Ko Olina Resorts - Ko Olina Beach Map:
If you are looking for a fun, new spot to visit when on Oahu, we suggest checking out the Ko Olina region on the western shore. About 30 minutes from the Honolulu airport and located where the H1 highway turns into the 93 (also called Farrington Hwy), you will find the beautiful coastline of Ko Olina. Four manmade lagoons line this strip of Oahu with a marina on the south side and the Paradise Cove luau on the north. In between are the lagoons and the 4 resorts which offer a variety of lodging options from beach villas to luxury hotel rooms. Although the JW Marriott has been here the longest, the new Disney Aulani resort will surely become the focal point of Ko Olina. I first discovered Ko Olina when I was searching for places to stay - away from Waikiki but not as remote as the Turtle Bay Resort on the far north shore area. This is a review on our vacation from December 2011.
List of Ko Olina Resorts:
There are 4 main resorts along the beach of Ko Olina. You have the Marriott Ko'Olina Beach Club at lagoon #3, then the Beach Villas at Ko Olina at lagoon #2, and the Aulani Disney Resort & Spa and the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort at lagoon #1. The Beach Villas at Ko Olina is open on both sides which means that someday you could see more resort properties come into this area. As you approach the Ko Olina resorts on Farrington Hwy, take the Ko Olina exit and you'll pass by the entrance gate. Some hotel guests stop, but it's not necessary unless you are not sure where to go. The JW Marriott was the only resort in this region for years and they too just completed a huge renovation project. Disney is a great staple for any resort community and Ko Olina will surely thrive as more people visit. Across from the Aulani Disney there are some shops and restaurants - places like Just Tacos, Hawaiian BBQ, ABC Store (groceries), and an ice cream store. The Ko Olina Station has plenty of vacant storefronts, so hopefully they will fill in over time. Many resort goers and locals are hoping for a pizza spot. The Ko Olina golf course is right across the street from these resorts and the marina and ocean activities office is near lagoon #4. The manmade lagoons are perfect for beginner snorkelers (like my kids) and for anyone that wants a swim in the ocean without all the waves. They are well protected with mounds of large boulders so that the waves break before they reach the lagoon and the ocean water is calm once inside the lagoon area. We saw sea turtles in lagoon #2 everyday we swam there. The fish are prevalent in most of the lagoons as well. Paradise Cove, just to the north, offers luau's for families or couples that want to get an authentic Hawaiian experience without having to travel back into Waikiki or to the other side of the island to the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Beach Villas at Ko Olina:
These villas are where we stayed on our visit. The property is not overly big, but the two towers (Beach and Ocean) supply both 2 and 3 bedroom floorplans with some unique layouts. All villas have good sized lanais so you can enjoy the sunsets, ocean views, and resort views. They are not cheap to stay at - we paid close to $3000/week while there. The good news is that compared to the same villas that Disney offers, these are considered a good deal. The pools are large enough and provide space for all visitors to get in the water. The pool complex closer to the ocean is not heated and therefore a bit chilly at times. The heated, lap pool is nice to relax in or swim some laps, but for the most part the resort wants this pool to remain "quiet" and so kids are not supposed to be playing in this pool. There are no restaurants onsite, but they do have a bar near the Beach Tower which serves alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks for most of the day. The inside of the villas are spectacular and were brand new as of 2008. We have a complete review online at Beach Villas at Ko Olina
. You can view pictures, watch a video of the pools, and find out about which villas give the best views.
Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club:
I thought this property was better than the Disney or JW Marriott up the pathway. The Marriott Beach Club in Ko Olina has some great rooms along with restaurants (Chuck's and Longboards). The pools are nice and they offer Polynesian style shows on the grass between the lobby and the beach. After I returned from my trip I received a phone call from Marriott Vacation Club asking if I wanted to try out the Beach Club at a discounted rate and I think I will take them up on it. The facility is first rate and the staff was friendly and helpful even though we weren't staying there. We did eat at both restaurants and enjoyed the food. They sit right off of Lagoon #3. The rooms and villas are beautiful and pricing starts at a little over $300/night for the rooms while the villas fetch over $400/night.
Aulani Disney Resort & Spa:
The biggest draw to Oahu could be the new Disney resort located along the Ko Olina coast region. Disney knows how to build mega resorts and the Aulani Ko Olina is certainly no different. There are actually two different resorts here - the Disney Vacation Club and the Disney Resort Hotel. Rooms are beautiful decorated and the grounds are truly amazing. We had the chance to walk around the pool complexes and see the waterslides, lazy river, and larger pools. They have things like a character breakfast each morning with Mickey Mouse and you will see Goofy and other characters walking grounds. In true Disney style they have gift shops loaded with souvenirs and our kids even had to have something. Their property is right off of lagoon #1, so if swimming in the ocean or snorkeling is your thing, then you get easy access. The resort offers plenty of choices when it comes to food - find dining to buffets to kid friendly. What are room rates? We found that most standard view rooms went for $399/night and anything beyond that was going to be more expensive. Ok, the resort is new and the pools are definitely fun, but that kind of money should include an amusement park ticket or free meals. Disney is hoping they can get a premium for their rooms, but at first glance the place was not full and perhaps we'll see some discounting in the future.
JW Marriott Ko Olina:
The Ihilani Ko Olina from JW Marriott is nearly perfect. Rooms that average 640 square feet and suites with marble bathrooms, dual vanities, and balconies makes this an enticing option when vacationing on Oahu. JW Marriott has some competition after all these years of being by themselves in Ko Olina. During much of the peak season their room rates are close to $500/night. I would say this resort is more for couples than kids and families. The pool is a bit small and probably not what the kids would want. The location is superb (right next to Disney Aulani) with incredible sunset views from many of the rooms and you get to swim in the protected lagoon if you want. They offer beach activities and tennis courts if you need a little recreation. We ate at 2 of their restaurants and the food was mediocre. I will say we did not get to try their Ushio Tei restaurant which got great reviews. Certainly if you are staying in Ko Olina, the JW Marriott is worth a visit.