by Jackie Perrin
Offering a sun and sand getaway, complete with world-class shelling, watersports, a daily children’s program and sweeping gulf views from virtually every luxurious guestroom, JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort is a sanctuary for nature-loving families.
Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, at the gateway to the Florida Everglades, the 732-room, 63-suite beachfront resort recently completed a $200-million renovation. In addition to a 24,000-square-foot Balinese spa, a newly redesigned par 72 golf course by Robert Cupp, Jr. and a host of active and aquatic adventures, guests enjoy front-door access to a three-and-a-half mile stretch of white sand beach.
By day, families can splash and swim in one of two resort pools, hit the beach, explore the 10,000 Islands via waverunner or parasail adventure. Catamaran cruises sail in search of manatees, bottlenose dolphin, sea turtles and exotic shells. Active, kid-friendly tour options range from island biking trips to kayak, fishing and Everglades airboat excursions.
At night, spectacular Gulf sunsets take the spotlight, complemented by dive-in movies and beachside entertainment. Summer and holidays bring with them a host of planned activities, from character encounters and a climbing tower to sand-sculpting contests and Fourth of July fireworks.
From May through October, guests are asked to close their drapes after 9 p.m. Marco Island’s beaches are a prime nesting spot for Loggerhead sea turtles — a protected species by the state of Florida and the federal government.
Our Editor Loves
- Tiki Tribe Children's Program
- Waverunner, catamaran and pontoon eco-tours
- Family-friendly dining at the Tropiks and Quinn's on the Beach
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Boasting water views from nearly every balcony, the four-diamond property cradles guests in comfort, with upscale amenities and luxurious Marriott Revive beds, which are dressed with down comforters and 300-count triple sheeted linens.
Renovated in 2007, 732 guest rooms are located in two eleven-story towers, which are separated by a street of shops. Suites are divided between the towers and a Lanai wing.
Spacious standard rooms accommodate up to five guests and feature a flat panel TV, a mini-bar, a mini-refrigerator, a coffeemaker and a desk with a laptop safe. The latter amenity was introduced to accommodate banking professionals who frequent the property for business. Balcony windows are thoughtfully draped with sheers designed to soften the afternoon light.
Double rooms contain two double-size beds, while King rooms offer a king-size bed and a comfortable sleeper chair.
Renovated at a cost of $250,000 each, thirty luxurious Lanai Suites are located on the first and second floor of the Lanai wing. These units feature upgraded family-friendly amenities like spacious living and dining areas, DVD players and kitchenettes. Stylish marble master bathrooms have glass-enclosed showers and Jacuzzi tubs.
Eighteen one-bedroom and two-bedroom Gulf Front Suites are located in the main tower. Additional suite options include a 1,810-square-foot terrace-level Presidential suite and 800-square-foot Terrace Penthouse suites, both of which offer luxury living and spectacular Gulf views. Reservations for suites must be made directly through the resort.
Cribs, bed rails and rollaway beds are complimentary. Requests should be made at the time of reservation. For a daily fee, a media package offers high-speed internet access along with unlimited local and long-distance calls.
With regard to location, there are only a small number of non water-view rooms. Gulf Front rooms offer some of the choicest, albeit priciest, vistas. Lanai Suites, which offer quick access to Quinn's Pool and to the beach, are especially convenient for families that plan to spend a lot of time in the water.
Favored by families, the tropically landscaped Tiki Pool features gradual entry, a water slide and a giant waterfall. Hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Nearby, there's a small circular wading pool, open until 6 p.m., for little ones. It's gated and surrounded by lounge chairs. Poolside food and beverage delivery is available from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. On the Tiki Terrace, there's a kiosk offering hair braiding and beads. Check the resort schedule for hours. Upscale restrooms with changing areas are also nearby.
Located near Quinn's on the Beach restaurant and convenient to the Lanai suites, the Quinn free-form pool is generally less populated by little ones. Hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Lounge chairs are sometimes hard to come by during peak periods. Arrive early if you want to claim a choice spot. Six luxury cabanas are available for reservation.
Swim diapers are required for children who are not potty-trained. You can purchase them, along with sunscreen, sand toys, swimwear and baby and toddler supplies at "Surf and Sand." Towels are available on the pool decks. Keep in mind that no lifeguards are on duty at the pools.
Headquartered at the South Beach Hut, Marco Island Watersports offers a host of aquatic adventures. Tour Ten Thousand Island by waverunner or passenger pontoon boat, or get a birds-eye view on a parasailing adventure. On these tours, guests can learn about native shells and plant species. There are plenty of creatures to see like dolphins, manatees, sea turtles and exotic birds. Be sure to bring sunscreen.
If you're considering just one tour, one-hour guided waverunner eco-tours are a definite highlight for any adventurer. Parasailing adventures and waverunner rentals are also available. Children as young as infants can ride aboard the 49-passenger Calusa Spirit on a sightseeing and shelling cruise.
At North Beach Hut located in front of the Islands Tower, guests can rent beach huts, beach umbrellas, and non-motorized gear like kayaks, pedal boats, Hobie Waves and water hammocks. Guided Hobie sailing excursions and lessons with a trained Captain are available by reservation.
Open to kids between ages five and twelve, Tiki Tribe, the resort's children's program, operates daily. Typical activities include beach and pool games, scavenger hunts, movies and arts and crafts. The cost is $70 per child per day, with a $10 discount for an additional child from the same family. Half-day reservations are also available at a reduced rate. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and lunch is included with the full-day option. A playground is also located between the beach and the North Tower, and next to the Tiki Pool, a small playground entertains the kids.
Each day, the resort offers a number of scheduled activities for kids and families. Options range from arts and crafts projects like "Sand Art" and "Stuff a Buddy" to activities like "Family Bingo" and "Wacky Beach Games."
With entrances from the Tiki Pool and Quinn's Pool, a small game room provides a welcome escape from the sun. Games range from classic pinball and air hockey to modern video and novelty prize machines. Buy tokens onsite. Just outside the arcade near the pool deck, there's a ping pong table under a canopy. Arcade hours are 8 a.m. to midnight.
Kids under age 16 play for free after 3 p.m. with a paying adult at the Rookery at Marco. The par 72 resort golf course was redesigned by Robert Cupp, Jr. in 2006 and is a member of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program.
Small group sightseeing, sailing and shelling adventures aboard a six-person catamaran are open to children above age 4. The trip stops at a sand bar or barrier island for treasure-seeking. Arrangements for this cruise and other local tours, including fishing, kayaking, and island bike excursions, can be made through the resort Concierge.
Cafe San Marco
At this smart lobby cafe, guests can find a healthy pick-me-up like a yogurt parfait with almonds or a fresh fruit cup. For lunch, freshly made sandwiches, wraps, desserts and specialty coffee drinks are available. Wine and gift items, cereal and whole fruit are also available. Free Wi-Fi is offered, but indoor seating is limited. An outdoor terrace with additional seating is nearby. Hours are 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
This casual beachside bistro features brick-oven pizza and Italian specialties, along with ice cream novelties, soft-serve yogurt and a soda fountain. For kids, there's linguini with a meatball or meat sauce, cheese ravioli or a meatball hero. Gourmet specialty and create-your-own pizzas are available. Sit indoors or out. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours on Wednesday to Saturday.
A showstopper aquarium spotlighting live Hawaiian moon jellyfish wows guests at this sophisticated ocean-themed lobby lounge and sushi bar. It's a fun spot to treat older kids with adventurous palettes, but little ones will likely be happier elsewhere. Try the "Marco Dragon" specialty roll. Hours are 4 p.m. to midnight.
Consider booking a babysitter before heading to this intimate upscale venue, which offers fine dining at a comfortable pace. If you can't leave the kids behind, there's a children's menu. For dessert, try the "soup and sandwich," made with pound cake, cream filling and amaretto dipping sauce. There's live jazz on Fridays and Saturdays. Hours are 6 to 10 p.m. Reservations are recommended.
Quinn's on the Beach
You won't get any closer to the water than at this beachfront spot, which offers spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico, along with legendary Marco Island sunsets. Kids will find familiar fare, like chicken fingers, a hamburger, PB&J and macaroni and cheese. Kids' meals (for ages 12 and under) come with a cookie and a choice of applesauce, fries, yogurt, steamed baby carrots or a fresh fruit mix of melon, grapes and strawberries. Drinks are additional. While they wait for their food, kids can play on the sandy beach. For adults, chicken wings and a grouper sandwich are winners. There's also live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. Indoor and outdoor seating is available. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to midnight.
Popular for its daily breakfast buffet, this casual venue also offers lunch on weekends, and serves dinner seasonally. Kids' choices include chocolate chip pancakes with whipped cream for breakfast and pizza, chicken fingers and grilled cheese, all with tropical fruit, for lunch or dinner. High chairs are plentiful. Kids get crayons and a paper menu to color. Breakfast hours are 7 to 11 a.m. Monday to Friday and 7 a.m. to noon on weekends. Weekend lunch hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Next to the Tiki Pool, this bar and grill serves up quick fare like sandwiches, salads and French fries. Seasonal hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Poolside delivery begins at 11:30 a.m. -- guests raise a flag for service. The bar is open until 6 p.m.
Order in after a long day at the beach. Kids' choices include grilled cheese, chicken fingers, pasta with marinara sauce and pizza. Children's meals are served with French fries or tropical fruit. Special amenities, from milk and cookies to fruit and snack presentations, are also available. A 20 percent surcharge will be applied.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
From Super Bowl parties on the beach to Fourth of July celebrations complete with fireworks and summer weekends featuring appearances by favorite costumed characters, this resort truly excels at throwing a bash. One day a week, the resort offers a guided grounds tour highlighting its sub-tropical plantings.
Babysitters can be arranged through the resort concierge. The cost is $12 per hour for one child, $13 for two children, $14 for three children, or $20 for four children, with a three-hour minimum. More than four children will require an additional Nanny. There is a surcharge for holiday bookings.
Tiny Tikes Treasures rents beach strollers, wagons, pop-up cabanas and other baby and children's equipment.
For help with childcare arrangements, tour and dining reservations and area entertainment recommendations, including rainy day activities, stop at the Concierge desk in the main lobby. Hours are 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
The Art of Smart Timing
Mid-December to mid-April is peak season in Southwest Florida, a time of higher rates and occupancy, accompanied by moderate temperatures and low rainfall. August 15 to October 1 (with the exception of Labor Day weekend) is the resort's low season. May is also less expensive rate-wise. Summer and holidays bring with them new reasons to visit the place that many call "paradise," including a number of special events and planned activities.
The resort is around one hour from Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) in Ft. Myers and two hours from Miami International Airport (MIA) and Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL). Marco Island-based Classic Transportation offers some of the lowest airport transportation rates. One-way Town Car service from Fort Myers runs around $68 per car, while service from Fort Lauderdale or Miami runs around $200. Forward-facing car seats and booster seats are available. A Hertz car rental counter is located onsite near the resort boutiques. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
For Mom and Dad
Book a babysitter and head to the spa for a dual massage in the couples suite or outdoor balcony. Follow with an intimate dinner at Kurrents or a sunset stroll along the beach.
At the sprawling 24,000 square foot Balinese themed resort spa, enjoy a "Mom and Me" manicure or pedicure. A private spa pool is reserved for those enjoying a treatment.
Free and accessible all day and night with a resort room key, the resort fitness room contains a range of Life Fitness equipment. It's located on the first floor of the South Tower. At the resort spa, 50-minute classes are offered at a fitness studio, which is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. There is a daily access fee for this facility -- unless you're enjoying a spa treatment.