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 beach hotelsThe Island of Hawaii is an eye-popping natural wilderness that seemingly never ends. Hawaii, the largest island in the U.S., is a 4,000+ square mile playground for backpackers, hikers, photographers, and sightseers. While there are a handful of Hawaii beach hotels on the shoreline of this majestic island, they all strive to meet the standard set since 1965 by Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. This beachside paradise is steps from one of the most scenic beaches in the world, a world-class golf course, and one of the best tennis court facilities in the United States. You’ll likely want to spend the majority of your vacation within the resort, but a day trip to some of the island’s array of natural attractions should be on the itinerary. Explore the vast wilderness and discover why the Island of Hawaii is the world’s most diverse island.

Stunning Valley Lookouts

We highly recommend spending a morning or afternoon hike in the Pololu and Waipio valleys. Both valleys have breathtaking lookouts within 35 miles of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Very few Hawaii beach hotels can equal our location to the island’s best hiking trails and lookouts, and none are nearly historical or scenic. The Pololu Valley Lookout rests at the very end of the ʻAkoni Pule Highway. This dead-end lookout offers dramatic vistas of the Pacific Ocean, kelly green cliffs, and the Pololu Valley mountain range. Trek down to the ocean’s edge by hiking 1.2 miles on the Pololu Trail. The trail leads to one of Hawaii’s premier black sand beaches. There is a strong undercurrent, so swimming is discouraged. Explore the nearby bluffs and have a picnic instead. Be sure and remove your trash with you when you leave. For a more challenging hiking excursion, head to Waipio Valley. You’ll feel on top of the world at the Waipio Valley Lookout. This broad valley is home to two of the tallest waterfalls in the world: Hiilawe Falls and Kaluahine Falls. The 6.5-mile Waipio hiking excursion is a challenging and very steep journey down into the valley.

Pristine Beaches

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is steps from one of the premier beaches in the United States. Kauna’oa Bay has a pristine beach with warm, white sand, unique rock formations, and refreshing, teal blue waves. Take a break from the ocean with Mauna Kea’s signature Fredrico cocktail and mahi-mahi fish tacos at Hau Tree, right on the sand’s edge. For those interested in snorkeling, swim along Kauna’oa Bay’s coastline or embark on a 22-mile drive to Kua Bay. The crystal clear waters on this public beach offer stellar opportunities to swim with sandbar sharks, sea turtles, and colorful fish. We encourage ocean-goers to be aware of ocean conditions, never snorkel alone, and always be respectful of all marine life.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

The 100-mile drive to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is extraordinarily beautiful, and the destination is one of the nation’s best national parks. This park is currently closed because of recent volcanic activity. Please keep a close eye on their website for up-to-date alerts. The Kahuku unit remains open, and tourists can embark on guided hikes through the lush hillside. This national park had over two million visitors last year alone.

Hawaii Beach Hotels

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel rests on the stunning shores of Kauna’oa Bay, overlooking the vast turquoise Pacific Ocean. No other Hawaii beach hotels can match our oceanfront seclusion, prime beach access, or world-class dining. Lay a towel down on the beach, sink your toes into the warm, white sand, and sip on a mango daiquiri – Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is an awe-inspiring Hawaiian paradise!

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