The Sheraton Kona is the only Starwood property on the Big Island, so if you want to stay at a Starwood property, you may want to reconsider your destination or expect a underwhelming stay. If you’re set on Kona, you may want to choose another hotel for your visit. Yes, that’s how much I disliked the Sheraton Kona.
I visited Kona about 6 years ago and stayed at the Marriott Waikaloa Village. I had such great memories of the trip and the time I spent there. I had hoped for the same type of experience on this trip. Not so much.
I arrived at the Sheraton Kona around 9:30pm on a Thursday night. When I checked in I asked about a possible upgrade. I was told that they’re only allowed to upgrade guests 1 room category and they’d moved me from a deluxe king room as opposed to the standard king room I’d booked. I’ve never heard of any such policy at Starwood and I stay over 100 nights a year at different properties. I understood that they weren’t able to honor the suite night award request because the hotel was sold out, but it would have been great to get a room with some type of view…any view.
After reading many online reviews of the Sheraton Kona, and after the bad experience I’d had at the Sheraton Kauai, I was very nervous about what I’d find. The room, on the 6th floor, was large, had a king sized bed, a small desk, and chair. The bathroom was quite small with the sinks in the main room and the toilet/tub in a very small enclosed area. The room was very clean and there were no bugs. That’s a plus. The bathtub was showing its age and had several rust and hard water stains. Otherwise, I was very happy with the condition of the room.
The hotel itself is old but some areas have been refurbished. The lobby, on the second level of the hotel, has spectacular views of the bay and leads to registration and several shops. The hotel has two restaurants and a pool bar. Only one restaurant is open for dinner and only the pool bar is open for lunch. If you want to get food from about 11-5:30, you either have to eat at the pool and choose from a limited menu or go off property. In the morning there is a coffee stand open at Link @ Sheraton, however they also close before lunch time.
One afternoon I decided to stay at the hotel and enjoy the sun and pool. The pools were crowded, as I expected they would be, but it was still enjoyable. At lunchtime, I didn’t want to get changed, get the car and find somewhere to eat, so I went to the pool bar. There were no tables free so I sat at the bar itself. The drinks were very good and the bartender was very friendly. After I ordered I noticed a lot of people coming up to the bar complaining about the wait times and lack of service. It took 1 hour and 15 minutes to get a hotdog. I heard a few others saying they’d been waiting for more than 90 minutes. The bartender said it was typical for that time of day.
The restaurant open for dinner, Ray’s on the Bay, is known for its views and overlooks an area where many come to view the Manta Rays. At sunset you’ll see dozens of boats lined up in front of the hotel. The restaurant itself is not large and has a bar in the center.
When I tried to get a table, at 6pm, I was told by the hostess that they don’t really like to seat parties of 1, that there are only 3 tables where they will seat a single person and those were full (however I could see at least 1 was open.) She then told me there would be at least a 30 minute wait and in the mean time, sat 3 groups that walked up without reservations. She suggested that I sit at the bar, but there were no views and it was packed. It was very disappointing. The hotel management apologized. The manager suggested that if I wanted to eat dinner the next night she’d personally make reservations and see that I was given a table. Nice offer, but I didn’t want to give them my business after the first experience.
Just when I thought that the wifi couldn’t get worse than it had been at previous Starwood hotels in Hawaii, the Sheraton Kona took bad wifi to a new level – no wifi! The network was down for the majority of my visit. I spoke with the hotel’s IT team, which turned out to be Oceanic Time Warner Cable’s help desk, and they said it was an ongoing issue and many guests were complaining. A hotel customer service manager came to my room to reboot the server and that gave me connectivity for about an hour. When it went out again, I spoke to the manager on duty who told me that due to the high occupancy at the hotel the wifi was not working and that they really don’t focus on the guest room network. He said that the Sheraton Link network was better and I should go use the Link @ Sheraton during my stay if I wanted wifi access. That’s a huge challenge when you’re running a website. I tried to access the Link @Sheraton Network and it was also down at while I was down there.
The location was a good jumping off point for day trips and tours located centrally on the west coast of The Big Island. Hotel parking is included in the $35 resort fee, so if you rent a car, you can explore on your own and self-park. The hotel activity desk is run by a travel agency. They offered tours at $10-15 more than the same tours were priced as online. They quoted $97 for the Body Glove Whale Watching tour. I got the Body Glove tour online for $80. The activities desk is a great place to get ideas, but I suggest booking on your own. I also compared two other tours and each tour was higher priced through the activities desk. This is somewhat typical of activities desks that are run by third-parties.
There were many families and a lot of young children at the hotel, perhaps that was because it was close to Christmas and kids are out of school, but it seemed very child friendly – pool slides, movie nights at dusk by the pool (they were playing Disney’s Planes Thursday night), a huge kids club with kid friendly activities scheduled throughout the day.
I find the Sheraton Hotels brand to be very inconsistent. A few nice hotels (Sheraton Waikiki), mostly bad hotels (Sheraton Kauai and Sheraton Kona for example) Some good service, some really bad service and a lot of employees who just don’t seem very happy. While the room at the Sheraton Kona was very clean and comfortable, the rest of the experience at the hotel was not great. And to that end, I decided to checkout 3 days early because I rely on the internet to run First2Board and just can’t spend days without it, or have to go to Starbucks when I’d rather be sitting by the pool or relaxing on my balcony. If I had to rate the hotel, I’d give it a 3 and wouldn’t choose to return on another visit.
What this trip confirmed for me is that I’m not going to stay with Sheraton again unless it’s a last resort or I know exactly what to expect…it’s just not the brand for me.