If you’ve stayed at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa prior to 2010, I’d put this luxury property on your list for a repeat visit. That’s because the elegant hotel on the western shore of Oahu, in the Ko Olina resort area, recently underwent an $18 million renovation. Not only did all 387 rooms and suites receive a face lift with new furnishings, fabrics and fixtures, but the Ihilani Spa was refurbished as well, with an overall fresh design aesthetic, re-configured entry, a new couples’ treatment room, stellar fitness center and private suite for wedding parties, girls’ getaways and other small group retreats.
The Ihilani Spa Facilities
Just a few steps away from the main building at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort is the Ihilani Spa. It’s actually on the same premises as the parking garage, which may sound funky, but it works. Once you enter the spa, you never hear the sounds of honking cars, elevators or other “outside” noise. Actually, en route to the spa, you’ll pass a lush Zen garden — open to all hotel guests as a place of quiet meditation or yoga.
The women’s locker room is very spacious; it’s light and airy with blond-wood lockers, pale yellow, sea green and light blue accents and plenty of seashell motifs. The centerpiece is a Roman soaking tub in a glass-enclosed atrium, set in front of a beautiful wall mosaic of an underwater ocean scene. The soaking tub is a toasty 102 degrees Fahrenheit, with a cold plunge pool adjacent to it, whose temperature is set at 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Other amenities available to spa-goers at no cost are a sauna, a huge eucalyptus steam room, and a “needle shower” with multiple jets. The men’s locker room has the exact same offerings, minus the cool plunge pool. Also for spa guests is a roof-top lap pool — with a fun “mermaid” workout offered once weekly for an additional fee. (Yes, the instructor actually dons a mermaid tail to demonstrate the calorie-burning Dolphin Swim Kick exercises.)
The fitness center — available 24 hours a day — is open to all hotel guests and stocked with top-notch exercise equipment and free weights. The ellipticals, bikes and treadmills are in front of large windows facing the ocean for energizing inspiration! Finally, the tennis courts are also found here, on top of the parking garage — also with fabulous ocean and area views; court time can be booked for an additional fee.
The brand new Ho’onanea private suite is adjacent to the spa pool, with a comfortable lounging area, as well as salon chairs for pedicures, manicures and hair styling. I love the idea of bridal parties booking the exclusive room to prepare for a wedding here. A spa menu is available to all spa guests, featuring light fare for breakfast and lunch, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. — I’d just plan to spend the entire day here before my wedding!
The Ihilani Spa Treatments
A signature treatment at the Ihilani Spa is a Deluxe Thalasso Therapy with Color Light, which can be enjoyed on its own or in combination with another treatment. For the 25-minute Thalasso Therapy treatment, guests relax in a giant tub filled with ocean water and outfitted with pulsing water jets and underwater lights that change color. Each hue inspires a different mood or characteristic, for example, red represents “strength, energy, courage and power,” blue invites “relaxation, peace, health and knowledge” and green suggests “harmony and balance.” You select your color, based on how you’d like to feel after the soothing service, which also includes a hand and foot treatment while you’re reclined in the tub.
As inviting as Thalasso Therapy sounds, I opted for a 50-minute Radiance Facial, which included a 100 percent pure collagen mask. Ideal for the sunny tropics, this treatment also features vitamin-rich products for intense moisturizing. I thought my facial — in a dimly lit room — was both relaxing and effective.
Other treatments here include body wraps, body scrubs, oxygen facials, and a variety of massages: lomi lomi, shiatsu, La Stone hot rock, Swedish, maternity and reflexology. Prior to all treatments, you can chill out in an air-conditioned relaxation lounge, or outdoors on a lanai. Salon services include haircuts, hair styling, hair “therapy” (deep conditoning) and highlights, plus manicures, pedicures and aromatherapy paraffin treatments for hands and feet.
The JW Marriott Ihilani Resort Accommodations
- New palette of sea blue and sand colors, inspired by the Pacific Ocean
- Custom designed furnishings, such as an illuminated wooden headboard on the bed, L-shaped wooden desk and cushioned chairs on the lanai
- Finely crafted fabrics featuring traditional Hawaiian kapa patterns
- Sophisticated framed artwork displaying Hawaiian feather lei
- 42-inch flat screen TV with a technology jack to recharge iPods and other electronic devices
- New mirrors and fixtures in the oversized bathrooms
I absolutely adored the modern, stylish 11th-floor, ocean-view room my husband stayed in on our romantic getaway to Oahu (identical to the photo above). Indeed, our marble bathroom was oversized, and our lanai huge! In fact, there was quite a bit to like about the JW Marriott, which I’d recommend for a couple’s getaway, for sure. The man-made lagoon offers calm water for swimming, plus a gorgeous crescent-shaped white-sand beach; the large oceanfront pool area offers plenty of chaise lounges for relaxing, On-site dining includes the Japanese Ushio-Tei restaurant, signature Azul dining room and upbeat Hokulea lounge with a great bar menu. Golfers will appreciate the nearby 18 holes at Ko Olina Golf Club.
I really enjoyed the whole vibe at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort — it was classy without feeling pretentious. In fact, the resort is great for kids, too, with its Keiki Beachcomber Club, free fish feeding in the lagoon every morning (with complimentary laminated fish ID card and lanyard), as well as the on-property ponds stocked with stingrays and reef sharks! Special children’s programs invite kids to help feed the rays and sharks, touch starfish and learn more about the local marine life.
Bottom Line: The Ko Olina resort area on the western shore of Oahu is a nice change of pace from bustling Waikiki. A favorite memory from my trip here was a stroll (hand in hand with my husband) along a paved oceanfront recreation path that skirted the three other lagoons near the JW Marriott Ihilani property. Indeed, the resort invites reflection and relaxation — and part of that program absolutely involves at least one treatment at the Ihilani Spa. Be sure to reserve enough time for a steam, sauna or soak before — or after — your treatment!
– Review by Kara Williams, who visited the spa in May 2011. Photos by the author, except for the bottom room shot, which is courtesy the resort.
As is common in the travel industry, the author received complimentary accommodations and spa treatment.