Marco Island is becoming one of my favorite places for a beach vacation in Florida for a few reasons: 1) It’s a convenient location about an hour south of Fort Myers (and Southwest flies into RSW and that’s a big deal for me!). 2) The shelling around Marco Island is the BEST in Florida. Yep, that’s right…better than Sanibel. 3) The Everglades are just about 45 minutes south of Marco Island so it’s a great day trip. 4) It’s a really laid back place with a lot of good “local dive” type spots. 5) AND there’s a spectacular JW Marriott on the island.
There’s not much I love more than a good beach resort, but they’re surprisingly not as plentiful in Florida as you would think. Well I’m here to tell you…the JW Marriott Marco Island is a GEM.
If you’re trying to figure out where to stay on Marco Island, there are quite a few places, but the JW Marriott is hands down my favorite!
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I stayed at the JW Marriott Marco Island back in 2017 (on a spring break trip that included a full week of fluke 40 degree temperatures) but I hadn’t been back since and a lot has changed. There was one big thing in particular that I wanted to check out…
Paradise by Sirene
In 2018, the JW Marriott Marco Island introduced a new feature to the resort…Paradise by Sirene. It’s basically an adults only luxury tower attached to the resort with bonus amenities. It’s a separate booking category (priced higher than the standard rooms of course) but it comes with exclusive features. Namely…
Access to a pre-vacation concierge who can help you make reservations, set up activities, etc.
A private check in lounge with a champagne toast upon arrival.
Rooms are in four floors of the “Lanai Tower” and access is restricted with a wrist band.
Access to a private pool on the 5th floor overlooking the ocean.
A private part of the beach.
A daily complimentary breakfast in Tesoro, the resort’s signature restaurant (with a spectacular view).
Access to a private fitness center (the only one with a view) including a Peloton bike.
And it’s reserved for guests 21+ (and a max of two people per room).
During the dates that I stayed at the resort, they were offering a $100/day food/beverage/spa/golf credit that made it a pretty attractive offer.
Check In & First Impressions
This JW Marriott is a happening place. It’s very family friendly and on the day that I checked in (late August), the valet and lobby were pretty packed with people. There’s two separate check in areas on either side of the lobby and while one had a ton of people waiting, the other one only had about two so I headed over there.
As soon as the lady looked up my name she kind of exclaimed “Oh! You’re staying in Sirene!” and quickly left her desk to usher us down the hallway into the private lounge. Looking back, I’m pretty sure I got an email that asked my expected arrival time but I wasn’t super communicative, but I bet if you are they’re probably out front or in the lobby waiting for you.
RELATED: 14 Things to Do on Marco Island
The lounge is like an office with some pretty cushy lounge furniture. We were given champagne and we had a seat while we got checked in and briefed on how everything worked. Pretty smooth. Guests of Sirene (that’s what they call you ; ) have wristbands to wear that serve as your room key, elevator pass, and entrance to the fitness center, pool, etc.
Our room wasn’t ready yet (again, if you let them know when you’ll be arriving you probably stand a better chance of having an available room), but we were able to check our bags and head off to lunch. Once we got the message that our room was ready (you communicate with your concierge via text), we stopped back by the lounge to get our wristbands coded and the concierge took our baggage claim ticket to have the bags sent up.
The room was great! Pretty large and bright with a comfy bed and a great balcony.
There is a full size closet and a mini bar complete with a mini fridge and a Nespresso machine (with pods).
I honestly never feel like I have a whole lot to say about rooms themselves, but people often ask about flooring so I’ll tell you that there’s no carpet! People have strong opinions about that both ways I’ve discovered.
This is why I wanted to stay at Paradise by Sirene. I don’t particularly care about champagne upon arrival, a private concierge, or kid free spaces by OH MY THIS POOL. It’s located on the 5th floor terrace (along with Tesoro) and it is stunning. People always ask if I’m a pool person or a beach person. I’m a person who likes to look at the beach from the pool and that’s how this place is set up.
There’s full poolside service. They do chair set up for you and bring around water pretty often. There’s also food and drink service. The two are separate so make sure you tip the set up staff separately from the wait staff.
The chairs are set up in twos with plenty of space between and most sets have umbrellas. There’s an assortment of little pod lounge chairs around the railing too. The pool is a pretty decent size for the number of chairs (always seemed to be enough no matter what time of day we showed up) and there’s a hot tub too.
Overall, the Paradise by Sirene pool was pretty lovely. The views are incredible and it never felt particularly crowded however for anyone expecting a super tranquil experience at the adults pool just know that once the drinks start flowing, it’s usually about as loud as the kids pool…just a different kind of noise. But that’s not just here…that’s my experience as most adult only pools unless it’s a spa like situation where it’s implied that you’re supposed to be quiet.
And FYI just to be clear, this adults only pool is ONLY for people staying in the Paradise by Sirene part of the resort…not for all adults in general.
Besides the pool at Paradise by Sirene, there are two other LARGE pools on property for everyone to use. The main pool right off the lobby is the largest and it’s got little islands with palm trees and fountains.
The second pool is to the north and it has a waterslide (albeit a small one) and a waterfall feature. So it seems to be where more of the kids gravitate although both pools have a lot of kids. These pools are first come first serve…they open about 8AM and there’s a hut where you can grab towels. There are a lot of chairs scattered around, but just like at any resort…if you want a good/specific spot…come early!
Quinn’s on the Beach is super close to the main pool and they’ve got a full service bar as well as to-go food and on the other side of the resort (close to the waterfall pool) is Kane’s Tiki Bar.
It’s what you came for, right? Marco Island is basically one long stretch of beach and the JW Marriott sits right about in the middle of it. The beach is white sand and it’s WIDE. There’s chair and umbrella set up (I believe two chairs and one umbrella are included per room) and usually some mobile carts roaming around with food and drinks. Paradise by Sirene has a private beach section (white umbrellas) to the left and the main resort stretches along the right side (blue umbrellas).
So the sand is gorgeous, but I’ll admit that the water isn’t as pretty as it is farther north on the gulf side (around Sarasota and St Pete/Clearwater). The first time I visited it was pretty overcast and grey most of the time so I thought that may be why the water wasn’t as dazzling, but this time it was plenty sunny (and I had the lookout vantage from the 5th floor) and it’s just not super blue/green…it’s a little more grayish. Still super pretty but check your expectations depending on where you’re used to visiting.
The real standout about the beaches on Marco Island is the SHELLING. While Sanibel has the reputation for being the best shelling spot in Florida, I’m here to tell you that it’s actually Marco Island and the nearby Ten Thousand Islands. Tigertail Beach (about 1.5 miles north of the resort-you can walk…it’s all one continuous beach) is where the best shelling is but the beach surrounding the JW Marriott is still pretty good for shelling…especially first thing in the morning.
There are a LOT of restaurants at the JW Marriott and honestly there’s something for everybody. Now I’ll be honest…I’m not usually one who likes to eat many meals at a resort. Resort restaurants aren’t always super great compared to what’s in the area, but we had a $100 credit PER day to spend so I ended up trying out most of the restaurants and here’s what I think:
Tesoro: Tesoro is a Spanish tapas style restaurant that sits on the 5th floor terrace next to the Sirene by Paradise pool (but anyone can go to this restaurant for dinner). The view is UNMATCHED. I seriously don’t think there can be a better spot on Marco Island. Here’s the deal…I don’t love tapas style spots (I like to own my dinner ; ) so we didn’t go here for dinner but they have a complimentary breakfast for Sirene guests in the restaurant every morning. We went there the first morning and…weren’t very impressed. They’ve got a continental style set up (including gluten free options) and a hot buffet with eggs, potatoes, bacon, sausage, oatmeal, etc. but it just wasn’t very good. The food quality was like the free breakfast you get at a Hampton Inn or something. If you’re just a light breakfast eater (toast, juice, coffee, etc) it might work out for you, but we only went once. Even though it was FREE.
Maia: Which brings me to Maia. This spot is only open for breakfast and after doing Tesoro once we decided to check it out. They have a lovely menu but they also have a fairly lavish buffet. Well once we sat down and our waitress took our room number, she told us that guests of Sirene could have the continental buffet (which was a LOT of things) for FREE and upgrade to the full buffet (including an omelet bar and made to order pancakes, waffles, and french toast) FOR JUST $10!!! What??? Seriously though we felt like that was a steal. The buffet is normally $35/person and it was sooooo good. So we ended up doing breakfast at Maia every morning after that.
Ario: We did our big fancy dinner at Ario instead of Tesoro (I mentioned above that I don’t love tapas style) and it was seriously so good. The restaurant is definitely a vibe, but there’s no view or anything (Tesoro wins hands down on that front) but everything I ate was SPECTACULAR. I had the filet, brussel sprouts, and truffle mac and cheese. Would get it all again. The bread was homemade and who doesn’t love a bread basket. We had the key lime pie and it was honestly kind of odd but still really good. Was not prepared to like this place as much as I did, but it was great. Not cheap…almost $200 for 2 people (1 glass of wine), but for a special occasion, I was pretty impressed.
Quinn’s by the Beach: Besides Maia for breakfast, this was our favorite spot. I love a casual beachside restaurant and you can’t get any closer to the beach than this. The grouper sandwich is probably one of the best I’ve had anywhere. Service was good and it was always easy to walk in and get a table.
Cafe Marco: This is their quick service grab and go market. It’s part coffee shop, part sandwich shop and part convenience store. It’s not earth shattering, but I do like it when a resort has a place where you can grab snacks and things quickly.
10K Alley: I think this is one of the JW Marriott’s most unique features. It’s basically an upscale arcade (with bowling) that’s adults only after 10PM. There’s a full bar and they serve light bar food. It’s definitely a fun place to hang out and great for a rainy day.
I’ll level with you…I am not the kind of person who works out on vacation, but I do have a Peloton and the Peloton community is a whole “thing” so I’m definitely aware of the attraction of a hotel having Peloton bikes. So, I’m going to give you the whole scoop
There are THREE different fitness centers at the JW Marriott Marco Island.
1: The original fitness center is in the main resort (first level just north of the lobby). It’s open to anyone staying at the resort and it has TWO Peloton bikes. They sit in front of a window which is either covered in blinds or looks out onto the side of the building next to it. This gym is nice for a hotel gym but probably ranked at the bottom of the three.
2: The fitness center in the spa. It’s also open to anyone staying at the resort and it has TWO Peloton bikes. They sit kind of in the middle of the room. The spa is all the way at the north end of the resort (you can get there from the main lobby-all the way to the right if you’re facing the ocean). You go through the side spa doors, past the pool, past the door to the spa lobby, and into the fitness center. This gym is a bit better than the gym in the main resort.
4: The fitness center on the 5th floor of the Lanai Tower. This is only available for guests staying in Paradise by Sirene (you have to use your band to access) and it has ONE Peloton bike. While there’s a whole row of machines in front of the windows (overlooking the parking lot with a view of the whole island), when I was there the Peloton sits in a weird little nook where it faces a wall but there’s a window to your right. On the JW Marriott Marco Island Instagram there’s a picture of the Peloton in front of a huge window…maybe they move it around or maybe that’s for marketing purposes ; ) Overall, this is the best fitness center, but it’s still just a resort gym if you know what I mean.
About the bikes themselves…all five bikes are the same (the original bike, not the Bike+) and they’re in good condition but…they’re public bikes that get a lot of use so probably not in as good of shape as yours at home. But they all work and they’re good. The pedals have a cage on one side (so you can wear any athletic shoes) and SPD/2-Hole clips on the other side (not compatible with official Peloton shoes but work with the most common brands). When you turn on the screen, there’s an option to login to YOUR Peloton account or workout as a guest so if you already have an account…you’re good. And if you don’t have an account…you’re good.
I didn’t get a spa treatment while I was at the resort, but I did poke around a bit and let me tell you…THIS IS A NICE SPA. It’s definitely a destination spa. It’s large, very luxurious, and you could definitely spend a full day here.
There’s a full sized outdoor pool that’s exclusively for spa guests that features private cabanas as well as an assortment of soaking pools, relaxation rooms, steam rooms, etc in the spa itself.
I ended up having a bit of a misunderstanding with the concierge at Sirene and I thought you could use the facilities in the spa on your check out day (to shower before you go the airport) so I showed up with my bag straight from the pool and it turns out they don’t really let you do that, but they let me since it was a slow day and I’d gotten some questionable information. All of this to say…I’ve used the showers and locker rooms as the spa and seen quite a bit of the areas inside and I was impressed.
Even if you’re not staying at the resort, I would totally spend a day at the spa here. Book any treatment and you’ll get access for the day and I believe you can purchase a day pass for $55/person ($45/person for resort guests).
The check out day amenities were something I never really figured out. Of course, you can use the pools and everything at the resort for the full day (so if check out is at 11AM but your flight isn’t until 7PM you can stay and hang around until you leave the airport).
Most big beach resorts like this have a hospitality suite or some kind of dedicated area for people to use on the days they check in and out when their room isn’t available, but the JW Marriott didn’t seem to. I actually asked (I thought fairly specifically) and was told I could use the spa facilities on check out day to shower and what not, but I mentioned above when I showed up at the spa they said that’s not how it works.
So…I don’t know what to tell you. I guess here are your options:
1: Check your bags with the valet/baggage claim in the lobby once you check out of your room and go about your business for the day but keep a small bag of dry clothes to change into before you go to the airport (or drive home). There are some really large restrooms off the lobby that you can change in and I guess you could rinse off at the beach shower??
2: Book a spa appointment for your last day (or pay for a day pass) so you can have full access to the spa facilities including showers and locker rooms.
3: Just be ready to leave (no pool or beach) once you check out!
Again, not the hugest deal but probably something you want to have a plan for. Maybe I was just surprised since an amenity like this is super common at most Hawaii resorts (since a lot of flights leave at night).
While you do expect a fairly high standard of service for a JW Marriott, I was still pretty impressed. Mostly because this was the first trip I’ve been on (first place I’ve stayed) that didn’t feel like there was a service shortage because of COVID. For the past 6-12 months since travel has resumed, the travel experience has mostly involved paying more and getting less. Waiting forever in restaurants because there’s no one working there, etc. And I can honestly say that I didn’t experience that AT ALL during my stay at the JW Marriott Marco Island or anywhere on this trip. Hopefully that means things are starting to stabilize.
The Overall Vibe
I think the JW Marriott Marco Island is a real gem. There aren’t a ton of nice resorts on Florida’s gulf coast (things tend more to the condo-condotel side) and this is definitely one of my favorites.
I love that the resort is large and spread out and seems like it has enough pool and beach space for the size. I love the shelling on Marco Island and the fact that it’s close to the Everglades. And it’s just a really laid back place.
It’s a super family oriented resort. That seems to be the demographic and honestly I think that’s why they’ve invested in the Paradise by Sirene…to attract more couples and adults. If this is a honeymoon or couples trip, even though the main resort is amazing, I would highly recommend Paradise by Sirene. Just having access to that terrace pool is worth it. That was hands the big stand out feature for me.
And now I can’t wait to go back!
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