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JW Marriott Ihilani with Kids at Ko Olina on Oahu

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Hawaii ticks all the right boxes for families looking for an easy getaway. Everybody’s going to like the food. It’s clean. It’s beautiful. It’s fun. Plus, for English speakers you can travel to a tropical, exotic-feeling destination without tackling a foreign language. If you’re looking for an upscale hotel on Oahu, here’s why to stay at JW Marriott Ihilani with kids at Ko Olina on Oahu.

Ko Olina

Sheltered Coves protect kids from waves at JW Marriott Ihilani (Photo credit: JW Marriott Ihilani)

Ko Olina

While most folks know all about Waikiki, Ko Olina isn’t yet on most families’ radar. But it should be. It’s as close to the airport as Waikiki, just in the opposite direction. And the location much quieter. Ko Olina boasts these fantastic sheltered coves, just perfect for babies and young kids to splash about in, without fear of being knocked over by a wave.

My family spent an idyllic few days at JW Marriott Ihilani, the very first development in Ko Olina’s 642-acre master-planned vacation and residential community. This resort might look familiar; it’s where Kate Bosworth cleaned guest rooms in the movie Blue Crush and episodes of Hawaii Five-0 are frequently shot here.

Ko Olina coves

It’s tough deciding between the pool and the beach at JW Marriott Ihilani (Photo credit: Jody Robbins)

What a view!

JW Marriott Ihilani’s original owners were big fans of Waikiki’s swish Halekulani resort, and that concept of spacious living was extended here. Guest rooms feature separate his and her vanities in the bathroom and a there’s a bar area with mini-fridge and plenty of counter space. You can even ask for your refrigerator to be stocked with kiddie favorites before your arrival (for an additional fee). There are also high chairs, changing tables, portable cribs and all the other baby necessities at your disposal.

JW Marriott Ihilani room

Spacious living at JW Marriott Ihilani (Photo credit: JW Marriott Ihilani)

Sharks, rays and fish

One thing we were definitely not expecting to find was Galapagos reef and hammerhead sharks swirling but a few feet from the main restaurant, Naupaka Terrace. Rest assured the sharks were in an enclosed pool, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get up close and personal with them each day during special tours. There’s actually several lagoons on site where families can spot manta rays, spotted eagle rays, and of course, an array of colorful fish.

Kids keen on leaning more and playing with the marine life can sign up for the hands-on Reef and Ray program, or simply head down feed the fish with a marine biologist at 7:30 a.m. each morning.

Manta Rays at JW Marriott Ihilani

Reef and Ray Program. (Photo credit: Jonas Mohr Photography)

Childcare at JW Marriott Ihilani

Looking for a little time away from the kids? Sign your children up for Keiki Kids, a kids club that operates during school holidays. The resort will also provide a list of local babysitters, available to entertain your offspring anytime of the year.

3 women doing yoga outside

Beachside yoga awaits (Photo credit: JW Marriott Ihilani)

With an on-site spa and a well-equipped gym open 24-hours, parents have no excuse not to take care of themselves. Don’t like being cramped indoors? Catch some rays while you go for the burn on their outdoor exercise equipment, or perfect your backhand in their tennis garden. My favorite way to work up a sweat during our stay here was running along the paths, past all five coves sussing out the new developments.

outrigger sailing canoe

Set sail in the deliciously warm water (Photo credit: Jodi Robbins)

Outrigger canoe excursion

For an authentic experience, opt for sailing trip in an authentic Hawaiian outrigger canoe. Despite the massive Disney Aulani sail, Hawaiian Ocean Adventures is an independent company that offers canoe trips for anyone over 2 years old. We were lucky enough to spot several green sea turtles and a bottlenose dolphin during our sailing, but sadly, no whales were in sight. (Tip: you’re more likely to see marine life in the mornings.)

fish entree

Fresh snapper at JW Marriott Ihilani (Photo credit: JW Marriott Ihilani)

Dining with kids in Ko Olina

The breakfast buffet at Naupaka Terrace is so tempting, I hit it up two mornings in a row despite buying milk and cereal at the nearby Target. Coffee lovers will be pleased to know there is a Starbucks on site as well.

With Ihilani’s five restaurants featuring Hawaiian, Italian, Japanese, American cuisine and poolside fare, you won’t feel guilty about letting your kids eat restaurant food here. To create a new kids menu, JW Marriott has partnered with nutritionist Keri Glassman, author of The New You and Improved Diet: 8 Rules to Lose Weight and Change Your Life Forever. This healthful menu helps junior jetsetters maintain healthy eating habits while traveling. From fresh-cut cucumber and carrot sticks with a low-fat yogurt ranch dip to cheese cubes and grapes, there are plenty of options for mixing and matching. Mini adult offerings like grilled organic chicken and turkey meatballs satisfy sophisticated palates, and the focus is all on sustainable, organic and locally sourced ingredients.

Those seeking food and fun beyond the resort need only walk a block to the Ko Olina shopping complex. Our favorite was Sushi Yuzu, where multiple low-priced appies make a meal during happy hour. Specializing in regional Hawaiian cuisine, Monkeypod Kitchen also offers tempting happy hour options, with 50% off appetizers and discounted pizzas.

Why stay at JW Marriott Ihilani with kids

There are many reasons I’d recommend a stay at JW Marriott Ihilani, but for our family, it all came down to comfort. Yes, the rooms were decked out in drool-worthy decor, but we felt comfortable and at home. We never felt out of our element, like we couldn’t eat on the bedspread or cannonball into the pool. The staff made families feel welcomed and bent over backwards to let us know when activities were taking place and where to go to score fish tacos outside of the resort. My only regret is not visiting here when my daughter was a toddler. Once you splash with your kids in those sheltered coves, you’ll know what I mean.

Would you like to stay at JW Marriott Ihilani with kids? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from Travel Mamas: Thank you to Hawai’i Visitors & Convention Bureau for hosting The Saucy Travel Mama’s stay. As always, my opinions are her own. For more information on Hawai’i, visit Go Hawai’i. This post includes an affiliate link.

About Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama

After a career in international marketing and a few years spent living the high life as an expat, Jody now resides with her family in Calgary, Canada. Figuring travel writing was a good way to combine her wanderlust and parental duties, she’s spent the past few years working with both print and online media, contributing to the Calgary Herald Travel and Real Life sections and blogging about her adventures at Travels with Baggage ( When not circling the globe with her precocious children (one daughter, one husband, one dog), she can usually be found snowboarding or pretending to enjoy hiking. Find Jody on Twitter at @Jody_Robbins.

  1. Lisa Goodmurphy says

    This looks like such a fabulous resort! I think I’d enjoy that sheltered cove even without young children – it looks so calm and peaceful. We have only been to Oahu once and stayed on Waikiki which we found too busy. I think I’d like to return and try out this location!

  2. Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says

    If you find Waikiki busy, I think you’d love Ko Olina! And it’s not so far away, so you can nip into the big city whenever the mood strikes.

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