Hawaii Island’s First Resort

It was while swimming in the turquoise waters of Kauna‘oa Bay, surrounded by a wide landscape of lava rock and ranchland with clear views of the Mauna Kea summit, that American conservationist and venture capitalist Laurance S. Rockefeller decided to build Hawaii Island’s first resort. His inspiration to capture the spirit of this special place and ensure the hotel conformed to, rather than intruded upon, these beautiful natural surroundings, became today’s Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

1960: Experimenting on the beach

Rockefeller’s original concept was a cluster of individual cottages along the beach, with no televisions or air-conditioning to interfere with the natural environment of the Kohala Coast. Architects Skidmore Owings Merrill produced a dome-shaped model that was almost washed out by a tropical storm, so a single-building design was next refined by lead architect Charles Bassett. Air-conditioning proved to be crucial in the warm, nearly always sunny South Kohala climate. But from 1965 to 1995, the hotel operated contentedly without guestroom televisions as Rockefeller had always intended.

1964Golf First

In 1964, a year before the hotel was ready to receive guests, Mauna Kea Golf Course opened and became Hawaii Island’s first course. Designed by Robert Trent Jones, who had pioneered a technique to create soil from lava rock, the course debuted with a televised “Big 3” match between Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.

1965: Great beginnings

When it opened in July 1965 with 154 guestrooms after a $15 million build-out, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel was the most expensive hotel ever built. Praised by travel writers and critics worldwide, it was named one of the “three greatest hotels in the world” by Esquire magazine, one of the “10 best buildings of 1966” by Fortune, and presented with an honors award by the American Institute of Architects in 1967. What were viewed as exorbitant room rates started at $43 per night, including breakfast and dinner in the Pavilion, which featured international cuisine.

1968: The New Wing

A new Beachfront Wing was added in 1968, designed by Honolulu architects Wimberly, Whisenand, Allison, Tong and Goo, with interior design by Phyllis Brownlee. Original paintings by John Young were commissioned for the guestrooms, and the Batik restaurant and Lounge was also added.

1994-95: A Sister Property

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel closed for renovation in 1994, a few months before the opening of adjacent Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel that August. Designed by Beachfront Wing architects Wimberly Allison Tong and Goo, Hapuna delivered a contemporary resort experience at the other end of the Mauna Kea Resort property, featuring all ocean-facing rooms, meeting and business facilities, and an exclusive villa. Mauna Kea Beach Hotel reopened in December 1995 and the two hotels in tandem comprised a world-class resort and residential experience on the beautiful Kohala Coast.

2008: Next Generation

Following a damaging earthquake in October 2006 and an unprecedented two year, $150 million renovation, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel reopened in December 2008. In classic Mauna Kea style, the hotel continues to welcome generations of guests to reconnect with life’s most authentic pleasures.

2015: Marriott’s Autograph Collection

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel became Hawaii’s first Autograph Collection Hotel through a marketing partnership. The Autograph Collection is an ensemble of strikingly independent hotels across the country. Each destination has been selected for its quality, bold originality, rich character and uncommon details.

2016: Historic Hotel

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel was inducted as a member of Historic Hotels of America. HHA is the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which recognizes and celebrates the finest historic hotels across America.

5-star hotels in hawaiiMauna Kea Beach Hotel rests upon a particularly awe-inspiring stretch of Kaunaʻoa Bay on the Island of Hawaii. Our secluded, jaw-dropping slice of tropical paradise is a year-round haven for travelers from all across the globe who’re searching for sophistication, natural beauty, and solitude. The pristine, white sand at Kauna’oa Beach is the perfect setting for a day filled with rousing and relaxing beach activities. We’re one of the only 5-star hotels in Hawaii to provide guests with on-site championship golf, an array of authentic dining options, ocean-view guest suites, and easy access to a top-rated beach.

Top 5 Kauna’oa Beach Activities

Very few tropical destinations rival Kauna’oa Beach’s natural beauty, tranquility, and seclusion. The white sand is warm and soft, the ocean is a particularly beautiful shade of teal, and our signature “Fredrico” cocktails at beachfront Hau Tree are delicious. We’ve compiled five of our favorite year-round beach activities that are ideal on a warm, sunny afternoon right here at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

  • Paint a sunset – After an unforgettable day on the most beautiful island in the world, stroll down to Kauna’oa Beach with your compact paint kit and medium-sized canvas about an hour before dusk. The golden sunsets at Kaunaʻoa Bay will take your breath away while simultaneously inspiring your inner artist to create a vivid portrait that’s worth showcasing at home.
  • Fly a kite – The medium winds at Kauna’oa Beach, which typically range from six to 15 mph, are ideal for an afternoon of kite flying. Not only are the weather conditions usually nothing short of perfection, but the soft sand and breathtaking ocean views enhance the kite flying experience. The beach is quite lengthy, so there’s ample space to spread your “wings” this summer.
  • Teach your kids how to surf – Kauna’oa Beach’s peaceful waves are often utilized by parents who wish to teach their children how to surf. Teach your kiddos the basics, including proper safety, in the soft sand before venturing a short distance into the turquoise water. There are several surfing instructors based near the top-rated 5-star hotels in Hawaii – simply contact our concierge about setting up a lesson!
  • 5-star hotels in hawaiiBuild a sandcastle – Whether you’re hoping to craft a sandy masterpiece or just play around with the kids, you’ll quickly discover that the white sand at Kauna’oa Beach is perfect for sandcastle building. Don’t forget to bring along the proper tools, such as plastic pails and shovels, and let the children’s imaginations run wild!
  • Read a book – Dozens of online publications, from Oprah Magazine to Good Housekeeping, release annual lists of their favorite beach reads. There’s nothing quite as relaxing than reading an award-winning page-turner on a pristine beach with the soothing sounds of lapping waves keeping you at ease.

5-Star Hotels in Hawaii

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel remains one of the only 5-star hotels in Hawaii that features a beachfront restaurant where you can indulge in fruity cocktails, Saturday clambakes, and fresh-caught fish. Many of our deluxe tower rooms provide jaw-dropping Pacific Ocean vistas, including splendid sightlines of Kauna’oa Beach. Our top-rated golf resort is known for our twice-weekly luau, featuring suckling pig, poi, ahi poke, lomi-lomi salmon, and so many more authentic delicacies. To book a well-deserved tropical escape to Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, please give our friendly staff a call at 1-877-880-6524, or visit us online for more information.

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