I've been doing my research for the past few weeks on these forums, and thought it would be good if I can get some up to date info. My fiancee and I are planning a 7 to 10 day honeymoon in min-July. Since I live in the east coast, I am interested in the Carribean/Hawaii destinations. I initially wanted to head out to french polynesia, east asia or the maldives, but the flights were too long (25 - 35 hours) and way too expensive (3000$ each).
What we are looking for:
1) Beautiful beaches (preferably secluded).. close to hotel.. somewhere we can walk to and be alone..
2) Nice new "romantic" rooms.. I doubt marriott has anything very "honeymoon-ish" but something nicer than average (such as the suites in Caps D'ail).. any marriott have a floating bungalow?
3) Majority couples and adults... this might be hard to find from my experience with marriott.. but I have found some, like the Renaissance in San Juan..
4) Not really interested in Golf, Hiking, Diving, etc, so that wouldn't change anything for us
Please tell me what is your favorite "beach/romantic" spot... Also, if you have non-marriott rec's, that would be taken into consideration too.
I am platinum at Marriott and would probably be using my precious points for this trip. Also, if there are any air/hotel packages you know of, I would be interested to hear about it.
So far, after a lot of reading, I have the following in mind:
1) Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman
2) Ritz-Carlton Kapalua
3) Ritz-Carlton Cancun
4) JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa at Ko Olina
5) Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino (brand new hotel.. so the rooms should be nice and clean.. but i read that there is a major cruise dock closeby)
6) Marriott Beach Resort Curacao
7) Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino hotel Aruba
8) Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino
9) St. Kitts Marriott Resort
A major issue with the Carribean will be the weather in July. Would suck getting hit by a hurricane for my honeymoon The good thing about the Caribbean is that I would be able to stop by for a few days in Miami as well. Also, Hawaii, I will be able to do a few days in Cali...
I have read a lot of reviews, and of course, everyone has their own opinion of which destination is best. However, based on my "requirements", I was hoping to be able to reduce my list to at least the top 3 hotels
Thanks in advance for all your advice!!!
Happy new year!
Mr Canuck and I stayed at the Marriott in Curacao in November. One advantage of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) is that they're outside the hurricane belt, so much less likely to be affected if a storm rips through. (That said, a storm did get very close in mid-October.)
We were quite happy with the Marriott in particular and Curacao in general, although it might not be everyone's cup of tea. The public areas of the hotel were very nice - high 4/5* in quality. The rooms were a step down (low 4*) but attractive, large and well-kept. We got a beach-facing room on the 2nd floor (an upgrade due to Gold status) and were pleased with it. The pool isn't huge but it didn't look like it would get overrun with kids and teens. The beach is also quite nice (although a bit rocky on entry - you need water shoes). The high-end restaurant was somewhat overpriced and forgettable but the pub food at the Emerald Lounge was quite good and reasonably priced.
The dive shop at the Marriott is great - and diving in Curacao was excellent. There is supposed to be very good shore diving, too.
You can get away without a car for most of your stay (take shuttle into town), but it's probably worth renting a car for at least 24 hours to get around the island.
The main reasons I've suggested that Curacao might not be for everyone is because: a) there's basically no worthwhile shopping (something that some people care about); b) there are some quite visible industrial activities on the island (e.g. hard to avoid the keep the oil refinery out of your photo when you're dining at the fort); and c) there aren't a lot of activities/sights outside the resort. Certainly, there are some very historic museums etc to visit, the ostrich farm is fun, and it's nice to explore the beaches. But for those looking for a week full of activities and sightseeing, you might be disappointed. Since it's your honeymoon though, maybe these won't be a high priority for you.
I have never stayed in any of the listed properties, but I can comment on three of the locations:
- Just finished a week at the JW Marriott Cancun, walking distance down the beach from the Ritz. The JW was a very nice hotel with several good restaurants onsite, and I think you could definitely enjoy a honeymoon on the Yucatan Peninsula. The only catch is that the hotel zone itself has a big Spring Breakish feel to it - very touristy, in some parts you're thinking "This could easily be Orlando."
My favorite day there was when we drove down to Coba and Tulum. If we ever go back to Yucatan, we'll probably just rent a car at the start and stay farther down the coast. (Of course, that eliminates Marriotts.)
- Kapalua. Part of our honeymoon was at the Renaissance Wailea, which was a perfect destination based on your criteria above. A smallish but elegant Renaissance - too small for convention business and not the right kind of amenities for families. That left a quiet romantic feel throughout the property, but I do not believe it is with the Marriott system anymore.
We drove up to Kapalua to play golf one day. The whole resort area with the Ritz looked fantastic, but the weather is much more mixed up on that end. You'll have cloudy/windy days and sunny days. Wailea felt like 100% sunshine to us, but the Marriott Wailea appeared to us to be more of that convention/family hotel - a dressed up Outrigger Hotel.
Overall, we loved Maui and would go back - even to the Marriott Wailea. There are several different romantic daytrips to do on this island. Hana and Haleakala (sp?) were our favorite parts.
- Oahu. Stayed at the Hilton for a week, but drove all over the island and down to the JW Marriott at one point. Oahu is a good pick if you like to do a lot of big-city things. Although I love big cities, it felt a little out of place in Hawaii. I mean, I *know* millions of people live on Oahu, but until I was there I didn't understand how odd it felt. We spent a few days driving up to the north and west sides of the island.
Another one I'd throw in to your list is Kauai. From a romantic perspective, it may be the best choice of all four of the primary islands - either it or Maui... We spent a week at the Marriott there and enjoyed it. Nice upgrade as a Gold at the time...top floor, corner room.
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Maui and Capri are my favorite spots to travel to, but Capri is a haul and much of Maui is certainly not couples and adults - lots of kids running around (though I've only stayed at Marriott/Westin/Sheraton in Ka'anapali and Wailea).
I suspect RC Kapalua is much quieter/less crowded. I've been through the area but never stayed there.
Ilihani Ko Olina was very nice. A well kept property with large rooms, 20 minutes away from the "big city" of Honolulu, a nice beach that was never very crowded (and lots of other beaches not far away), not a hoarde of kids (other than my two..).
Aruba Marriott was nice, but same problem as Maui with kids/families. The beach was quite crowded but you can go a bit north or across the island to Baby Beach and have a nice semi-quiet time. Aruba tends to be well south of the hurricane tracks so it's very popular in hurricane season.
Aruba Ren is right downtown, but there is a boat out to a Ren-owned private island that may be a bit less crowded - I didn't go.
No good beaches on St Kitts - it's a very rocky island. The Marriott beach was the only decent one. It was OK, but not where Aruba, Hawaii, etc. are.
I didn't stay at the Grand Cayman RC - just at the Marriott. I recall it being a bit more built up around the main beaches we went to, unless you drove all the way around the island (which was very nice, but a bit of a haul).
Cancun was a zoo last I was there, and I don't imagine it's become any better.
Haven't been to Curacao - it's on my "next list". It fell down the list because it didn't have enough to do for the rug rats in the family - might be very good for a honeymoon.
From you list, I'd look for more info on RC Kapalua, Ilihani, and Curacao.
EDIT - I'd also add Kauai to your list. A little more laid back than Maui, not quite as developed in terms of dining/acitivity choices, but great beaches, hiking, nature.
Frencham's Reef in St Thomas if your going to use points!
That being said St John is much more romantic and way less commercial! But you can take the ferry over and spend the day's there. Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay, Salt Pond Bay, Water Lemon Cay on STJ all great. Or stay on STJ at the Westin or Caneel Bay ddepending on what you want.
Frencham's Reef in St Thomas if your going to use points!
That being said St John is much more romantic and way less commercial! But you can take the ferry over and spend the day's there. Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay, Salt Pond Bay, Water Lemon Cay on STJ all great. Or stay on STJ at the Westin or Caneel Bay depending on what you want.
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There is the new JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa there. It looks to be a very nice hotel. I think there is a thread on it, but I'm not sure that anyone has stayed there yet or not. I would think it would make for a great Honeymoon though.
Also, its availability seems to be pretty wide open with the new rewards. It had spotty availability with the old Standard awards. Also, while I didn't make a reservation, it looks like there is no upcharge for an oceanview room, so if you choose here make sure to book one of those rather than a garden view.
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I have very fond memories of the Marriott Waikoloa on the Big Island. It's not as fancy as the Ritz or JW, but I liked the beach a lot. We went in May 2006 and it wasn't crowded at all. It was going through a renovation at the time, construction was going on but didn't bother us at all. I'm sure it is much nicer now with the new infinity pool. I don't remember that many kids around (like the timeshare properties we stayed at) and rather quiet. We took a stroll one morning along the beach where it stretches out and for my first time saw sea turtles just sunbathing on the beach. That's when we also got to swim with a couple sea turtles. We also saw a hint of the "green sand" which you can only find on the Big Island.
We visited the Hilton next door one day but felt it was way too big of a resort. The Waikoloa was perfect, easy to get in and out, but also nice to spend a day just inside the resort walking around the grounds and the beach.
It was since that Marriott experience (got the room through Priceline) that we fell in love with the Marriott bed (better than the Westin Heavenly bed) and are now loyal Marriott members.
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I have not been to the others you have listed, but my wife and I went to the Ihilani for our 10th anniversary. I have some pictures here so you can get an idea of what the hotel is like. These were taken in July of 2007. There were of course some families there, but as you can see by the pictures of the lagoons, there was plenty of beach space to allow you to be alone. If you do go to Oahu, I would highly recommend the Polynesian cultural center, Tantalus Loop drive, Waimea Valley Audubon Center, and finding someplace we were told is called Turtle Beach. Thats not the official name, but it regularly has large sea turtles. I can give you a map if you PM me. Have fun and congrats on getting married.