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.

AWARDS

2020 Awards & Accolades

Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards 2020
Top Resorts in Hawaii

Condé Nast Traveler – 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards
Top Resorts in Hawaii

2019 Awards & Accolades

Condé Nast Traveler – 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards
Top Resorts in Hawaii

AFAR – Traveler’s Choice Awards 2019
Beach Finalist

U.S. News & World Report – 2019 Best Hotels
Silver Medal
Best Hawaii, The Big Island Hotels
Best Hawaii, The Big Island Resorts
Best Hawaii Hotels
Best Hawaii Resorts
Kohala Coast, Waikoloa

Historic Hotels of America – Historic Hotels Award of Excellence
Best Historic Hotel (201-400 Guestrooms), Nominee Finalist

Islands Magazine – Best Beach Hotels and Resorts in Hawaii
Best for Board Sports

Hawaii Magazine – 2019 Readers’ Choice Award: Best of Hawaii Island
Best Buffet
Best Resort for a Wedding
Best Luxury Resort $500+
Best Mid-Range Hotel or Resort $200-$499
Best Hotel or Resort for Families
Best Hotel or Resort for Long Vacations
Best Hotel or Resort for a Romantic Getaway
Best Hotel or Resort with Aloha Spirit
Best Hotel or Resort Staff
Best Hotel or Resort Guest Services Program
Best Golf Course
Best Hotel or Resort Pool

Tennis Resorts Online – 2019 Top 25 Tennis Resorts
Gold Medal Tennis Resorts – Mauna Kea’s Seaside Tennis Club
Best Setting – Mauna Kea’s Seaside Tennis Club
Best for Couples – Mauna Kea’s Seaside Tennis Club

Golf Digest – 2019-2020 Rankings
America’s Second 100 Greatest Golf Courses – Mauna Kea Golf Course
America’s Greatest Public Courses – Mauna Kea Golf Course

Golf Week – 2019 Ultimate Guide
Top 200 Resort Golf Courses – Mauna Kea Golf Course

Golf Week – 2018 Top 100 Public courses
Top 100 – Mauna Kea Golf Course

2018 Awards & Accolades

Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report – 2018 Members’ Choice
Most Stunning Beach
Most Welcoming Hotel for Kids

Condé Nast Traveler – 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards
Top Resorts in Hawaii

Hawaii Magazine – 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards: Best of Hawaii Island
Luxury Resort
Hotel/Resort for Families
Hotel/Resort for Romantic Getaway
Hotel/Resort with Aloha Spirit
Hotel or Resort Staff
Resort for a Wedding
Beach for a Wedding (Editors Picks)
Buffet
Golf Course – Mauna Kea Golf Course

Hawaii Magazine – 2018 Our 68 Great Places to Stay
Hawaii Island

Tennis Resorts Online – 2018 Top 25 Tennis Resorts
Gold Medal Tennis Clubs – Mauna Kea’s Seaside Tennis Club

Architecture

American Institute of Architects, Honor Award, 1967

Esquire Magazine, “One of Three Best Hotels in the World,” 1967

Fortune Magazine, “Ten Best Buildings of 1966”

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