The sweet smell of plumeria floats on gentle trade winds into each guest room at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. When entering the room, you may be surprised that floor-to-ceiling picture windows and a beautiful private lanai (patio) beckon you to step back outside—closer to the rhythmic surf and paradise in nature. In the hotel’s main building, each morning you can wake up to warm accent colors in your room that recall the previous evening’s sunset. Natural light fills the entire space and you can brew a lovely cup of Kona coffee before leaving your room to face the world. A 2009 remodel of the main building rooms along with a 2013 beachfront wing renovation enable guests to unwind in the comfort of updated interiors that still remain true to Laurance S. Rockefeller’s original vision.
Unprecedented Hotel Art and Architecture
The architecture at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel certainly evokes Laurance S. Rockefeller’s sense of outdoor space with breezy landscaped covered walkways and a sparkling blue tile floor in the lobby that seems to bring the calm waters of Kaunaoa Bay right into the hotel. Another not-to-miss feature on the grounds includes the Collection: a fascinating assortment of Pacific and Asian art. More than 1,600 museum pieces blend into the hotel’s ambiance so well that you will always find new treasures on each visit. Better than a museum, these pieces of history are tangible to guests who want to inspect the stitches in a quilt, photograph the colors in a carving, or feel the texture of embellishments on a statue.
Ocean Activities Outside Your Door on the Big Island
Request a renovated beachfront room for easy access to Kauna’oa Bay, where kids can snorkel, stand-up paddleboard, and boogie board. AFAR Collection hotel. From $550. This appeared in the November/December 2014 issue.
Celebrate 50 Acts of Aloha with Mauna Kea in Hawaii
To celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, the iconic Mauna Kea resort, a member of the AFAR Collection, set out to perform 50 Acts of Aloha by the end of 2015. Gestures range from six weeks of complimentary ten- nis lessons for local middle-school kids to beach cleanups and benefits to sup- port local hospitals. While the resort is named for its perfect white sand beach, the aloha also extends to the Big Island’s other natural wonders, including the dormant Mauna Kea volcano. The resort can arrange for guests to give back too by spending a day planting trees and clearing trails in the mountain’s unique dry forest, home to an endangered bird known as the palila.
Unwinding on the Kohala Coastline
The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel sits on the Big Island’s Kohala Coast. Beautiful sandy beaches cater to sun worshipers while the proximity to Waimea and Kailua-Kona make it a great place for travelers who seek ocean sports, coffee culture, or horseback riding. After absorbing the sun, snorkeling, and surf, a trip to the beach bar is the perfect place to enjoy a bit of shade while sipping on cold, refreshing, tropical drinks. An evening at the beach bar with a Dirty Hula Girl may be the perfect ending to a day at this beach hotel.
Local Beach, Mauna Kea Resort
You wouldn’t think you can get in here. But if you go early (7:30AM) to the Mauna Kea Resort there are only 40 parking spots open to get to this hidden gem. Locals know that you say “beach access” at the imposing gate for those who want to swim in its clear blue water, check it out in North Kohala. Spectacular white sand beach with some shade trees. The 40 parking spots get filled by 9AM or sooner so go early. It’s also good for boogie boarding.
Glow Stand-Up Paddling and Canoeing
Kauna’oa Bay’s large plankton population attracts manta rays, and you’ll find yourself gliding alongside them during this nocturnal excursion. Thanks to LED lights carefully strapped on your board, your hour-long jaunt may also include a parrotfish sighting (they’re intrigued by the boards’ shimmery glow.) You can treat stand-up paddle boarding as a workout, or simply stargaze as you float. It’s the latest adventure unveiled by the Mauna Kea Beach Club, whose aquatic lineup also features whale-watching, deep-sea fishing, and canoe excursions. New paddlers can take an introductory canoe ride while more seasoned guests can explore the Kohala Coast’s caves and coves on a private group charter. And why not wind down the day with a sunset canoe paddle? Given Mauna Kea’s spectacular beach setting, you’ll want to maximize your time outdoors.
Vino and Vinyasa
Follow your sun salutations with sauvignon blanc and your planks with pinot noir at this weekly class-slash-happy hour held ocean-side on Friday evenings. It’s only fitting that the sessions focus on Vinyasa, a yoga style that synchronizes movement with breath, because you’ll want to inhale the salty sea air deeply as you gaze at a fiery Big Island sunset.
This 3,500-square-foot ballroom debuted in January 2016 with a beach-friendly color scheme of cream, ivory, and taupe. The elegant venue accommodates nearly 400 guests for meetings, weddings and other functions—and that’s not counting a spacious outdoor area. It’s wreathed by a succession of airy floor-to-ceiling windows with uninterrupted views of its namesake bay, one of the few white-sand shores on the storied Kohala Coast.
Surfing isn’t just reserved for the ocean. Mauna Kea recently embraced the concept of land-based surfing with its 24 Golfboards, created in consultation with professional surfer Laid Hamilton. These lithium-powered (read: environmentally friendly) vehicles come with quick braking, four-wheel drive, gearbox for easy handling of undulating greens. An added bonus: Golfboards also trim about 30 minutes from a round of golf. Mauna Kea is the first on the Big Island to offer a fleet of this kind—making it a standard-setter for 50 years and counting.