Over the last two years we have done a lot of exploring in Florida, and this past month our destination was Marco Island! Many of you have recommended Marco and after spending time there we completely understand why… 65 or 70 degrees on the beach in January? Yes please! It was around 20 degrees in Indianapolis when we left!
Below you’ll find a recap of how we got there, where we stayed, where we ate, and some other fun stops along the way!
How we got there:
We’ve sung its praises before, but the Indianapolis airport is just the absolute best. Centrally located, clean, not crowded, good food options (with several new ones on the way!). We flew nonstop (less than 2 hours) from Indy to Ft Myers (RSW), Regional Southwest Florida International Airport. We’ve been at this airport once before when we went to Naples. It’s a smaller airport, but also a breeze through security and bag checks on the way back home.
**A quick note about the Ft.Myers airport as we’ve run into this situation twice now – sit down food is limited. Our “terminal” if you want to call it that, had 1 sit down restaurant with a line of people outside hoping to grab a seat and a bite to eat. If you’re determined to eat pre-flight at a restaurant, I’d recommend getting here a little early especially if you’re traveling around a meal time. Our flight back to Indy took off at 7:45 PM, so we wanted to eat dinner at the airport. We got there a little early, waited for 10 or 15 minutes, and got a table.
Bryan’s favorite rental car company – Sixt – is at this airport, so of course we used them and rented an awesome Chevy Tahoe. Bryan would eventually like one of these in our garage (haha!) so it was nice to test drive it for a week! If you like this company too, sign up and create an account with them. We get great deals on upgrades, they have given us discounts on car seats and a handful of other fun perks! We brought Henry’s car seat (Upababy Mesa), and rented Eloise a booster with the car for the drive to Marco Island. This secret probably won’t last, but the lines for all of the other rental car companies are huge, and there is never anyone at the Sixt counter.
The drive is about an hour and easy, we hit no traffic. Our plan was to stop in Naples to eat lunch (little more than halfway to Marco), but both kids fell asleep in the car, so we kept going!
Where we stayed:
I put a question box in my stories a few weeks ago about where to stay that is “like” the Watercolor in Santa Rosa Beach and overwhelmingly the number one response was the JW Marriot Marco Island Beach Resort. You all did not disappoint, the hotel was very, very nice! It’s absolutely perfect for a family beach getaway.
Valet greeted us at the front of the hotel and helped us get our bags unloaded and we made our way to the front desk. The lobby is beautiful, open, very clean and we were excited right from the start. Check in was no problem as we had already completed most of the process via the Bonvoy app (highly recommended). They gave Bryan and I bracelets that also served as our room keys – which was actually pretty nice as you aren’t constantly opening a wallet or purse searching for keys/cards every time you come back to the room.
Our room was a gulf view room with two queen beds. We requested a pack and play for Henry and had more than enough room to spread out. The room was very clean, spacious, had a big balcony that we enjoyed sitting on each morning with coffee, and had a great view of the gulf!
This hotel is very large. To walk from one end to the other would take you probably 10 or 15 minutes. To walk from our room to the lobby took a solid 5 if you were walking without Eloise, ha! Elevators were never crowded and they were fast, but the floors in the hallways on the first floor were always a little bit slippery – such a weird mention here, but we noticed it throughout our stay. Probably a combination of marble floors and some sand from people’s feet? Just a heads up, be careful!
There’s an Illy coffee shop downstairs which we went to each morning for a coffee and something to eat for breakfast. They have a shelf in the back with several different food options for you to stock up on throughout your stay – this includes beer and wine. Convenient, but definitely pricey and there is a line in the morning.
**Quick travel tip – the next time we’re at this hotel – soon because it was great – we agreed that we’d probably stop at a market on the way and grab a few things. Water, some more snacks for the room, bottles of wine, etc. You’ll save some time and money for sure.
Right outside of the coffee shop are the doors that lead down to one of the main pools. There are multiple pools at this hotel, including a pool that is adults only. Needless to say, we did not visit that pool! The pool we spent most of our time at allowed kids, but was big enough that you never felt like it was super crowded. There’s a wading area that is roped off for the little kids, a water slide for the bigger kids, and pool service that walks around for food and drink orders for the adults! Everyone was happy!
**Pool tip – there are chairs in great locations at the pools that are marked “reserved.” They look expensive and come with really nice towels. They are $10/day. If you can’t get to the pool on the earlier side to grab your spot, these were available and worked out great for us. There’s a QR code to scan on the chair if you’d like to rent it on the spot!
This is a beach front property, so just beyond the pool is the beach! It is beautiful, and amazing that it’s so close to the room! The sand is super soft and the beach is filled with small sea shells which kept Eloise busy for hours. The water wasn’t warm enough to swim in all day, but we took a couple quick dips to cool off the first day when it was warmer outside.
The hotel has tons of different activities and accommodations that you can rent on the beach. This can be accessed via the QR codes located throughout the hotel, or at the office located in the middle of the beach. Sailboats, kayaks, paddleboards, beach/umbrella set ups, poolside cabanas, and Chickee Huts (among other things!).
We decided to rent a Chickee Hut with the kids so we’d have some shade from the sun. It comes with 4 chairs and towels, and you can add as many as you’d like. The only downside here is that the huts are set back a bit from the water, so you have to take a quick walk down the sand if you want to swim. Not a big deal, but just so you’re aware. The perks are that you never have to move an umbrella as the sun moves, and it’s incredibly comfortable. There are also food and drink trucks driving around that serve meals from the beachfront restaurant. We had a nice bottle of prosecco, some seltzers, kids were happy with chicken tenders and fries for lunch, and overall we liked this situation so much we decided to book it for another day. It appears the rate for these varies by season, but we’d recommend this for sure, especially if you have kids or have a fun group that doesn’t mind not being right at the water.
**Chickee Tip – the seagulls on this beach are very aggressive when it comes to food. As with any beach anywhere, if you leave an open box of food out, they will come for it, in droves.
One more big perk of the JW Marco Island is the arcade: 10K Alley. Fair warning parents, it’s not cheap, but your kids will absolutely love this place! It’s like an “upscale chuck e cheese” with a full bar attached to it – very dangerous in the best of ways! Ski ball, tons of arcade games, pop a shot, air hockey, and so much more. You can have dinner at the bar or seats just next to it. They have tons of beer on tap and a fun cocktail menu.
Where We Ate:
Snook Inn – Bryan is still talking about his grouper sandwich. It was, apparently, that good! This was one of our favorite spots! The food was very good, you’re right on the water, and we watched dolphins and pelicans for our entire meal. Eloise loved it! Chill vibe, live music, and great drinks as well!
Doreen’s Cup of Joe – Another restaurant that was highly recommended by all of you, and did not disappoint. We started with the homemade donut holes, so good! Everything was good here – pancakes, eggs, bacon, fresh fruit and Bryan said the huevos rancheros were delicious! A really fun, casual, local filled spot with friendly service and very good food! Henry made friends with all of the tables sitting around us! It’s very popular, so be prepared to wait a little bit if you go for brunch. We waited about 30 minutes – no big deal and 100% worth it!
Davinci’s Ristorante – We would have liked to try everything on this menu. It was one of those restaurants where you can’t help but look at all of the plates going by. They all looked incredible! I had the bolognese and Bryan had the carbonara – they were both so good! The highlight of this meal though was probably the espresso martini. It was one of the best we’ve ever had! Parking tip: use the valet at the front, it’s $5, and parking is pretty limited here on a busy night.
We ate at 3 different restaurants at the hotel:
400 Pazzis – Pizza spot near the pool. You order your food at the register and seat yourself at a table. Outside tables are ocean front and the pizza was really good! A great option for a more casual/chill night with the kids with an amazing view for photos!
Ario – This is a perfect spot for date night. We take our kids everywhere, but this was definitely a ‘nicer’ dinner. It’s a steakhouse ($$$) with a great wine list, really good starters and fantastic service. If you’re there on a busy weekend you’ll probably need a reservation.
Koral’s Sushi and Lobby Cocktail Bar – the title sums it up perfectly! It’s right next to the main lobby and has a really nice cocktail bar with some amazing drinks! We ate here the first night so we didn’t have to travel too far for dinner. The sushi was delicious!
We had a ton of fun vacation/pool looks that you all went crazy for so I’ll link those details below! To get the exact links to items, just click on each picture for deets:
Overall, our trip was AWESOME. We highly recommend the JW Marco Island as an incredible resort for families or couples – we will most definitely be back!