THE TRIP TO Hawaii inevitably brings on jet lag, but it's wonderful to wake at 5 a.m. for a soak in a huge whirlpool, followed by a sunrise walk along a series of saltwater lagoons. I discovered this antidote at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa at Ko Olina, on Oahu, when I visited recently.
Just a half-hour from Honolulu International Airport, the 387-room JW Marriott Ihilani is on the sunny western shore of Oahu in the 640-acre Ko Olina Resort, accessible to the attractions of Waikiki but light-years removed from the hustle and bustle. It's a hidden gem quickly being discovered by planners looking for luxury, convenience, and enough meeting space to accommodate large groups. The hotel allows two or three buyouts a year, says General Manager Chris Tatum. Along with ample indoor and outdoor meeting space, amenities include spacious guest rooms with cushioned teak furnishings and stunning marble bathrooms, a 35,000-square-foot spa, and a Ted Robinson — designed championship golf course next door.
The JW Marriott Ihilani's location on the sunniest part of Oahu means you can schedule outdoor events here without worry — and the hotel offers many beautiful outdoor function spaces. Our group had a fabulous dinner under a thatch-roofed, open-sided structure at the shoreline of a private estate next to the resort, where we saw a blood-orange sunset over the water and were entertained by young hula dance students and their matriarchal teachers. For big groups, the Ihilani's new Pavilion is a versatile, open-air structure with 18,000 square feet of unobstructed space, and high-speed Internet connectivity. Planners have used it for big-name entertainment, trade shows, and banquets for as many as 2,000 people.