Nowadays, big changes are underway at the iconic property, with 246 hotel rooms being converted into 112 one- and two-bedroom suites under the Marriott Vacation Club moniker, with 10,000 square feet of meeting space converted into a sales gallery for the new product. In concert with the suites, a brand new arrival experience awaits guests, with handsome, Maui-built tiki panels having been installed at the porte cochere, and a new front desk area set against a lobby garden that sports colors of the islands, along with native plants and lava rocks. A glance west from the lobby reveals enticing ocean views, framed as if a guest has just walked into their own postcard of paradise. The remaining hotel rooms are being refreshed, and the 20-unit, two-story Cabana Wing, with full ocean views from the top floors, will become a “hotel within a hotel,” says general manager Steve Yannarell. “We’re ‘right-sizing’ the hotel,” Yannarell says. “For the Big Island, this is what was needed. We had too many hotel rooms on the coast, and a growing demand for our Vacation Club-type offerings.” The Marriott Vacation Club is a points-based program, with more than 50 destinations all over the world currently in the system. One becomes an owner with a one-time purchase of an allotment of points — “vacation currency” as Marriott says — that can be used at the destination of one’s choice. Points are refreshed each year, and as new destinations are added, the program continues to grow and succeed.
Because Hawai`i is such a popular destination, the addition of the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa to the list of destinations is sure to be a hit. “Some of what we’ve done,” Yannarell says, “was done to ensure we satisfy our new customer on the time-share side.”