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.

Photo of Mauna Kea, One of the Best Big Island Golf Courses.A handful of the world’s most appealing golf courses lie along the Island of Hawaii’s Kohala Coast, a sprawling, biodiverse landscape that hugs the Pacific Ocean’s rocky shoreline. The Island of Hawaii, often referred to as the “Big Island,” is an idyllic, year-round destination worth revisiting time and time again. Yes, the isle’s world-class golf scene is exceedingly alluring, but don’t overlook the overall tropical appeal of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, a heavenly seaside resort located along Kauna‘oa Bay’s pristine shores. Combine 18 holes at one of the premier Big Island golf courses with vibrant island cuisines, aquatic adventures, exclusive Beach Club access, and a seaside tennis match at dusk for the perfect island adventure.

The Top 3 Big Island Golf Courses

With nearly two dozen Big Island golf courses within a short distance of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, choosing a trio of tee times during your upcoming golf-focused getaway isn’t easy. Or is it? This award-winning seaside resort boasts not one but two renowned Big Island golf courses: Mauna Kea and Hapuna. And, a few miles inland, golfers can also discover a hidden gem near the head-turning Pu’u Wa’awa’a Cinder Cone.

1. Mauna Kea Golf Course

Photo of Mauna Kea Golf Course, One of the Best Big Island Golf Courses.

Robert Trent Jones’ legacy includes Spain’s Real Club Valderrama, “The Dunes” of Myrtle Beach, and Williamsburg’s historic Golden Horseshoe. However, his crowning achievement remains Mauna Kea Golf Course, a visual masterpiece that intertwines the Pacific’s rugged shoreline, the natural hillocks that rumble through the Coast, and the tropical trees that branch in seemingly every direction. It’s hard to imagine the island without this enthralling 1964 design. Fun fact: The third tee box is one of the state’s most desirable wedding ceremony destinations.

2. Hapuna Golf Course

Hapuna Golf Course, one of the most talked-about Big Island golf courses, rests along the southern edge of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel’s property. The brilliant duo of Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay designed this 1992 instant classic, which masterfully utilizes the arid landscape and elevation changes to provide one of the most memorable golf experiences in the country. Whereas Mauna Kea hugs the ocean’s shores, Hapuna heads a little further inland, surrounded by a naturally dry, desert (mainly straw-colored grassland) terrain. It’s impossible not to appreciate the links-style design, especially when they’re so hard to find in Hawaii.

3. Makani Golf Club

Makani Golf Club, a hidden gem if there ever was one, is a common complementary off-site experience. Admittedly, it’s not as stop-in-your-tracks gorgeous as Mauna Kea, but there’s something magical about this small green dot of land amid countless acres of arid, volcanic ruins. The course is happily open to the public, and tee times aren’t overly difficult to come by, even during “peak” seasons. Keep your eyes peeled for a diverse array of animals that often frequent the landscape, such as owls, goats, and Hawaiian ducks.

The Best Places to Stay in Hawaii: Mauna Kea

Photo of a Mauna Kea Suite, Just Minutes Away from Two of the Best Big Island Golf Courses.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel’s easy access to not one but two exemplary Hawaii golf courses is a colossal selling point, even if you don’t play that often. Combine 18 holes of championship golf with a coastal hike, horseback tour, self-guided bicycling expedition, or some old-fashioned beach fun. As one of the best hotels in Hawaii, Mauna Kea expects an influx of golfers this fall and winter. So, remember to book now to take advantage of exclusive discounts and featured promotions, including the “Unlimited Golf Package.” To learn more about Mauna Kea’s many amenities, such as cultural activities, the fitness center, and Beach Club access, please visit us online.

Recent Posts