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.

Photograph of a Car near Mauna Kea Beach Taken by Gray Malin at Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is every photographer’s dream. It’s set amongst lush vegetation on one of Hawaii’s prettiest beaches. Mauna Kea has recently partnered with Gray Malin as part of the photographer’s latest series: “Gray Malin at Mauna Kea,” which brings the hotel to life and guarantees a dose of nostalgia for Mauna Kea vacations to come.

Gray Malin at Mauna Kea

In a series of 32 images, Gray Malin has brought Mauna Kea Beach Hotel to light. According to Malin, the shoot was “inspired by the beautifully unique spirit of Hawaii” and aims to bring to life the rich history of Mauna Kea since the resort was developed in 1965 by Rockefeller.

Malin considered the hotel’s rich history, using striped beachside umbrellas, reminiscing from long ago, and many other vintage props, creating a whole new vibe.

“Working with the Mauna Kea for this project was a dream,” says Malin. “I have had my mindset on shooting this luxury resort for a while, and it is incredible that we were able to make it happen during this unpredictable year.”

The Perfect Location

Mauna Kea itself is the perfect location to shoot with its world-class facilities, world-class 18-hole golf course, and jaw-dropping sea views far out onto the horizon. Some of the best shots include a shot of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and its luxury setting from afar and a stunning image of the hotel’s beach views. There are plenty of prints that will provide you with fantastic memories of your stay at the Mauna Kea too. Reminisce about your time sipping cocktails with beach views, or bring back fond memories of your Hawaiian surfing experience.

Gray Malin at Mauna Kea for Purchase

Having a personal copy of one of Gray Malin’s prints will remind you of your fantastic vacation to Mauna Kea for years to come. Shots of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel by Gray Malin are now available to purchase at our gift shop on your next stay with us. If you just can’t wait to pick up these one-of-a-kind prints, you can buy them online here. Shipping is available throughout the U.S. and Hawaii. 

If you feel inspired to visit us, you can see our latest availability online here, or phone 1-877-880-6520 for more information.

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