My wife and I stayed at the Marriott Kauai after four days in Maui at the Kapalua Bay Renaissance (owned by Marriott also). The contrast was not favorable to the Marriott Kauai (read my review of the Kapalua Bay under the Maui hotel reviews), primarily because we were looking for pampered, personalized luxury and had chosen a large Marriott; my mistake. Here are my thereby skewed opinions (brickbats first, compliments at the end):
1. This hotel is too large to serve as the place from which to base your vacation, and too impersonal to treat it as the entire destination (if you want a large destination hotel, go to the Caribbean to the Atlantis in the Bahamas or one of the Jamaica all-inclusive resorts). I am a Marriott Platinum level business customer and despite this I didn't get much in the way of personal attention from the Marriott staff. When I go to the simplest Marriott Courtyard (or the Kapalua Bay Hotel for that matter) they fall all over themselves welcoming me; not here; from the valet to the front desk to the room very lackadaisical. I am a pretty good tipper, and the service didn't improve over the three days. For example, we arrived at 130PM mid-week and were told that they did not have a room for us yet and sent us away until 4PM; this rarely if ever happens to me at a Marriott property. This is just one example of the homogenized approach to guests: one size fits all. It took forever to get anywhere in the hotel from our room, one of the better pool view/partial ocean view rooms in the hotel, but still a very standard and smallish room. Anyone who has stayed at a city-center Marriott knows this type of hotel: stylish but cold. The pool area is massive, the restaurant is massive and buffet focused, the lobby is massive and had enough marble for the pharoah's tomb, the gardens are massive though pretty in a Disney way, with Asian sculptures and statuary; you get the picture. We were there three nights and never got a good feel for the place, other than the area around the susi bar (more on that later). It may be that the true focus of the place is on the timeshare guests; kind of like staying at a hotel where there is a large conference going on: lots more people than the hotel staff can handle, so the personal attention slips and the feel of being a guest rather than a customer vanishes.
2. The pool area is very nice and picturesque, but the afternoon we arrived it was loaded with testosterone infused Gen-xer's from some 100% club sales trip, so it was like visiting a university at homecoming. The rest of the the time it was awash in young families; good if you are there on a family vacation, not for us. We did not spend much time at the pool. The beach was wide but seemed dirty; it was not very attractive despite the setting. No sunrise or sunset view from there. The surf was very strong and therefore the water was a dirty brown. There were a lot of "outsiders" surfing at the beach so it was crowded. I did not feel safe leaving our things on the beach chair and venturing into the water. There were very few chairs; these were reserved for the hotel guests, but could not be taken onto the beach itself. They were to remain on the grass.
3. We did not spend much time in the main hotel restaurant except for the Crab/Prime Rib/Champagne buffet on Friday night, preferring to head out for local restaurants and to get out and about and away from the crowd. The buffet was reasonable, with plenty of food and variety and good service, but several things were not good: the crowd was dressed for the "Golden Corral" buffet (actually they may dress better at the GC), not for a 4 star resort hotel; the price was $40 per person for food that was only "okay"; they said they could not seat us at the requested time (730PM), but required that we arrive at 6PM, despite an abundance of empty tables when we arrived and throughout the meal. Elsewhere on the property, we had appetizers at Duke's and JJ's near the hotel, and they were fine with good views. The restaurants were relatively empty when we went, though they appeared to be jammed with the aforementioned salespeople at other times. There was also a heavy cruise ship contingent at the hotel; the hotel offered a round trip bus to the cruise terminal.
4. The two things restaurants excelled at on Kauai (and Maui) were sushi and calamari. We ordered calamari everywhere we went and liked every recipe we were served. Much different than the typical mainland calamari. Sushi, particularly the yellowtail (hamachi) and softshell crabs was outstanding. The Marriott hotel's open air sushi bar was very good and was made even better by the location of its tables along the railing and in alcoves overlooking the pool. The presence of an A-plus piano player added to the ambience; he was outstanding, playing everything from blues to ragtime to R&B, showtunes and even some classical. This was the best way in southeast Kauai to spend your evening and almost no one was there. The bartender at the bar part of the sushi bar is a true artist. Every drink he made looked like a work of art. Another very good restaurant with excellent sushi and many other Japanese-style dishes was the Kintaro Restaurant, not far from the hotel heading north. This is a big place with excellent service and a nice mix of locals and tourists; it was kind of a funky/country place, as were many other places on the island. We also liked the Polynesian themed Keoki's Paradise (on the south shore), which is kind of "faked" south pacific but actually very nice. Very good food; large portions with friendly service is provided at lunch in the bar. Chickens wander about underfoot to keep the Kauai ambiance going. We also really liked a Hawaiian/Philippino diner/restaurant for breakfast called Dani's just North of the airport from the hotel. (In my Maui review I mistakenly located it there; very embarrassing.) Very friendly local place with good food. We had pineapple pancakes, 1/2 a papaya and fried eggs with poke' every day while we were there (a sort of fresh salsa with diced raw fish in it; this is a food concept that needs to come to the mainland; its like ceviche but used like salsa and in sushi). Great coffee too and the check for two never exceeded $22, including tip. Contrast with the $28 + + per person buffet at the Marriott.
5. Sightseeing was of course excellent from the helicopter (I have included a couple of pictures) and via SUV, to a point, but getting places was troublesome due to poor infrastructure (one lane bridges, no street lights) and roads. We had a four wheel drive Explorer and were glad for it. We wish we had taken one of the sailing catamarans, but the surf, wind and waves were too rough; we get seasick on giant cruise ships without non-drowsy Dramamine. Most everyone we spoke to had gone kayaking or hiking or trekking of one kind or another and were enthralled by the views, but come on, 8 hours of steady paddling or 12 miles of hiking is a form of work not vacation. We did not want to work that hard to relax. We did make it to the south shore beaches and the state park for some snorkeling and sunbathing, but due to the surf conditions there were warnings posted everywhere to not enter the water; luckily for us you could not read them from the water. we could not use the fins due to the heavy current, but did have a great time walking on the rocks and observing the fish; they were in close because of the surf and the movement of the rocks created new food sources; we had as many as 50-60 fish in three feet of water.
Having said all this, however, I much prefer the Maui approach: short jaunts and readily available sushi, snacks and Mai Tai's with beautiful views. Maui is a luxury resort that is island-wide. Kauai is like Yellowstone Park: if you stay near the entrance and RV parks and main tourist spots you are neck deep in people. If you are willing to climb a couple of miles, it is you and the wilderness and the beauty and the peace; to enjoy Kauai fully you have to be prepared for this type of a vacation; unfortunately we were not. If there is a next time it will be a backpacking adventure....
- Also Known As:
- Marriott Kauai Hotel Lihue
- Marriott Kauai Hotel
- Marriott Kauai Hotel Beach
- Kauai Marriott
- Marriott Kauai
- Marriott Lihue
- Lihue Marriott
- Marriotts Kauai Beach Club
- Kauai Marriott Resort HI
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Known for its warm island hospitality and idyllic location on the Garden Isle, the Kauai Marriott Resort on Kalapaki Beach underwent a $50 million upgrade, with major enhancements to all its guestrooms, suites, restaurants and pool deck. Unique among hotels in Kauai, our resort sits on Kalapaki Bay and offers a wide variety of recreational activities, a superior beach experience and 18 holes of Jack Nicklaus championship golf at the adjacent Kauai Lagoons Golf Club. Business travelers will enjoy our 5 Star Hotel's 20,230 sq ft of flexible meeting and event space in Kauai. Guests traveling for pleasure will enjoy one of the largest family-friendly pools in Hawaii and our spacious 5 star hotel rooms, most of which offer spectacular views and feature a balcony. Pamper yourself with a luxurious spa treatment at our hotel's on-site Alexander Spa and Salon. Discover a leader in style and service among Kauai hotels and resorts and enjoy breathtaking beachfront views at the Kauai Marriott Resort. ... more less
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