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I have no problem answering questions about which Hawaiian island is my favorite: the green jewel, Kauai. Specifically, the north side of Kauai. Sure, the south side has more sun great resorts, but the North Shore has soul, beauty and tranquility that I have yet to see matched anywhere.
The problem for points travelers is that there aren’t many points-friendly hotels on that part of the island, especially since The St. Regis Princeville left the Marriott brand and can no longer be booked with traditional hotel points.
But all is not lost. Those looking for the magic of sunsets and rainbows over Hanalei Bay without blowing through their cash still have The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas in Princeville on the north side of Kauai. Not only is there no resort fee, but you can also use your Marriott points.
The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas can be booked for 60,000 Marriott points per night if you’re good with a studio unit, which is a little larger than a standard hotel room. With my husband, two grandparents, two kids and myself, a studio wasn’t going to work, though, so we spent cash on this part of the trip instead of points. You can book studio, one- or two-bedroom units — though the two-bedroom units are just a studio and one-bedroom connected.
I stalked rates like a crazy person, and in the end, we paid about $600 a night for the two-bedroom unit booked directly with Marriott.
Paying with a card like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card earns you up to 17x Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 7,000 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels. As a Platinum Marriott member, I also earned 15 points per dollar spent (the normal 10x plus a bonus 50%). This meant a combined 18 Marriott points per dollar spent to use on future travel. In the end, that meant earning around 10,000 Marriott points per night all in, which TPG values at about $80.
However, another great option for booking at this resort is to take Marriott up on one of their targeted vacation club offers that provides something like five nights, a rental car and property credit at a discounted rate. Pay attention to your inbox for those offers.
The pristine town of Princeville is heavy on golf courses and resorts. That’s fine, but what makes it great is that it is just under a 10-minute drive to Hanalei Bay and close to an epic sunset spot: The Princeville Resort (which warmly welcomes Westin guests).
The Westin Princeville is on an oceanfront cliff and has guest villas separated into seven different low-rise buildings spread out over 18 acres. The resort is about a seven-minute drive from the private Princeville Airport (HPV) and around a 45-minute drive from Kauai’s main airport in Lihue (LIH). (Since Kauai is the Garden Island, its roads wind around the perimeter of all that untouched nature, making trips from north to south relatively lengthy). Renting a car is a must because there are virtually zero Ubers reliably available on the North Shore.
We had quite the time getting to Kauai. In fact, we lost most of a day after an extremely long and drawn-out flight delay coming from the Big Island on Hawaiian Airlines. By the time we arrived at the North Shore, it was about midnight. There would be no gazing at the beautiful views and vistas on this day — just a desperate search for a shower and bed.
Because it was so late, and our travel day and been plagued by many unrelated slowdowns, I actually called the hotel on the drive from the airport to make sure they knew we were still coming and there were no problems. I was assured all was well with our two-bedroom villa reservation, which was partly true.
When I arrived, I was told there was a slight issue and was asked if we could switch villas the next day (of our two-night stay), for which I could have a resort credit of several hundred dollars. I forget the exact amount, but it was in the $300 to $400 range. Normally, that would be an easy yes, but we had already lost a full day on Kauai. Saying yes would mean we had no room from 11am to 4pm the next day (which is nap time) and we had literally eight loads of laundry because I had been on the road for two weeks.
So, we declined the normally very fair offer, which triggered at least 20 minutes of keyboard typing at the front desk. That doesn’t sound like much, but at midnight with a 3-year-old, a 9-year-old, two grandparents and me … it felt long. That said, the staff was kind and apologetic, and soon enough we were on our way to our two-bedroom paradise.
This may seem like an odd place to start, but seeing the dual-stacked washer and dryer in this two-bedroom suite was like seeing water in a desert. We were about halfway into our three-week trip, and, oh boy, did we have some dirty clothes. We didn’t care that it was after midnight, laundry was started immediately and it barely stopped until we checked out a few days later with 100% clean laundry to get us through the rest of the journey.
In addition to the washer and dryer, there were other things to like about this suite.
The one-bedroom side of the suite had a well-equipped full kitchen with pots, pans, utensils, etc., in case you wanted to cook up some meals. To get you rolling, there was also complimentary dish soap, laundry detergent, dish towels and all the supplies to make coffee.
There was also a good-size living room with a sofa, coffee table, TV and balcony with a view. It’s easy to see how a family could be comfortable here for an extended stay.
The large bathroom featured a walk-in shower, a separate, small room for the toilet, a double vanity and soaking tub with those somewhat odd, but relatively common shutters, that can be opened or closed to the bedroom.
The king bed was, as expected, heavenly. With such a late arrival, I loved how well the blackout curtains worked the next day!
On the studio side of the unit, things were naturally cozier, but done in the same style as the one-bedroom. The kitchen portion was much smaller, but still had a small fridge, a cooktop, dishwasher and microwave.
Those hoping for a separate shower and soaking tub were in luck — and those weird shutters that open from the tub to the bedroom were there, too.
For sleeping or lounging, there was a queen bed and a pull-out sofa.
There was balcony, which was the perfect setting for enjoying the view and a cup of Hawaiian coffee first thing in the morning.
It was a luxury to have all that space, but it worked out marvelously for our group.
The Westin had one restaurant, Nanea, a grab-and-go store and a poolside bar with small bites, Wailele Bar. We like to use my Marriott Platinum status to help defer breakfast costs and found the included offerings here to be on the weak side (especially compared to the breakfast heavyweights we had already enjoyed on this trip).
On Sunday, there is a big brunch buffet in Nanea, so on that day, Platinum Marriott status gets you two pastries, two yogurts and two drinks from the grab-and-go store. This actually might have been great earlier in the day, but toward the end of the breakfast time frame, the pastries weren’t at their best.
The other days of the week, Marriott Platinum cardholders get a continental breakfast in the Nanea restaurant (as shown below, $14 without the breakfast benefit), which adheres to the letter of the program, but no more. The food and service was totally acceptable, but it was one of those “free” breakfasts that ends up being anything but free. Since the kids weren’t covered, you need to add tip and some may want to upgrade to the buffet, etc. (Though in researching this story, it looks like kids 3 and under should have been free.)
Speaking of the breakfast buffet, here’s a look at that. Prices are normally $26 for adults and $13 for children ages 4 to 11. Sunday brunch prices are higher.
However, if you forgo housekeeping for the day, you get one free ticket to the breakfast buffet.
I have too many dining favorites in Hanalei to eat at the hotel, except at breakfast. However, on previous trip to The Westin Princeville, a TPG staffer ate lunch at Nanea and loved the ahi tuna poke nachos with wasabi sauce. For dinner, she enjoyed the catch-of-the-day, a firm Hawaiian whitefish and roasted chicken with Huli-Huli sauce.
If you wanted to use one of the many grills located around the property, then picking up some meat in the grab-and-go store could simplify that process.
With so much space, the Westin Princeville grounds feel quiet and peaceful even with several hundred units.
The resort has four pools and two whirlpools: the two-tiered main pool, a pool for kids with a waterslide, the Malie plunge pool and the Na Pali plunge pool.
This waterslide and children’s play area was simply perfect for my almost-4-year-old. She could handle the slide on her own, but the slide also managed to keep the attention of my 9-year-old for at least a while. And there was shade.
Note that the water depth is very shallow so it’s easy to skin a knee or backside if you aren’t careful.
“Malie” means “quiet” or “restful” in Hawaiian, and this tranquil gem of a pool with a hot tub nearby is a little off the beaten path and may be a more serene destination than the main resort pools.
Because the Westin Princeville is on a cliff overlooking the sparkling Pacific Ocean, it doesn’t have direct beach access. Even though the Princeville Resort is no longer in the Marriott program, Westin guests can still use their beach. This does not provide pool access, but does give you some discounts at the Princeville Resort, free valet parking and access to the beach — which is my favorite sunset spot anywhere.
Getting to the beach takes about 10-minutes by car or you can also take the Westin’s free shuttle. (Bring towels from the Westin.) Another idea, if you want a full pool day at the Princeville Resort is to buy a resort day pass. Prices when we checked were $40 per person; children 5 and under are free. You also can book a cabana for $250, which includes the cabana and admission for up to four people.
Back at the Westin, there is a Kids Club, although we did not have time to try it out on our visit. Also note that parking is $18 to $20 per day, depending on if you self- or valet-park. Parking areas get quite full in the evenings, so you may not be able to park close to your unit, if you return late.
There are daily activities at the Westin Princeville, such as fish feeding, learning traditional Hawaiian dance moves, etc. We had a full agenda outside the resort, so the only on-site activity we did beyond swimming was morning fish feeding near the restaurant.
The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas was exactly what we needed, exactly where we wanted to be. It’s not super fancy, but it’s certainly not bare bones. The pools were nice, especially for the preschool age-group. Having a washing machine and dryer in the room was great, and if we’d stayed longer, I could see the kitchen being just as useful. But for me, where you stay on the north shore of Kauai doesn’t matter nearly as much as simply being there and enjoying the shave ice, boogie boarding in Hanalei Bay, having a Mai Tai at Tahiti Nui, hiking and stopping to enjoy the rainbows.
If earning or using points at the Westin Princeville Resort helps make that dream a reality, then book it now and don’t look back. If you need to earn more Marriott Bonvoy points to make this trip happen, here are some options to get you going.
Featured image by author, additional reporting by Jessica Puckett.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
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