by Terry Ward
The moneyed enclave of Marco Island, just south of Naples, draws snowbirds in droves during the winter months. But the quiet appeal, beautiful beaches with calm waters and powdery sands, and family-friendly vibe make this stretch of Florida’s Paradise Coast a great place to escape with the whole family any time of year. And if you’re looking for an affordable, oceanfront (make that gulf front) hotel that makes up for in location, affordability and friendliness what it lacks in bells and whistles, the Hilton Marco Island is a safe bet.
With 310 rooms and suites, the Hilton is smaller than the Marriott (right down the street) with much shorter walks between your room to dining venues and the beach — a good perk to keep in mind if you’re traveling with small children who don’t exactly mobilize on a dime. All of the rooms have balconies, though only gulf-front rooms give you the extensive water views that make a stay here really feel like a beach vacation. The 16 newly designed luxury rooftop suites are great for families as well.
Families will appreciate the on-site kids’ club with an extremely enthusiastic activity leader who motivates the little ones for fun outings, including shell hunts and kicking the soccer ball around on the beach. And the pool, while small and on the crowded side during peak occupancy, is full of fun toys (noodles, kickboards and the like) that kids have a ball playing with. You can also walk to shopping and a range of independent restaurants (Marco Island is refreshingly lacking in chains) at a retail cluster right across the street.
But the real fun of vacationing here comes from the natural highlights just out your hotel room door — dolphins are regularly seen frolicking in the shallows, the Everglades are within easy striking distance for day trips, and the Calusa Spirit catamaran, berthed right near the hotel, is on-call for dolphin-watching cruises and shelling trips.
Our Editor Loves
- Gulf front on a calm, beautiful beach
- Walking distance to shopping, dining and cinema
- Kids activity room with games, arts and crafts, and evening activities
- Horse Back Riding
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Among the 310 guestrooms and suites, 16 luxury rooftop suites are a particularly nice option for family stays, since they have a separate bedroom and living area (although no kitchenette facilities apart from a mini fridge). All rooms and suites have balconies, and it's worth paying a bit more to opt for gulf views over rooms that have views of the resort. Beware of guestrooms located on lower floors above the pool and hot tub area, as you'll hardly have any privacy and peace. Standard in all rooms and suites are bath robes, double vanities in the bathrooms, safes for your valuables, coffee and tea making facilities and mini fridges that are empty and ready to be stocked with your snacks and juice boxes.
The standard rooms are referred to as "Junior Suites," but don't be tricked by the wording -- you won't find a private sleeping area sectioned off from the sleeper sofa area in Junior Suites. You will find, however, a couch that converts into a sleep sofa, so you can easily accommodate an extra child or two.
Each includes a kitchenette with a stove, microwave and sink; two bedrooms; and an additional pullout couch in the separate living room area (up to eight people can sleep in a suite). The suites, all with gulf views, have a sleeping area separate from a living area, where there's also a pullout sleeper sofa to accommodate additional guests.
We usually stay at a different hotel but found that the Hilton is less expensive and newly renovated. Very friendly and helpful staff and gorgeous beach property. Right across the street are shops and restaurants galore.
by Antony A
Great place for a family vacation. Close to restaurants and hotel and beach were great. Super clean and friendly staff. Eddie the bellman was the best and made us feel at home. He was really helpful with recommendations on places to visit and eat. Will definitely be back.
As long as your family's a beach-loving one, you're bound to have a fun vacation together here. The stretch of gulf front lining the hotel has pleasingly shallow waters that stay warm (downright hot during the summer months) for most of the year, and collecting the beautiful, largely unbroken shells that wash up on the sand is a favorite pastime for locals and visitors. Beach chairs and umbrellas for the beach are available for daily rental, and since the water remains shallow for a good distance from the beach, it's a pretty ideal and relatively safe place for kids to play. The sand is sugar-fine and sand castle building is always in order.
The Hilton Marco Island Hotel only has one small pool overlooking the ocean, and when occupancy is high it can get crowded, making it far more appealing to spend your water time a few steps away at the beach. The pool is about five-feet deep and there's no lifeguard on duty. Despite the crowds, kids love splashing around with the complimentary water toys -- just don't come expecting a serene time poolside. You can use your towel card, which you'll receive at check-in, to get towels from the poolside kiosk for use at the pool or beach.
The hotel really caters to water sports fans, with Marco Island Water Sports, an independent outfit, operating a shop right onsite (you can add any charges directly to your room account). Sign up here for hour-and-a-half long waverunner tours in the mangrove-enshrouded environs of the Ten Thousand Islands, parasailing tours taking you up over the ocean, or boat rentals including kayaks or Hobie cats for some family water fun for the day.
Families particularly love to cruise on the Calusa Spirit catamaran, with 2.5-hour-long trips that take you into the Ten Thousands Islands to spot pods of dolphins and collect shells on the pristine beaches of Cape Romano.
The hotel's kids' camp, which strangely only runs from 4:30 to 8 p.m. daily, offers water games in the pool, shelling on the beach, and other sports games in the sand. After dark, the groups move inside for arts and crafts, movies and games.
The kids' club itself is a big air-conditioned room near the spa and tennis courts that's loaded with board games and kids' DVDs and also sports a pool table and flat-screen TV. Teens tend to congregate here to watch flicks when they're not preening on the beach. Movie afternoons in the kids' club, from 3 to 5 p.m., can be arranged with advance notice.
The Deck at 560 Bar & Restaurant
Offering both indoor and outdoor seating with gulf views, this beach-chic restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a focus on seafood and local cuisine. The newly installed child-size brunch bar will be a hit with the kiddos.
This grab-and-go spot offers a delicious coffee bar along with sandwiches, salads, pizza and ice cream. Perfect items for any time of day.
The Gulf Cart
Situated beachside, this mobile snack cart offers light bites, salads, sandwiches and cocktails.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Wireless Internet is available free of charge throughout the hotel.
Babysitting services with licensed sitters can be arranged through the concierge for an hourly charge for one child and a small additional fee per hour for each additional child. Be sure to arrange 24 hours in advance.
The hotel also has a 24-hour fitness complex right near the spa, with an extensive range of cardio and weightlifting equipment. Children under age 16 should be supervised in the area. Additionally, there are two clay tennis courts with onsite rental equipment available.
There's a small gift shop inside the hotel where you can purchase necessary items such as diapers and sunscreens, and there are touristy souvenir shops across the street if you're looking for beach toys, hats, flip flops and such at lower prices.
The Art of Smart Timing
All of the hotel's amenities are open year-round, but you'll find yourself sharing the resort with boatloads of people during the busy holiday season leading up to and after Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as around spring break in March and April. Summer in Florida is notoriously steamy, but the Gulf of Mexico usually offers a breeze, so even during the hot summer months, it can be a pleasant time to be outside playing on the beach and basking in the sea. You'll find the best prices during the shoulder-season in September when school is back in session, as well as during the period after spring break and before summer break.
The Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, less than an hour north of Marco Island, is the closest major airport to the resort. You can find all of the major car rental companies at the airport, and if you plan on exploring beyond the immediate resort area, it's a good idea to rent a car to get around during your stay.
The sand is very hard-packed on this stretch of Florida coastline, so be sure to bring a stroller if you have little kids, so you can enjoy long strolls on the beautiful beach.
For Mom and Dad
The hotel's spa is a modern facility with the usual range of massages, facials, scrubs and mud-wraps on offer. You can request kiddie manicures and pedicures for your princess phase kids, too. If you want to treat your 'tween or teen to a massage, choose Swedish for a gentle option.