Courtyard Marriott – Jacksonville Beach, Florida

image from PhotoPin

Destination: Jacksonville Beach, Florida
Date: May 2015
Hotel: Courtyard Marriott
Brand: Marriott
Status: none
# of travelers: 2

Hotel & Brand – Making the Decision

image from Marriott website

About 3 weeks before the University of Florida's graduation, my parents informed me that my future sister-in-law wanted Justin and I to be at her graduation. My parents were making plans to drive down the night before, spend one night at the beach, and then continue on to Gainesville, FL for the duration of their trip. Justin didn't have the flexibility to get half of a day off on Friday, so we decided to simply pay for a room at the beach for Saturday night and make the hour drive to and from Gainesville for the ceremony.

I didn't do much research to decide which beach was closest to Gainseville; instead, I stuck with the beach that my parents had said they were going to go visit only later realizing that perhaps St. Augustine might have been closer with better hotels and a better beach. Oops.

Anyway, when it came time to book the hotel, which I waited until the last minute to do, there were very few options available. I typically try to stay away from Marriotts after the dispute where they purposely charged customers extra for using their internet while also disrupting those same customer's cell phone data plans so that there was only the one option if you needed internet at Marriott hotels. The main problem is that none of my other choice hotels were available. Club Carlson was non-existent, IHG was too far from the beach, the Hilton was full, and, if I recall correctly, Hyatt was full too. My only other option was a Best Western, which I'm not too fond of either. So my choice came down to one of two hotel chains that I dislike: Marriott and Best Western. Given that they were priced similarly, I decided to try the more upscale of the two brands – Marriott.

Getting There & Getting Around the City – Public Transportation Options

After a five hour drive from Atlanta to Jacksonville Beach, Justin and I were ready to just relax, soak up some sun, and enjoy the ocean. Unfortunately, my car disagreed. At 13 years old with over 200,000 miles on it, it's bound to have some problems; I just wasn't expecting it on this trip. Shortly after Justin got off the highway, we started seeing smoke coming from the front of the vehicle and Justin complained that the brake peddle was a little soft. He pulled off of the road, gave it a look and decided to head toward the nearest Home Depot to get brake fluid. Honestly, I'm not a car person so I'm not going to go in depth explaining what was wrong, but we ended up having to take it to a mechanic. In that way, we became much more familiar with our transportation options in the area as we waited 4 hours for my car to get fixed. (Argh.)

Brakes-4-Less was only located about a mile and a half from our hotel and the beach, so we started walking. One of the great things about walking around a place like this, that is pretty pedestrian friendly, is that you get to see far more than you would if you were merely exploring with your car. For example, in our case, we would have driven straight to the hotel, checked in, and enjoyed the beach for a few hours. Rather than enjoying the beach for hours on end, we walked through neighborhoods, checked out garage sales, and looked in local shops. There were plenty of sidewalks and the places we walked were pretty flat; the worst park about the experience was the sunburn we had to deal with after the fact.

As we were walking, we noticed a public transportation bus that ran through the area. One woman got off the bus and then reached for her bike which was located at the front of the bus. Other options that we temporarily considered included a rental car, uber, or a taxi. In the end, we just walked. I'm not sure if there is an airport nearby, but once you get into the JAX beach area (as they refer to it), it would seem you have a number of options for getting around, none of which include a train.

The Lobby, Public Spaces, & Checking In

After a 1.5 mile walk in humid, upper 70 degree Florida weather, I'm pretty sure Justin and I were in sad shape when we arrived at our hotel to check-in an hour early. Nevertheless, the concierge kindly smiled at us and pointed toward the check-in desk while offering to help us with anything we might need during our stay.

The lobby was a decent size with easy-to-clean couches (as opposed to plush, comfortable ones), laminate flooring, a single computer of which they consider their business center, and a Starbucks café located off to the side of the front desk serving a small amount of food as well as your typical drinks. There were plenty of windows with views of the ocean and the hotel pool/pool deck.

The front desk was quick to check us in providing us with a parking ticket for our car. At the time, we didn't need a whole lot from them, but their assistance did come in handy later in the trip. As our trip came to a close on Sunday, we asked the front desk if we could have a later check out time (yes – they gave us an extra hour). The nice thing was that the lady at the front desk also offered to give us a key card to let us continue to access the pool and ocean until we left Jacksonville Beach later that day. It was very nice and one of the things I will best remember about the hotel staff. :)

Room, View, & Price

image from Marriott website

One of the first things we did was locate our room on the third floor at the opposite side of the building from the lobby and elevators. Our room, in particular, had us entering from outside the hotel; in other words, we went up on the elevator, exited the hotel hallway to a concrete walkway and entered our room at the end of the walkway. It was definitely a weird set-up that suggested that perhaps the hotel had been renovated at some point in the past. In the end, it was neither here nor there as the room itself was spacious and provided a beautiful panoramic view of the ocean from a veranda with seating options.

The hotel room itself was pretty basic and nothing like the one my husband and I enjoyed on Panama City Beach last year. It almost looked as though it were designed for easy cleaning rather than as a home away from home. Everything was very simple. It was definitely nice that there were plenty of seating options around the room as well as a mini fridge and microwave. If we had been staying longer than a night, those could have been useful in saving us money on food. The bathroom contained soaps and shampoos as well as a hair dryer for those that may have left their products at home.

As for the room price, we paid quite a bit extra to stay in a room on the beach; however, that number was very similar to what other hotels were charging. It wasn't as if the hotel was having us pay extra because of their brand name or anything. As we discovered during our stay, the similarly priced Hampton Inn would have been better because it provided breakfast (but it was unavailable when I went to book hotels) and the nearby, more expensive One Ocean Resort & Spa was simply gorgeous (and also might have been a better choice had it been available). So, if all of the hotels in the area are similarly priced and available, I recommend checking out One Ocean Resort and Spa followed by the Hampton, in that order. The Marriott was fine, but those hotels look like they provide a much better experience for the money.

Disability Access, Parking, Pool, & Other Guest Amenities

Obviously, this hotel is just as disability-friendly as most other American hotels. There were plenty of elevators and the only hinderance that could be found would be the large number of doors that were necessary to get to our specific room. The room itself also had a step that you had to walk over to get to the veranda which I suppose could also prove to be a challenge.

Parking for this hotel was a little odd as they shared it with the Fairfield Inn across a pretty busy street. When Justin and I stayed at the Holiday Inn at Panama City Beach, the hotel provided an underground walkway as well as golf carts to get to your car easily and safely. This hotel, while having very little parking, did not provide such easy access. In fact, I found it a little offensive that people who had paid less money for the other hotel had access to the parking at our hotel. Granted there is no real reason why they would be using it aside from easier access to the beach, but still! If I pay more for a specific service a hotel offers, I want to have the full advantage and not have to share it with someone who paid a little less.

The pool for the Marriott was lovely and smallish. It was designed in a pretty way. There was enough outdoor seating for the spring crowd (might need more for the summer) and an outdoor bar for the thirsty. On the other side of the pool, there was a deck that was meant to be part of the Starbucks Café offering tables, chairs, and umbrellas for families choosing to eat outside. Overall I could see this as a pleasant experience for families wanting to enjoy the outdoors.

If you got tired of the pool and hot tub, you could always go for a walk on the beach or swim in the ocean. The hotel offers towels you can take out to the beach as well as the ability to rent surfboards, swim boards, kayaks, bikes, beach chairs, and umbrellas. In other words, if you forget anything, this hotel has you covered! Justin and I didn't take advantage of any of these offerings, but I'm sure after reading this blog post, he will wish we had! :)

Finally, if the water simply isn't your thing (What's wrong with you? And why are you staying at this hotel?), the Courtyard Marriott offers weights and cardio equipment in their fitness center. I didn't really look for it or use it, so I can't say much about how good it is.


The Courtyard Marriott, unfortunately, does not offer a free breakfast. Luckily,The Metro Diner is within close walking distance and offers an amazing breakfast to make up for it. Seriously! The locals know the staff quite well and we were seeing things off-menu being made in the kitchen while we sat at the bar. Oh - and this place gets crowded!

I digress.

Don't expect much from the Marriott/Starbucks Café. Justin and I ordered a chicken ceasar salad for lunch on Sunday. The chicken was cold like it had just come from the fridge and the salad was so-so. Overall, even in comparison to the boring Firehouse Subs we ate on Saturday when we were stuck due to car issues, the Starbucks Café was easily one of the worst meals I had during the entire trip. I imagine the Starbucks drinks are on par with typical Starbucks fare though, so if that's what you want, this is a great location.

Don't expect much better from the poolside bar. First of all, there are no food options there. Secondly, if you like having fun drinks at the beach (read: margaritas or daiquiris), this isn't the place for you. I recommend going for a walk down the beach to One Ocean Resort & Spa for lunch and a fun fruity drink. (They also have fancy scotch if that's more your style.) The Marriott Courtyard food and drinks were simply not worth paying for.

Overall Review

★★★ (average)

While the view was fantastic, the room was large, and the staff was nice, the hotel didn't offer anything particularly amazing or noteworthy. Everything was pretty average in comparison to other hotels providing some of the same benefits. Overall, if you are planning on visiting the Jacksonville Beach area in the future, I recommend trying either the One Ocean Resort and Spa or the Hampton Inn over this hotel. If neither are an option, this is certainly not a bad place to stay. Just keep in mind that it is not the best either… (Note: I haven't ever been to One Ocean Resort & Spa or this Hampton location, so I am only guessing.)

Your Turn

Have you had good experiences with Marriott in the past? Have you ever visited Jacksonville Beach before? Share! I'd love to hear your insight! :)

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