JW Marriott Ko Olina Main Pool

The Ihilani is Marriott’s luxury property on the western end of the Ko Olina resort area on Oahu (See below for more about Ko Olina in general). And, if you’ve ever asked yourself “Where do NFL players stay during the Pro-Bowl,” here’s your answer. In the past, the NFL has rented out the entire resort for players and their families, probably because it’s high end, beautiful, and away from the party atmosphere at Waikiki. Visiting dignitaries at the APEC conference in 2011 (including island local Barak Obama) also had the place to themselves.

The main pool is perfectly round, with rich blue tiles that shimmered in the December sun on a recent visit. It’s flanked by chaise lounges as well as a casual sports bar, a snack bar and also the resort’s restaurants. The all-you-can-eat sushi offered a few nights a week may seem pricey (around $40 per person) but the fish is fresh and delicious and is actually a great deal, even for non-football players.

JW Marriott Ko Olina Main Pool

While we only stayed two nights, the pool was empty most of the time we were there. I think that’s partly because it was cool and breezy, but also because just a few steps down and across the walkway is a powdery white sand lagoon—tucked into the cove, warm and almost waveless, peaceful. It’s a great family beach spot and makes the Ihilani’s main pool almost superfluous. Proof below.

JW Marriott KoOlina Laggon

Postcard perfect, right?

There’s also a pool at the spa. The Ihilani calls itself the first destination spa on the island, and offers all the expected treatments including Hawaiian Lomilomi massage, and also water therapy with salt water piped in directly from the ocean. The spa renovation was almost complete when we visited and I’m sure it will be done by this year’s big game.

It’s in a building across the parking lot from the main hotel. The mosaic in the women’s soaking tub is especially spectacular (and the massage was pretty great too!). Plus, there’s a fitness center and also an adults-only lap pool on the roof:

JW Marriott Ko Olina Spa Pol1

I’d love to be a fly on the wall up there, the weekend before the Super Bowl.

ABOUT KO OLINA: The J.W. Marriott shares a lagoon/cove with next-door-neighbor, Disney’s Aulani resort. It’s also at the opposite end of a series of lagoons from a Marriott Vacation Club. While both are Marriott properties, they’re run by separate companies. All three Ko Olina resorts are upscale,  family-friendly and a little bit off the beaten path, on the white sand lagoons and near a golf course and a few shops and eateries. The Marriott Ihilani is a lot quieter than it’s mouse-eared neighbor. Seniors, couples, singles and families with really little ones might be happier at the the Ihilani. Those with kindergarten-and-up-aged kids—and Disney fans of course—will love the Aulani, with all of its themed activities, kids clubs and amusement-park-like excitement. Those on a budget or who are looking for a more chilled out kind of vacation will love the Marriott Vacation Club. Stay tuned (or click when live) for reviews of the Marriott Beach Club and Disney Aulani.

For more Hawaii pool reviews click here.

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