is plenty to choose from, even for the continental breakfast, although you’re short on protein options. I did appreciate the made-to-order omelets on the one day I upgraded to the full breakfast. Other full breakfast options include waffles and pancakes with fixings, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, potatoes, fried rice, and miso soup.
Continental breakfast offerings include buns, pastries, toast, bread pudding, crème brûlée, yogurt, a large fruit selection, oatmeal, and cereal.
My sons were ecstatic. I let them eat what they liked on the continental side, which they loved, since they could pick whatever sugary delight they fancied. To their continual dismay, I cook a full breakfast most mornings, plating up eggs, potatoes, and sausage. Cereal is for emergencies only.
All said and done, I spent $91 on breakfast over four days. We are elsewhere one morning.
Other Resort Dining
Queensbreak Restaurant was the only other Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort dining we tried. Taking the boys to dinner at any of the other offerings was a no-go. They’d rather get a pizza from Dominos across the street (which is exactly what we did one night).
I liked Queensbreak, though. The outdoor area is nice, and the restaurant offers live music on weekend evenings. Servers also make the rounds to the pool, where you can order from a trimmed-down menu.
Poolside dinner hit the spot our final night. I splurged on a cocktail. Between one other quick bite and dinner, we spent $102 on Queensbreak food.
This was our first shave ice experience, so take my review with a grain of salt. But I thought what Island Vintage Shave Ice served up was excellent. I’d expected flavored syrups. But this actually tasted like fruit juice. The boys loved it. We went here twice during the trip, and I wished we’d gone a third time.
The Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa offers a range of activities for both adults and kids each day. At check-in you receive a list of everything the resort fee includes, what the daily activities are, and which have an additional cost. Leading the list of hotel features, though, is the pool. That’s what the kids would say at least.
When it comes to hotels, all my sons seem to care about is the pool. No pool? Zero stars. They hardly notice most of the other amenities. My 8-year-old frequently recalls our stay at the Hotel Paradox Santa Cruz, which had an excellent pool.
The Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort has two pools: one for adults and one for families. I missed the memo. On our first night, we headed out for a quick swim before bed. The boys jumped into the first pool we encountered, which happened to be the adult pool. The area was nearly deserted. But a staff member quickly came up and informed me of my error.
So we made the walk to the family pool. The two are about the same size, although only the adult pool area has a hot tub. On the other hand, the family pool is where all the cabanas are, if you’re looking to rent one.
Beyond the family pool, overlooking the boulevard and beach is a final sun deck. At night you’ll find two lit fire pits, which were very popular.
Any hotel with a resort fee likes to sell you as many things as they can under that heading. Besides the arrival lei, amenities included under the resort fee include “daily pool delighters” (essentially a cup of fresh fruit), enhanced Wi-Fi, beach chairs, and fitness classes. There are a couple discounts on other services, including 30% off an electric bike ride.
The resort activities are similar. Some are free. Others come at an extra cost. The food demonstrations are free, which include shave ice, poke, and “the perfect Mai Tai” at the Queensbreak bar. Free drink with the final one. There is also a nightly fire dance and occasional swim-up movie nights.
Pretty much everything else comes at a cost, which is unfortunate. With a $50+tax per day charge, you’d think they’d work that into covering these costs. If that was the case, I’d be far more understanding of the fee. But it doesn’t cover the yoga, hula, barre, tai chi, lei making, or nightly sunset painting classes. The Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa does offer a lot to do.
We caught one evening. Dusk comes early in Hawaii, and we were typically on our way back to the hotel from a daily excursion. I’m glad we made it back for this, though. the boys enjoyed it. For a fee, you can take your photo with the dancer.
The outdoor terrace near the pool offers a variety of games, including corn hole, foosball, and tabletop shuffleboard.
The hotel offers a large fitness center on the same level as the pool. It’s quite popular in the mornings. I worked out a couple days, and it seems everyone is up bright and early in Hawaii.
Waikiki is officially the worst of all the Oahu beaches we visited. The walled sections are calm, making it safe for little kids. But even in the sections east of the Marriott where it’s unwalled, Waikiki still falls short of every other beach we visited. And it not just because of the people.
But if you do want beach access, you have it. Walk across the street and your there. I highly recommend hitting the north shore or east shore instead, though.
Don’t forget about the Diamond Head. You can’t get there on foot from the Marriot Waikiki, but it’s worth the short drive or Uber ride. You’ll be treated to spectacular views of Honolulu. Early morning ascent is best, which is exactly what we did.
Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort Review: Final Thoughts
The Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa is a solid Honolulu resort, but nothing spectacular. The value was about par for award travel. I am too used to completely free hotel stays, so the fact that we spent nearly $500 on resort fees and food does color my perspective. I wouldn’t eagerly return, given the cost. Yet it is world’s cheaper than what we would have paid in cash.
Besides that, I thought our room was comfortable, albeit small. The boys loved the pool and games, and the food we did enjoy on-property was good. Staff are friendly. We have no complaints about the experience.
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This became our go to hotel a few years ago when working in HNL for a year+. Fortunately the client had local rates that we were able to access that included parking & waived the resort fee. We always stayed on a high floor in the back tower because of street noise from Kalakaua Ave. Agree w/others who recommended going elsewhere for breakfast-just too many options within an easy walk to pay Marriott’s prices.
Waived parking and resort fee changes the calculus considerably. And I agree on breakfast. Given the partial coverage, though, it would have been a toss up whether elsewhere was cheaper for three people.
Having recently stayed in this hotel I think you got a bad draw on the room, especially as an elite. They have huge rooms with much bigger balconies in that hotel. One slight correction on your blog post, I understand why you said it but there is actually a small hotel (bookable with Chase points) that is on the beach in front of the zoo. The Kaimana Beach Hotel and Lotus hotel are right on the water. I personally think people staying in this area should just go out and grab nearby food at various restaurants for breakfast. It will be better and cheaper, even with the hotel credits. Even if Mcdonald’s and such isn’t your thing you can find coffee shops, Wolfgang Pucks and other breakfast places along the beach there.
I’m split, because neither coffee shop breakfast and McDonald’s breakfast don’t cut it for me. Finding something where you can have a sit down meal for ~$10 per person seemed marginally feasible, at best.
We didn’t make it far enough down the beach to see the Kaimana hotel. But good to know there is an option in the area.