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.

Rooms & Suites

Whether you choose an uninterrupted oceanfront view or panorama of our championship golf course, Mauna Kea’s spacious guest rooms feature large furnished lanai (balconies), understated elegant design and modern digital connectivity. Find your home away from home.

In-Room Amenities & Services

  • Welcome amenity
  • Hidden entertainment center with access to Netflix, YouTube and Hulu
  • Mini refrigerator with bottled water, replenished daily
  • Coffee maker with Kona Blend coffee/tea service
  • L’Occitane bath amenities
  • Writing materials and selection of popular magazines and visitor information
  • The Art of Mauna Kea coffee-table book to browse during your stay

Tower Rooms

Whether you choose an uninterrupted ocean view or panorama of our championship golf course, these spacious Big Island guest rooms feature large furnished lanai (balconies), understated elegant design and modern digital connectivity. Find your home away from home in Hawai’i.

Beachfront Wing

Close to the beach, these rooms offer the perfect location for taking early morning walks or sunset strolls. Ground floor rooms provide direct beach access. Available connecting rooms make the Beachfront Wing perfect for families with fun-filled days at the beach or pool in mind.


Mauna Kea Beach Hotel’s gorgeous suites are artfully designed to enhance the views and complement our beautiful Hawaiian tropics. Enjoy spacious luxury in a variety of Tower and Beachfront Wing options.

Accessible Spaces

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel offers handicap accessible guest rooms for guests with special needs. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), our hotel includes 10 guest rooms that have been designed for guests that utilize a wheelchair or require extra space in addition to accessible public spaces. For more information, click here.

Rockefeller sure chose well when he found this spot so many years ago. With everything you need right at the resort, gorgeous rooms, comfortable accommodations, great couples massages, perfect weather, you have everything you need be it a beachfront room or a villa, Mauna Kea is the best.

Tommy C | November 2019

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