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In 1965 developer and passionate conservationist Laurance S. Rockefeller envisioned Mauna Kea Resort as “a private estate offering a cross-cultural resort experience.” Through his team of experts, he quickly set about acquiring art objects from Asia, Oceania and the Pacific Rim to meet his goal.

So well did his vision come to life that some aspects of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel were designed to specifically enhance the works of art. Every hallway, every corner, is graced with something special and often surprising. In all, this priceless collection includes hundreds and hundreds of museum-quality pieces.

The expansive collection spotlights Pacific Rim culture and spirituality, from Ainu kimono and glittery Thai icons to Maori canoe prows, bronze Indian chests, and wooden carvings. Hawaiian culture is featured prominently through displays of traditional kapa (pounded bark) cloth, Hawaiian quilts, and kii (wooden images).

One of the most artistically treasured pieces (though not the most valuable) in the collection is a pink granite Buddha sculpted in twelfth-century India. This five-foot, three-inch tall figure, imposing yet serene beneath a large Bodhi (enlightenment) tree, is positioned with his heart above the level of a man’s eye, in accordance with Buddhist tradition. Nearly as prized is a 700-year-old sculpture of the head of Buddha which was unearthed by workmen building a dam in northern Thailand. It can be found on display in the hotel’s Beachfront Wing.

Two mythic bronze guardian dogs from a Thai temple stand watch at the breezeway entrance to the hotel’s Beachfront wing. Other rare pieces include an elongated ancestral figure from a New Guinea ceremonial house, a fearsome-looking Garuda (half-man and half-bird) that once guarded a Siamese temple and Hawaii’s largest standing collection of handmade Hawaiian quilts commissioned specifically by Mr. Rockefeller for placement in the hotel.

These, and so many, many more unique, original to country-of-origin pieces make up this priceless collection that was the first of its kind ever assembled for a hotel anywhere in the world. Many hotels have followed and imitated, but never duplicated what Rockefeller accomplished.

Art pieces are positioned informally throughout the hotel and grounds, where guests can discover and experience them up close.

Guests and visitors are welcomed to view the works of art individually or join a complimentary guided art tour available Saturday mornings beginning at 10:00 a.m. Tours are led by Ms. Patti Cook who brings the collection to life with her stories of the art, architecture and the hotel’s history.

At Mauna Kea, the Art Collection is designated as The Mark, which is a way for Autograph Collection Hotels to bring to life a unique character of the property. Among the hotel’s initiatives to introduce the collection to more people, the hotel has begun a series of Podcasts. A link to the first in what will be a series may be found below.

Podcast #1: The History of Mauna Kea and the Art of Mauna Kea

Podcast #2: The Buddha Shakyamuni

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