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.

hawaii activitiesThere are several ways to explore the Island of Hawaii’s natural beauty, including flightseeing, hiking, and boating, but perhaps our favorite method of exploration is the sport of cycling. Whether you’re an avid cyclist hoping for six straight days of adventure or a beginner looking for a calming mid-day activity, you’ll find a tour that perfectly suits your skill level at Big Island Bike Tours. Cycling is one of the most popular Hawaii activities because it provides jaw-dropping natural scenery, rewarding exercise, and lifelong memories. Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, one of the best hotels in Hawaii, has a strong relationship with Big Island Bike Tours – simply ask our knowledgeable concierge upon arrival to arrange a shuttle to a tour’s starting point.

The 4 Best Big Island Bike Tours

Big Island Bike Tours offer anything from a six-day expedition to a 90-minute leisurely downhill trek. Most of these tours are perfect for those hoping to combine a half-day of cycling with several on-site Hawaii activities, such as tennis, swimming, or golfing, here at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. We’ve hand-selected four of our favorite tours to showcase the many options at Big Island Bike Tours:

  • Anna Ranch – The two-hour Anna Ranch tour is ideal for families with adventurous children as well as beginners with some basic knowledge of the sport. While the terrain is reasonably straightforward, there are some challenging climbs along the way. You’ll peddle past Kohakohau Stream, jaw-dropping waterfalls, and wind-swept pastures where you’ll make occasional stops to observe the surrounding mountain ranges and distant volcanoes, including Mauna Kea!
  • Hawaiian Vanilla Factory – We urge avid cyclists to book a three-hour, 24-mile “Hawaiian Vanilla Factory” bike tour, which features a downhill cruise to Honoka’a and a steep climb to Pa’auilo. The expedition finishes at The Hawaiian Vanilla Company, home to the only commercially-grown vanilla in the United States. The tour peddles along tranquil roads that are enclosed by coffee groves, fruit trees, and sprawling valleys.
  • Holualoa LoopBig Island Bike Tours describes this flexible excursion as an “old school Hawaiian ride” because you’ll be led through uninhabited backcountry for much of the trip. The Holualoa Loop also features some of the best Pacific Ocean views imaginable as you’ll peddle along the Island of Hawaii’s western coast from Kahalu’u to Kailua. This flexible, breathtaking trek can take anywhere from 2-4 hours, depending on the group’s skill level.
  • Waipio Valley Lookout – Cycling is one of the most popular Hawaii activities for many travelers, mainly because the scenic overlooks are so incredibly awe-inspiring. You’ll start in nearby Waimea and journey 19 miles through a diverse, untouched wilderness. The seven-mile trek from Waimea to Honokaa is mostly downhill, but then you’ll switch gears for the next 12 miles on your journey to the famous Waipio Valley Lookout. It’s no secret that the Waipio Valley is among the most beautiful landscapes on the island.

5-Star Hotels in Hawaii

hawaii activities

It’s worth noting that Big Island Bike Tours also offers bicycle rentals which can be hand-delivered to Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. After a half-day spent peddling, photographing, and recharging your batteries, retreat to our beachfront hotel for signature cocktails, well-deserved relaxation, and an authentic luau. Finish each full day of adventurous Hawaii activities with a golden sunset above the vast Pacific Ocean. To book a much-needed Hawaiian escape to Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, please give us a call today at 1-877-880-6524, or visit us online.

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