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.


The legacy of developer and passionate conservationist Laurance S. Rockefeller is cornerstone to Mauna Kea Resort’s decades-long efforts to honor, celebrate, and malama (care for) our island home. We are pleased to share some of our recent initiatives here.

Mauna Kea Resort Honey

Mauna Kea Resort is buzzing with excitement with new apiaries and the debut of Mauna Kea Resort Honey. Beehives have a significant positive impact on the local environment. By establishing honeybees in the area, we help provide pollination for local farming, flowers, and native plant production.

For more on all the buzz, click here.

Embracing Sustainability

Our sustainability mission is to share a timeless experience for generations, serving our guests, families, the community, and environment. In 2017, we published a comprehensive sustainability case study, through an independent third party, showing transparency in operations related to the environment, community, and economy. The study incorporated the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework to show local and global impacts which protect the planet, promote peace, and encourage prosperity.

To view the full study, click here.

Supporting Farm-to-School Efforts

Mauna Kea Resort’s culinary team works diligently to incorporate fresh, locally sourced ingredients into every menu.

Within the broader community, the resort held a fundraiser to support Kohala High School’s Farm-to-School Initiative Pilot Project and their goal to replace packaged and processed foods with scratch-cooked local foods in the school’s student cafeteria.

Read more about the initiative and how the resort was able to help here.

Community Engagement & Charitable Giving

In 2015, we celebrated our 50th anniversary with “50 Acts of Aloha” contributing more than 700 volunteer hours and raising more than $500,000 in cash and in-kind for the community and charitable causes; since then we have instituted 15 annual acts of aloha, including our Legacy Dinner Series of farm-to-table fundraising dinners highlighting local Hawai’i suppliers and supporting local scholarships. We partner with local schools through the ClimbHI partnership LEI program to educate youth and encourage career development in food and beverage, hospitality, engineering, and administration.

Each year employees participate in the Annual Visitor Industry Charity Walk hosted by the Hawai’i Lodging & Tourism Association; the Charity Walk occurs on Hawai’i Island, Kauai, Lanai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu on the same day in May; on average more than $2 million is raised annually benefiting approximately 400 local charities.

Volunteerism & Alliances to Help the Environment

We are proud to have engaged employees participate in our cross-departmental Green Team to implement and champion sustainability initiatives resort-wide. We partner with the National Park Service to provide upkeep on a portion of the Ala Kahalai National Historic Trail, a 175-mile trail that traverses our property; our team helps keep this culturally significant route clean, safe, and beautiful, with access for all. We also work with the Nature Conservancy and University of Hawaii, Hilo to conduct ongoing studies to establish baselines, collect data, protect coral reefs and to keep pollutants from entering the ocean.

Energy & Water Conservation

Our Mauna Kea Beach Hotel Green Program encourages guests to support environmental efforts through the reuse of towels to conserve water and energy. Throughout the property we use LED lighting and occupancy sensors, energy efficient appliances, hardware, boilers and steam plate heat exchangers, in addition to hybrid equipment at the golf course. Our course operates using 25 percent recycled water for irrigation.

Recycling & Waste Reduction

We have a 51 percent waste diversion rate, signifying waste diverted from landfills. Efforts include composting green waste and recycling; we also partner with All One Ocean by donating used foil coffee bags for reuse to gather trash during shoreline cleaning projects.


Efforts to support native wildlife and flora are ongoing. Our onsite population of Nene Geese, an endangered species and Hawaii’s state bird, has increased by 300 percent over the last three years through protection and education efforts. We are increasing plant growth native to Hawai’i through implementing natural solutions to pesticide reduction such as the use of beneficial insects to attack pests on ornamental plants, which also reduces pesticides and lowers water inputs.

Sourcing Responsibly

We are proud to support the local economy through sourcing 95 percent of our fish and dairy, 85 percent of produce, and beef locally. Our suppliers are asked to adhere to our Supplier Code of Conduct to ensure fair labor treatment, safety, ethical operations, and environmental responsibility. Environmental and local supplier criteria are incorporated into our supply chain vetting process. Examples of responsible sourcing include the elimination of sun care products containing Oxybenzone to protect coral reefs, eliminating plastic straws to protect marine life and reduce non-biodegradable waste, plus using salt systems and natural products in our pools.

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