As part of using my small stash of Citi ThankYou Points to show that you can book a trip to Hawaii for just 7,500 Turkish Miles & Smiles, I spent a couple nights on the Big Island. It was a whirlwind trip, one where I mixed some flying for fun, some points and miles geekiness, some writing, and kept up with work.
Since keeping cash outlay to an absolute minimum was essential, I booked both of my nights as awards, split between two different two hotels, the first of which was the Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay.
Booking My Stay
The stay way worth the burn of my free night certificate that would have expired in a couple months. I tend to struggle to use single free night certificates, often burning them for necessary airport hotel nights. The Sheraton Kona Resort is a Category 5 property, which is the uppermost tier for which the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Free night certificate can be used.
Cash rates were $254, which would come to about $287 total after taxes, not including the resort fee. This was for a Mountain View King Room, the standard room available as an award night.
The only other Marriott option in Kona is the Courtyard right in town, a Category 4 location. I debated between the two, settling on the Sheraton Kona Resort. Marriott has four other hotels on the Big Island, all of which are further north up the coast in and near Waikoloa.
Arrival and Parking
After arriving at Kona Airport on a United 737-900 flight (booked as a Turkish award), but with all my Premier perks, I rented a car at the Kona Airport after and drove myself to the Sheraton. The hotel is located about 35 minutes south of the airport.
One thing I did not realize until just before travel is that the Sheraton Kona charges for parking. I find this utterly stupid, given that we’re not in any sort of city center. This is just extra incremental revenue for the hotel on top of your room charge and resort fee.
But I didn’t give up quickly. As I entered the drive to the hotel, I noticed a wide, paved shoulder with a handful of other cars. Rather than pull into the hotel lot, I flipped a U-turn and parked my Miata there. There aren’t any signs saying you can’t park here, and I figured it was likely fine for one night.
There. I just saved $20 and got to walk 200 more feet. Easy choice.
You enter the hotel into a large lobby areas with nice seating and a view of Keauhou Bay and mountain slopes. The concierge desk is immediately to the right, while you continue left to check in.
The lady at the desk was friendly and welcomed me warmly to the Sheraton Kona Resort. She was also very clear about the $30 resort fee (plus tax), pointing me to a page covering all her things it includes. While I’m absolutely not a fan of resort fees, at least the hotel is very up front about it.
Marriott does not waive resort fees for elites or for award bookings. You can avoid them with Hyatt and Hilton by booking with all points.
She informed me that I’d been upgraded from a standard king to an ocean view king. I’m still a Titanium elite from a number of work stays last year when I took advantage of a status match opportunity. However, I’ve been on #TeamHyatt this year, and this was only the second stay with Marriott in 2019.
I was also given a property map at check-in which shows the different property wings and the various facilities. My room was in the Ehukai Wing.
Sheraton Kona Resort Ehukai Ocean View Room
I was given Room 3230 in the Ehukai Wing. The ocean view king rooms are fairly spacious, with everything you’d expect from your standard hotel room.
We have the bed.
A single chair and side table in the corner.
And a sink external to the bathroom. There is also water provided and a mini-fridge in the cabinet.
The bathroom in general is a bit dated. The tub and shower could really use an update.
The room also features an outdoor lanai with a table and chairs, perfect for enjoying the warm Hawaiian breeze.
The view is indeed an ocean view, also overlooking the family pool.
There was also a schedule of daily activities provided. I thought about attending the historic Keauhou Land Tour Tuesday morning, but I ended up making other plans. If beginners ukelele had been offered on Monday, I totally would have participated.
The Sheraton Kona Resort offers the Make a Green Choice program which will award you 500 Bonvoy points per night that you skip housekeeping. This is very weak compared to the original SPG program that would have offered 500 SPG points per night. The value is literally one third of what it used to be.
Overall, the room was very nice, especially considering the age of the hotel and the rest of its general appearance.
Club Lounge Dinner
The Kaiulu Club Lounge is located down one level from reception. To get there you head out past the reception desks towards the various wings of the property, but then proceed straight down the first staircase. You’ll see the lounge to your left. I was granted complimentary access as a Marriott Titanium elite.
The space isn’t bad overall, with a open design and windows that remain open to the outdoors. The lighting was terrible, though, at least as far as phone photos are concerned.
The lounge is under the lobby, with windows that look out over Keauhou Bay, just one floor lower.
The Sheraton Kaiulu Lounge offers pork sandwiches and a small salad bar in the evening. Not really a full dinner, but enough to make one, in my opinion.
There is also a cooler full of soft drinks.
The Sheraton Kona Club Lounge also offer complimentary wine and beer, which isn’t always a feature of domestic hotels. The wine choices included a Chardonnay and Cabernet.
Club Lounge Breakfast
I was back in the lounge in the morning for breakfast. The lounge breakfast is certainly less than the full buffet breakfast in the restaurant, but it was free versus paying $29.99. I’m not complaining. Hot options included eggs, sausage and rice.
Other offerings include cereal, fruit and yogurt.
Breakfast is totally adequate for a lounge breakfast. I’ve just been spoiled over the past year with breakfast at a few hotels in Asia which are quite extensive compared to anything I’ve ever encountered domestically.
Pools and Resort Facilities
In general, the facilities of the Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay are rather tired and rundown. The concrete structure is obviously old and rather unappealing.
But if you can overlook its appearance, the facilities aren’t that bad. The Sheraton Kona has two different pools: an adults-only pool and a kids pool. The one between the various wings of the hotel is the adults-only serenity pool.
The kids pool, including a water slide, is further out, facing the ocean. It even has a sandy, beach-like area.
The Sheraton offers Club Le’ale’a, a kids area open from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM. It’s not supervised, no it doesn’t substitute for free childcare while you enjoy the resort. But if your kids tire of the pool, it is an option.
There are also a handful of hammocks. Quite inviting in the glow of the afternoon sun.
And what would the resort be without nearly life size chess and checkers?!
Even though the resort may feel rather tired on the whole, it does offer two nice pools and other facilities for family enjoyment. I swam for maybe thirty minutes, but then headed out for a walk around Keauhou Bay.
I honestly spent a good amount of my time enjoying Keauhou Bay. It was nice to just sit for a while and enjoy the sound of the waves. The Sheraton Kona has a couple sets of chairs that face the bay on the north side of the hotel. One of the restaurants also has some nice views of Keauhou Bay.
I took a walk around Keauhou Bay as well. There really isn’t a beach to speak of. Actually, beaches on the Big Island seem fairly few and far between. There is mostly lava flow that spills directly into the ocean.
Other Hotel Facilities
As I wasn’t taking the day fully off, I did end up on my computer in the evening for a while. The WiFi speeds at the Sheraton Kona aren’t too bad. Not slow, but definitely not blazingly fast.
The Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa of course offers a spa. It’s located on the bottom floor of the AhiAhi wing.
You also have a help desk and an on-site store.
If you’re planning (or hoping) to get married in Hawaii, there is also a chapel.
You can also enjoy the exercise room if taking a jog around Keauhou Bay doesn’t sound appealing.
You can walk along the cliff front for a little ways, enjoying views of the hotel, the lava flow, and the ocean.
I knew Hawaiian sunsets are nice, but I have to say that both nights were utterly gorgeous.
I checked out of the Sheraton at the early hour of 7:45 AM. I passed out early, given the time difference from California, and then woke up wide awake at 4:00 AM and ended up working a little more. With a goal to head up to Mauna Loa that day, I figured an early start would be nice to be able to make it back to Waikoloa at a decent hour. The day ended up being an entirely different adventure that I expected. More on that later.
Overall Thoughts of the Sheraton Kona Resort
The Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay is a fairly nice resort with all the amenities you’d expect from an older property. It certainly doesn’t have a sheen, but the rooms are comfortable, the pools nice, and it offers a decent value if you want to stay in the Kona area. One huge downside is that there isn’t a beach nearby; the hotel is literally built onto the lava flow. If you’re looking for a newer property with nicer “curb appeal”, definitely look elsewhere.
The rates are pretty attractive in the low season, starting at around $135, not including the resort (or other) fees, and I’d be willing to spring for that versus paying 35,000 points per night. However, if rates were higher, I’d probably look elsewhere. Dining on-property could get expensive quickly, but if you’re an elite with lounge access, then you have both breakfast and dinner covered, which is a huge plus.