Courting Kauai

This upscale Courtyard by Marriott puts a new twist on the brand

By: Kenneth Shapiro

When I told people I was going to Kauai and staying at the Courtyard by Marriott at Waipouli Beach, about half didn’t know the Courtyard was open and the other half wondered why I would chose to stay at a “business” hotel on a leisure trip with my family. It’s safe to say that Marriott has its work cut out for them in getting its message out.

“The biggest problem we have right now,” said Andrew Cooley, director of sales and marketing, “is spreading the word to travel agents that we are here, open for business and not what they think of when they think of the Courtyard brand.”

There is no doubt that the hotel, which officially opened in February, is atypical to the familiar brand. The 311-room, four-story resort was formerly the Kauai Coconut Beach Resort, however renovation at the property was extensive.

“If you saw this place before the renovation, you wouldn’t believe how much it has improved,” Cooley said.

From what I saw the renovation appears to be a roaring success. Everything from the open-air lobby to the stylish rooms to the ocean-view restaurant helps the Courtyard rank up there with resorts that are three times as large and three times more expensive. For a family or small group looking for a comfortable, affordable, centrally located home base from which to explore Kauai, the Courtyard will be a pleasant surprise.

More Space to Play

The day my family and I arrived at the hotel, our luggage had been lost, our rental car was misplaced, we were hot and tired and the kids needed a nap or a dip in the pool, or both. Our Kauai visit was not off to a great start to say the least.

When we opened the door to our guestroom, however, everyone’s spirits picked up instantly. The room was huge at 384 square feet for a Standard, and 672 square feet for our Deluxe room with enough space for our baseball-loving 4-year-old to run around, and for his little sister to toddle safely nearby.

The room was not only spacious, but the decor felt luxurious as well. It was comfortable and sophisticated, with lots of rich, dark wood that I later found out was imported from Bali. Best of all, however, was the balcony, with sturdy wooden deck chairs to relax in and admire the views of Wailua Bay. When the Balinese-wood shutters were opened along with the sliding glass doors, a warm breeze swept through the room as the surf crashed outside just what you want in a beach vacation.

Guestroom services and amenities are fairly standard, and include wireless Internet which I had some trouble getting to work consistently cable TV and pay-per-view movies, hair dryer, safe and mini-fridge (great for families).

The only reminder that the room was in the “moderate” category was the bathroom, which was very small so small in fact that the bathroom door hit the commode when opened all the way. A second sink and counter in an alcove outside the bathroom made up for the size somewhat. For clients who don’t mind sacrificing a Jacuzzi tub for more living space, however, the trade-off is undoubtedly worth it.

As for the rest of the resort, agents should warn clients that there is still ongoing construction, although it was hardly noticeable during our stay, and, in fact, the public areas are what really help to distinguish the Waipouli Beach Courtyard from other properties in the brand.

The Voyager Grille, for instance, which opened in June, is the hotel’s main restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. While there are still some furnishings to come, we found the dining room very comfortable, with ample outdoor seating and two semi-private rooms that are ideal for families with young kids. The food was superior, featuring great seafood and regional dishes. In addition, every evening there’s a torchlighting ceremony outside the restaurant.

Soon to come is the Cook’s Landing lounge featuring appetizers, cocktails and entertainment a fitness room, a gift shop, a business center and a meeting/banquet room. In addition, scheduled to open this month is the Pua Spa, which will be managed by Paul Grab, the person behind the spa at Princeville Resort. (How many Courtyards can lay claim to an upscale spa?)

While the pool is on the small side and in need of an upgrade, and the stretch of white-sand beach in front of the hotel seems better suited for walking than swimming, one of the hotel’s greatest assets is its location. Near attractions, shopping and a kid-friendly beach, the Courtyard Marriott provides a good base for exploring the island, which more than makes up for the fact that unlike the larger resorts, there is less to do on-site.

Waipouli is well known in Island history as the place where ancient Hawaiians set sail on their trading journeys to Tahiti, and the spot is still a great launching point for exploring the island. Set on 10½ acres of Kauai’s coconut groves near the town of Kapaa, the Courtyard is a five-minute walk from the Coconut Plantation Marketplace, and is a short drive from the airport in Lihue, kayaking on the Wailua River and the Wailua golf course. It is also a comfortable driving distance from both the north and south shores of the island. For families, it’s a five-minute drive or a 15-minute walk to the terrific kids’ swimming beach and playground at Lydgate State Park.

Of course the Courtyard’s biggest draw for most clients is its affordability, and in that regard there couldn’t be a better time to book. Right now, 2005 package prices at the hotel start at $180 for a standard room, which includes a choice of daily breakfast or rental car. For seniors over 65, that price drops to $143 (with breakfast; no car).

Several of the guests that I met at the hotel either couldn’t get into the pricier Kauai Marriott up the road, or had made a conscious decision to sacrifice extra amenities for lower prices, and none of them regretted the decision. Much of that customer satisfaction comes from the enhanced experience at this more upscale “Courtyard Marriott resort.”

“People, especially agents, need to experience the ‘Courtyard Resort’ concept for themselves,” Cooley said. “It’s common in other countries, especially Asia, but many agents just won’t understand the difference between us and their neighborhood Courtyard Marriott, until they see it for themselves.”

To help inspire them to make the trip, the hotel is currently offering an introductory rate of just $69 a night for agents. And the time for agents to see this hybrid property is now, because when it comes to the Courtyard by Marriott Kauai, seeing is believing.


Courtyard by Marriott Kauai Waipouli Beach
4-484 Kuhio Highway
Kapaa, Kauai 96746

Hits: Large, comfortable guestrooms. Great location and views. Good common areas and lobby.
Misses: Tiny bathrooms. Pool feels small and outdated. Not many on-site dining options.
Be Aware: Agent rates of $69 a night are currently available. Some descriptions of the property mention a tennis court. The only court here is dilapidated and unusable.
Plugging In: Wireless access in all rooms, however connection was unreliable. Internet access via the TV is also available. Business center is scheduled to open next month.
Clientele: Mostly families, small groups and overflow from Kauai Marriott.
Rates: Packages start at $180 for a Standard room ($143 for seniors). Rack rates start at $229 for a Garden View room.
Commission: 10 percent

When I asked my 4-year-old what he wanted to see most in Hawaii, he surprised me by saying fireknife dancers or, as he put it, “those guys who play with fire.” Luckily for us, the Courtyard by Marriott is home to one of the islands’ most well known luaus, Tihati’s Hiva Pasefika. This AAA Diamond Award-winning luau features an open bar and all you can eat luau, as well as plenty of hula and fireknife dancing of course. Nightly, except Mondays. Call for prices and details.