One for the Ages

A major renovation will refresh the Waikoloa Beach Marriott

By: Kenneth Shapiro

It would be an understatement to say that the Waikoloa Beach Marriott is in a prime location. In fact the setting is so special, centuries ago ancient Hawaiians chose to settle on the exact spot, and today remnants of their civilization can be found throughout the 17-acre oceanfront resort. The most notable relics are the fish ponds located near the Marriott’s beach. These ingeniously designed pools were actually used for fish farming, and today guests of the resort can wander among the rock ponds as well as the other historic spots on the grounds and learn more about Hawaiian culture when they are not laying on one of the best beaches on the Big Island, that is.

The folks at Marriott have apparently decided that a setting so special deserves a resort that lives up to the location. The property is currently in the midst of a $40 million renovation, and when finished in summer 2006, it will be substantially updated, including new guestrooms, new grounds, new swimming pools and more.

Laidback Ambiance
Not that the old Waikoloa Marriott was so bad. With its comfortable, if a bit outdated, guestrooms and beautiful grounds, the hotel definitely had its fans. In fact, on a recent press trip, I learned that Clint Eastwood is partial to one of the main suites. In fact, the Waikoloa Marriott reminds me a bit of Eastwood on the quiet side, solid if not glamorous, but with plenty of surprises left.

The Marriott shares its stretch of the Kohala Coast with the boisterous and massive Hilton Waikoloa Village. While the Hilton may be a better choice for clients with attention deficit disorder and families with tweens the Marriott presents a good counter-balance, with its mellower vibe and pristine, culturally rich surroundings. (Agents should note that day passes are available for purchase from Hilton for clients who want to spend an afternoon using the Hilton’s pools and waterslides and then return to the more peaceful Marriott at night.)

The Marriott does have its own amenities of course, including a pool and waterslide, as well as a children’s sandy-bottom pool that was ideal for my infant and toddler. In addition, the 545-room resort offers a fitness center, six tennis courts, conference facilities and a couple of restaurants. The resort also hosts a popular luau and has space for parties and special events. (In fact, on our first night we were treated to a fireworks show that was part of a wedding reception.) The property also has access to two award-winning 18-hole championship golf courses.

The current renovation is being done in stages, so one guestroom tower will always remain open, which will limit the disruption to guests. When we were there, the North Tower was being worked on, but there was virtually no noticeable disturbance. The North Tower is scheduled for completion this month and the South Tower for March. When the construction moves to the common grounds after that, however, some services will be impacted, and agents are advised to check on the status of the construction before booking.

When it’s all over, the resort will feature a 12,000-square-foot ballroom, a new restaurant and a new adult swimming pool (in addition to the family pool). It will also see major upgrades to guestrooms, the lobby and porte cochere and the restaurants. Also renovated or added will be a two-level, 5,000-square-foot-plus Mandara Spa, a salon, a fitness room and newly furnished cabanas.

The guestrooms will have a new sophisticated, contemporary decor that’s more in line with a Westin or W brand. The rooms will get all new bedding, furnishings and bathroom fixtures, as well as refreshed wallpaper, paint and art. There will be upgrades in the amenities as well.

According to company representatives, the renovation will reflect the “New Look and Feel of Marriott” initiative, which “presents a fresh approach influenced by the foremost innovations in design, technology, culinary expertise, service and comfort.” These changes include the new company-wide Revive Bedding. This bedding features down comforters inside fitted duvets, as well as a host of mattress enhancements.

After the construction, expect the hotel to see a boost in business, as word spreads about this Big Island cultural gem.


Hits: Great location on a swimmable beach on the sunny Kohala Coast, just 18 miles north of the Kona airport. Laidback atmosphere. Great cultural sights on property. Sand pool for kids is a big plus.
Misses: Limited dining options. As is, the lobby is too big, making the resort feel empty at times.
Plugging In: In-room high-speed Internet is available. Even better connectivity is expected after the renovation.

Be Aware: Across the road from the Marriott is the King’s Shops outdoor mall, with loads of dining and shopping options.
Clientele: Mostly leisure, although the resort
features extensive conference facilities with even more on the way.

Rates: Rack rates for 2006: Mountain/Gardenview: $385 per night; Oceanview: $450; Oceanfront: $515. Packages available. Also Fam-Tastic rates of $65 per night are available for travel agents that have passed Marriott’s Hotel Excellence Exam.

Commission: 10 percent.