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.

Aerial View of Mauna Kea's Hawaii Island Beach.

According to Travel + Leisure, two of the 18 prettiest beaches in Hawaii are within walking distance of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. And no one here on the Kohala Coast is arguing with that fact. Kaunaʻoa Bay and Hapuna Beach, two neighboring slices of “Big Island” paradise, collectively provide as much serenity as the rest of the island combined. Spending a full day at the beach along the sandy Kohala Coast remains a bucket list item for many travelers. Thus, in hopes of enhancing your upcoming escape to the Island of Hawaii, we’ve assembled some helpful information about the region’s three prettiest beaches.

1. Kaunaʻoa Bay

Aerial View of Mauna Kea's Hawaii Island Beach, Just Steps from the Ala Kahakai Trail.Mauna Kea Beach Hotel’s own Kaunaʻoa Bay is one of the only stretches of white sand on the Island of Hawaii. Most travelers know Kaunaʻoa Bay as “Mauna Kea Beach,” a sprawling, crescent moon-shaped shoreline that hugs the hotel’s lush great lawn. The beach is home to pearly sand, crystal-clear water, swaying palms, sun lounges (and umbrellas) complimentary for guests, and an open-air beachfront eatery, Hau Tree, one of four on-site dining options. Through the on-site Beach Club, guests can utilize SUPs, kayaks, bodyboards, snorkeling gear, and our famous outrigger canoes. Kaunaʻoa Beach is home to thriving manta ray and sea turtle populations.

2. Hapuna Beach

Aerial View of Hapuna Beach, a Quintessential Hawaii Island Beach.A scenic, southerly stroll along the historic Ala Kahakai Trail will lead to you Hapuna Beach, home to the prestigious Westin Hapuna Beach Resort. Hapuna Beach is yet another white-sand marvel—a rarity on the “Big Island.” The beach’s southern edge features charcoal-colored volcanic rock, while the landscape’s north end is prime snorkeling territory, especially in the morning hours. Parking is limited, which is why we typically point travelers toward the picturesque Ala Kahakai Trail. Hapuna Beach is exceedingly linear, so the tides are very predictable. Thus, it’s a sublime place to learn how to paddleboard or bodyboard.

3. ʻAnaehoʻomalu Beach

Photo of a Sunset at ʻAnaehoʻomalu Beach, a Classic Hawaii Island Beach.ʻAnaehoʻomalu Beach, not to be confused with the neighboring Waikōloa Beach, is best known for its towering palms, thriving sea turtle population, and serene ponds. It’s approximately 10 miles southwest of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, making it a lovely day-trip destination for those who wish to explore another sublime slice of sand. While the sand isn’t as pristine or pearly as Kaunaʻoa or Hapuna, it’s impossible to deny the allure of a vibrant ʻAnaehoʻomalu Beach sunset. Because so many sea turtles live near the beach, ʻAnaehoʻomalu remains a beloved snorkeling hot spot.

Mauna Kea, a Quintessential “Big Island” Resort

Start and finish each day in paradise at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, an award-winning Kohala Coast resort property with a world-renowned golf course, the isle’s top-rated luau, and, as mentioned above, the prettiest beach on the Island of Hawaii. Don’t forget to browse through Mauna Kea’s collection of featured offers, including the long stay promotion, family discounts, and golf packages. To book a well-deserved escape to the Kohala Coast, please check availability online (or connect with a reservationist at 1-877-880-6524).

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