Review: Sheraton Waikiki – Kai Suite, Honolulu, USA
Our returning visit to The Sheraton Waikiki would have us back to one of the most legendary mega hotel properties in the Waikiki Beach area of Honolulu, Hawaii in the United States. The Sheraton Waikiki offers a renovated beach hotel experience that brings us back to this property time and time again. On this visit, we would be lucky enough to experience an unbelievable suite upgrade courtesy of the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program that really set the highlight of our stay.
This post is one chapter on our trip during the pandemic to Honolulu Oahu, Hawaii, United States. This trip was redeemed through Marriott Bonvoy and further enhanced through Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.
Read more from this trip:
- Introduction: Honolulu, Hawaii, USA via United Airlines Business Class
- Coronavirus Testing for Travel: Getting Tested for Hawaii
- Fairmont Vancouver Airport, Canada
- United Airlines Business Class: Vancouver – San Francisco
- United Club Lounge San Francisco – “F” Rotunda, USA
- United Airlines First Class: San Francisco – Honolulu
- The Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, Honolulu, USA
- Tips for Walking Diamond Head, Oahu, Hawaii, USA
- Roy’s Waikiki Restaurant, Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, USA
- On the Locals Beach at Waimea Bay Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii, USA
- Snorkelling at Hanauma Bay, Oahu, Hawaii, USA
- Circling the East Coast to Waimanalo Bay Beach, Oahu, Hawaii, USA
- How to Save on Hotel Parking in Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, USA
- Marakume Udon, Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, USA
- The Sheraton Waikiki – Kai Suite, Honolulu, USA
- The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort – Waikiki, Historic Garden Suite, Honolulu, USA
- United Club Lounge Honolulu, USA
- United Airlines First Class: Honolulu – San Francisco
- United Club Lounge San Francisco – “G” International Terminal, USA
- United Club Lounge San Francisco – “E” Concourse, USA
- United Airlines Business Class: San Francisco – Vancouver
Review: Sheraton Waikiki – Kai Suite, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States of America.
This review is of the Sheraton Waikiki. For other nearby hotel reviews, please see our review of the The Moana Surfrider by Westin, The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort- Waikiki, and the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani.
Booking the Sheraton Waikiki:
We had previously stayed at the Sheraton Waikiki on a past visit. We really enjoyed the experience and it was easy to make the decision to return.
The large monolithic Sheraton Waikiki is a large mega hotel resort in the middle of the Waikiki Beachfront featuring 1,636 hotel rooms and 136 suites. The hotel was originally built in 1971, but has undergone several recent upgrades and renovations to make it more relevant in today’s mid – luxury resort environment.
Like many Marriott Bonvoy hotels in Hawaii, the Sheraton Waikiki remains a terrible value on a Marriott Bonvoy Points redemption as a Category 7. A standard night during our January stay was over 50,000 points for a base level city view back street room. As a result, we opted for a paid cash rate. I searched around and the best one that I could find was the American Auto Mobile Association (AAA rate) for $251 USD for a City View King Guest Room.
As Marriott Bonvoy Titanium level members, we would also be entitled to the best available room, including select suites, access to the Sheraton Executive Club Lounge, and a welcome amenity including breakfast, additional Marriott Bonvoy points or a local welcome gift.
I checked the Marriott Bonvoy Suite Night Award inventory for the Sheraton Waikiki. Unfortunately, they only had “upgraded” rooms available in the Suite Night Award pool and there were no suites available. The best option was the Large Luxury Guest Room with three doubles that gets reports of feeling like a dormitory room.
Almost all of these were rooms you stood a great chance of being upgraded to anyway without the use of a Suite Night Award certificate courtesy of Marriott Bonvoy Elite status. As a result, we ended up saving our Suite Night Awards for another use and playing the upgrade lottery at the front desk. Unless you see some actual suites (Malia, Kai or Ohana Suites) in the Marriott Bonvoy Suite Night Award pool, I’d recommended saving them for another use elsewhere.
Getting to the Sheraton Waikiki:
The Sheraton Waikiki is located in central Waikiki at one of the best locations in Waikiki Beach. It’s located almost dead center on the area west of the canal. It’s within easy walking distance from a number of off property restaurants in the immediate area.
The hotel is also very close to a strip of Waikiki Beach that is mere steps from the hotel property. Although some parts of the hotel aren’t beach front being right up against the water break, the Waikiki Beach strip starts immediately to the east of the property and runs onwards for several miles.
The hotel couldn’t be any more convenient for spending a few days within Waikiki Beach and it’s probably the most convenient hotel property for those looking for a short stay in Waikiki Beach. About the only thing the hotel isn’t conveniently located near to is an area to park your car for free; something that can be said of almost every Waikiki Beach hotel.
In our case, we walked over with our luggage from the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani hotel. We had spent five days on this property, prior to our stay at the Sheraton Waikiki.
Checking into the Sheraton Waikiki:
I left MrsWT73 at the pool at the Sheraton Princess Kahulani and ended walking the 7 minutes over to the Sheraton Waikiki at around 1 PM. There was only one person ahead of me in line at the check in counter. The check in line was separated into Marriott Platinum, Titanium and Ambassador Members.
Trying to get the Best Possible Upgrade at Check In:
When you’re staying on a longer personal stay at a beach resort, I always try my hardest to get the best possible room. With this objective, I looked at using Marriott Bonvoy Suite Night Awards. Unfortunately, at the time of our stay, the hotel was not offering any Suites to the Suite Night Award pool. The only inventory in the Suite Night Award pool were enhanced rooms we’d typically stand an opportunity upgrading into at the front counter.
Despite the hotel having over 1,600 rooms and 136 suites, my Marriott Bonvoy upgrade experience has been hit or miss at this property.
There are three categories of suites at the Sheraton Waikiki. The Ohana (family) Suites are the largest suites available at the property, beginning with the Malia Suites (smallest suit category) and Kai Suites (intermediate sized suites) which are of smaller size than the Ohana family suites.
The Marriott Bonvoy elite recognition describes the upgrade program as:
Complimentary Enhanced Room Upgrade for Platinum Elite Members. Platinum Elite Members and above receive a complimentary upgrade to the best available room subject to availability for the entire length of stay at the time of check-in. Complimentary upgrade includes suites, rooms with desirable views, rooms on high floors, corner rooms, rooms with special amenities or rooms on Executive Floors.
Enhanced Room Upgrades are subject to availability and are identified by each Participating Property. The Complimentary Enhanced Room Upgrade for Platinum Elite Members and above is available at all Participating Brands except at Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott Grand Residence Club, Aloft, Element and Vistana properties.
We had previously stayed here and gotten an upgrade into a High Oceanfront Beach room from a Garden Room, booked with Marriott Bonvoy Titanium status.
Prior to arriving to the property, I checked in advance and the property had several Malina and Kai suites available for sale, with only the lessor Malina suites showing as “almost sold out”.
Getting back to the check in process, on arrival I asked the host asked for Marriott Titanium Suite upgrade. She started down the road of explaining that the hotel had already upgraded me from a garden room city view to an oceanfront view room. Given past experiences of hotels not really being interested in servicing upgrade requests from the Marriott Bonvoy program, I asked again nicely to see if there were any Titanium Suites available for upgrade.
At the time of our trip, there was soft demand as a result of the pandemic not fully recovering, I was fortunate to be checking in at 1 PM with no one behind me in line. The arrival host went went into the back room to check with the manager. She was there for what felt like quite a while; at least 4 minutes.
After what felt like an eternity, she came back and said that she had a suite for me; however, it had no working water on the last day of our 4 days stay between 9 AM and 1:30 PM. I gladly accepted the suite. I was thinking that I was being upgraded into the lowest suite category, but was absolutely blown away when I went to the room and found out I had been upgraded into a Kai Suite; which is the mid tier category.
The room that we had booked was retailing for approximately $322 USD per night. The Kai Suite we had been upgraded into was retailing for over $1,006 USD per night; a great deal!
There are times when you can get outsized value from the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. This happened to be one of those times. It was also unusual given that it was in the Hawaiian Islands; an area where there are typically a lot of hotel elites visiting expecting to take advantage of their loyalty benefits.
During the check in, we were presented with the usual hotel information sheet and restaurant timings.
The Leahli Lounge (Sheraton Executive Club Lounge) was closed on our visit.
The resort also featured a daily resort charge. The daily resort fee included a number of mostly useless inclusions. Instead of complimentary water bottles in the room, the resort also provided a Sheraton Waikiki refillable water pouch.
A Marriott Bonvoy Titanium 4 PM check out was available after reception checked with a manager. There was no haggling on the time and it was made available upon asking.
The Room: A Kai Ocean Suite
1 King, Oceanfront, Sofa Bed
Getting off the elevator on the twenty fifth floor, the room was immediately at the south end of the elevator bank. My first impression was that the room location wasn’t so great, since it was going to be near the elevators. However, I was happy to learn that thanks to the design of the room, that wasn’t going to be the case.
I entered the Sheraton Waikiki Kai Suite Room #2536. I was pretty much blown away by the size and luxury space of the Kai Suite. The Marriott Bonvoy room upgrade was among the best I’d ever had in my 16 years in the Marriott Bonvoy program, possibly rivalling the Suite night Award I redeemed at the JW Marriott Los Cabos.
In the Sheraton Waikiki Kai Suite, immediately after entering, there was a short hall that led to a living space, and a short hallway to the bedroom and bathroom.
The Living Room:
The living area had two couches, in addition to two occasional chairs. The room was nicely decorated in shades of light grey. While light shades don’t often wear very well, the atheistic of the room looked really pleasant and the room hardly had any signs of wear.
There was also a six person dining area with proper dining chairs. I always appreciate having a proper dining area in a suite, as it allows for in suite dining, in addition to begin a great space for counter storage.
The living room area offered a proper coffee station, in addition to a small mini refrigerator.
Off the living space, There was a small outdoor lanai deck with a lounger, and a single table and chair. There was also a diamond head view along with the hotels of the Waikiki strip.
The hallways towards the bedroom contained the bathroom.
The bathroom had two vanity sinks and was shaped in a L shaped format. There was heaps of storage space for those that wanted to hang their clothes, in addition to an in room safe.
One half of the L had a large walk in shower that was large enough for two. It also contained a bathtub in the shower.
The toiletries were the usual Le Bain Sheraton branded soaps. In a surprising twist, there were Hawaiian Tropic lotions, shampoos and conditioners.
The bedroom was large and had a lot of extra space around the bed. This space led to having a very spacious feel to the room. Unlike our other rooms at the Sheraton Waikiki that were themed with blue, green and emerald room accents, the Kai Suite went with a more sleek grey look without the coloured accenting.
There was a secondary television in the bedroom. The television was a little offset from the bed, which was slightly noticeable.
The suite was in really good condition, with minimal wear and tear.
In terms of sleep quality, the room was much quieter than our earlier stay up at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani. However, I found that the bed was quite soft for my liking and I didn’t get a restful sleep on the first night, or second night or even the third night.
The drapes were also allowing a bit of light through in the morning, even when fully drawn shut. This made the bedroom light in the morning after sunrise, likely thanks to the SE orientation of the room.
A Room with a View:
There was also a second smaller lanai deck off the bedroom, containing two cushioned deck chairs. There was no wifi working on the decks so the decks weren’t the ideal place to relax while you caught up on your social media posts.
The views from the twenty fifth floor Kai Suite were absolutely incredible. The views of Waikiki Beach along with Diamond Head in the background were outstanding.
From our suite, we were able to see many of the landmarks of Waikiki Beach, including the Royal Hawaiian hotel, The Moana Surfrider Historic Hotel, among others.
We really enjoyed the views from the room. We took in sunset some nights, and even had the opportunity to spot some turtles in the water from the room.
The Kai Suite was set up on the corner of the most water facing part of the hotel, as marked in green on the floor plan map below.
The housekeeping service at the hotel is pretty Las Vegas Style. With so many people staying at the hotel, most of your interaction with resort staff is through housekeeping knocking on the door.
Around the Resort Property:
The Edge Infinity Pool:
The property features two pools: The Edge Infinity Pool for Adults, and the family-friendly Helumoa Playground pool. The Edge Infinity Pool Chairs were set up with less density than they usually are, thanks to the social distancing requirements of the pandemic.
While we didn’t eat at the pool on this particular visit, the pool was served by the Edge of Waikiki Restaurant. It had the standard pool side menu items, highlighted by the Mahi Mahi sandwich which we have enjoyed previously.
The Helumoa Playground pool (family pool):
The other pool on the property is the family-friendly Helumoa Playground pool. The Helumoa Family Pool would be more than enough for a few days of entertainment with a waterslide, two large whirlpools, an interactive fountain area, luxury poolside cabanas, and poolside food and beverage service.
The Helumoa Playground pool was under the shadow of the imposing Sheraton Waikiki Towers. While the pool is larger, I found that it typically had more shade exposure than the Edge Infinity Pool. This is not necessarily a bad thing if you’re visiting with younger family members.
Food and Beverage:
Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Breakfast:
On past stays, we had enjoyed access to the Sheraton Club Leahni Executive Lounge, where it was expected that Marriott Bonvoy elites would enjoy breakfast. This alllowed some traffic to be steered away from their breakfast restaurant “Kai”.
However, on this visit in October 2021, the Leahli Lounge was closed with no obvious signs of re-opening in the future. To honour the terms and conditions of the Marriott bonvoy elite program, the hotel offered breakfast for it’s elites in the Kai Restaurant.
The Kai Restaurant is the hotel indoor and outdoor all day dining space. Ut’s situated on the ground floor near the Edge Infinit Pool and features some obstructed views of the ocean. It’s always a treat to be able to dine outside. Most days, we were fortunate to be seated on the patio itself, or inside just closest to large windows facing the ocean.
The Kai Restaurant featured the standard expensive resort pricing for breakfast. You won’t be disappointed with the menu, even if it does feature Panilolo Steak and Eggs for $42 USD.
If you are visiting and plan to take advantage of the Marriott Bonvoy Platinum breakfast, the hotel had a separate menu for it’s Marriott Bonvoy elites. The menu offered the continental breakfast as a base menu item, with the opportunity to upgrade dependent on which item you selected.
The upgrades pricing ranged from $15 for the full American Breakfast, up to $27 for the Paniolo Steak and Eggs breakfast. While the free menu didn’t offer the luxury having some basic hot items like scrambled eggs similar to what had been previously offered in the Sheraton Leahli lounge, it was nice to have the option of ordering up instead of being stuck with continental breakfast every day.
The Marriott Bonvoy Continental Breakfast offered a a plate of fresh pastries, fruit and yoghurt that regularly retailed for $30. While it’s a smallish portion, you can ask for re-fills of each individual item a number of times.
Most days, I ended up paying the upgrade fee. As with our experiences next door at the Sheraton Princess Kauilani, the food portions were massive. We would typically order one continental, and end up splitting a main upgrade between the two of us.
I was pretty satisfied with the outdoor breakfast at Kai. A breakfast here would typically fill me up until dinner time.
Sheraton Club Lehani Lounge
While the property has offered a Sheraton Club Lehani Lounge on the top floor of the hotel, the lounge was closed on our visit as a result of the pandemic. It’s not exactly clear when or whether it will re-open.
Marriott Elite Welcome Gift:
The Sheraton Waikiki unusually features a bit of a shopping frenzy feature. As part of your Marriott Bonvoy Elite welcome amenity, elite guests are given the opportunity to stuff a take away back full of gifts.
Marriott Bonvoy Elite Guests are given this card at check in to be used in the small retail location adjacent to the front desk. The store has limited hours, so make sure you find the correct time to visit. If you check out for an evening flight back home to the mainland United States, you might find the store completely closed.
The Gifts feature some local and mainstream products, including Hawaiian Cookies, Macadamia Nuts, Granola Bars and even some alcoholic wines.
We were able to stuff a bottle of sparkling wine along with a package of tea for my mom who was looking after the house while we were gone.
All in all, the welcome gift process is sort of a neat feature I haven’t seen replicated at many Marriott Bonvoy properties anywhere.
We had a four night stay at this property before heading onwards to The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort – Waikiki, next door.
The Bottom Line: The Sheraton Waikiki
Our second time at the Sheraton Waikiki was just as enjoyable as our last visit. The amazing suite upgrade we were lucky enough to receive was among the best and most memorable I’ve ever had. The Sheraton Waikiki didn’t have the same usual frenzy of crowds on this particular visit, but it was pretty enjoyable never the less.