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.

Horseback Riding in HawaiiThere are countless ways to explore the diverse Island of Hawaii, including hiking, bicycling, and sightseeing. But there’s something genuinely magical about a multi-hour, midday excursion along the Kohala Coast or Waipi’o Valley on horseback. While we supply guests with dozens of on-site activities and amenities here at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, we cannot blame you if horseback riding in Hawaii sounds exceedingly enticing.

Discovering the Best Horseback Riding in Hawaii

There are nearly a dozen local stables that offer year-round horseback riding tours. And, because our island is so uniquely biodiverse, each trip is beautifully dissimilar. Horseback riding in Hawaii should be atop everyone’s tropical bucket list or travel itinerary, especially for those with a proclivity for adventure, nature, and wildlife. Don’t forget to return to Mauna Kea Beach Hotel after your midday excursion to partake in an authentic luau or clambake.

Waipi‘o on Horseback

If you’re planning on horseback riding in Hawaii, we recommend giving the friendly folks at Waipi‘o on Horseback a call. Each three-hour tour meanders through the foggy, breathtaking Waipi’o Valley (as seen in the photo above) amidst dense forestry, chatty birds, and babbling brooks. Waipi’o on Horseback provides two daily tours six days per week (Monday through Saturday). Not only will you get to meet and ride a majestic, well-trained horse, but your group will leisurely gallop into a sun-drenched valley that’s overgrown with rare flora. You’ll likely spot bananas, sugarcane, coconuts, and, of course, a sacred lotus flower during your exotic journey.

Paniolo Adventures

Horseback Riding in Hawaii

Paniolo Adventures’ stables are less than 21 miles from Mauna Kea Beach Hotel (one of the premier luxury hotels in Hawaii), so they’re quite popular amongst travelers. If your group or family is searching for horseback riding in Hawaii that features sprawling views of the Pacific Ocean and faraway volcanoes, we highly recommend Paniolo. Paniolo’s five tours wander across a working, 11,000-acre cattle ranch. The four-hour Wrangler Open Range has it all: volcanoes, dramatic coastal views, Hawaiian ruins, and friendly wildlife. And it’s proximity to the top-rated Kohala Coast hotels is certainly a massive plus.

Na‘alapa Stables

Very few stables offer horseback riding in Hawaii at two contrasting locales. Na‘alapa Stables, much like Waipi‘o on Horseback, covers the Valley of the Kings as well as wide-open Kahua Ranch. Kahua Ranch’s most recognizable feature is its towering, seemingly random rolling hills and those vivid pastures. We are partial to Na‘alapa’s 150-minute Kahua Ranch expedition as it provides riders with awe-inspiring panoramic views of the Kohala Coastline, faraway cinder cones, and grazing animals.

Horseback Riding in HawaiiBeachfront Hawaii Island Hotels

There aren’t many beach resorts that are within 30 minutes of horseback riding on the “Big Island.” Don’t forget to browse through our lavish hotel suites before giving us a call at 1-877-880-6524. We also encourage all future guests to read up about the island’s helicopter tours, countless beach activities, and world-class golf courses. For special offers and availability, please visit us online.

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