by Lissa Poirot
Located along one of the largest stretches of beach on the lava-rock filled Kohala Coast, Mauna Kea is a grand-dame resort that has been providing luxury family accommodations for generations. What began as a dream of Laurance Rockefeller in 1965 has evolved into a favorite of visitors to the resort-laced Kohala Coast. Following a major $150-million renovation completed in 2010, the resort morphed from a traditional Hawaiian hideaway of dark woods into a Coastal Living dream of whites and blues. Although the colors are changing and the resort is receiving updates, returning guests recognize the same level of service, quality and seclusion while new arrivals appreciate the mid-century modern design, new Copper Bar (opened in December, 2015), and services from the new beach club at Mauna Kea.
The resort’s sister property, Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, shares amenities, restaurants and the Kohala Coast’s best beaches with Mauna Kea, providing two properties in one.
Our Editor Loves
- $150-million renovation
- Long stretch of beach on the coast
- Shared amenities with sister resort
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The deluxe resort is divided into two buildings -- the main tower and the beachfront wing -- with families preferring connecting rooms closest to the beach and pool from the Beach Club.
All rooms feature large flat-screen TVs, media hubs with movies on demand and Wi-Fi access, mini-refrigerators stocked with water, coffee/tea makers, iPod docks with clock radios, and luxurious bathrooms, some with views overlooking the ocean or mountains. Cribs are available upon request.
Rooms here begin at 590 square feet and include a private lanai. Ground floor rooms feature walk-out patios with a lawn area in which kids can play before reaching the beach.
Suites begin at 1,268 square feet and feature sleeper sofas and either a king or two doubles.
In the Main Tower, rooms are categorized by view. Ocean Views, of course, are costlier, while golf vista views come at lower price points. Rooms range from 589 square feet to Spacious Deluxe Rooms at 904 square feet, and all come with a private lanai and one king or two double beds. Suites are 1,252 to 1,610 square feet and located on the top floor, with ocean or mountain views. Suites feature separate living areas, two private lanai and additional bathrooms.
My sister and I enjoyed two glorious nights here - not long enough! The property is so beautiful from the drive in off the main road, to all of the well groomed grounds and the gorgeous beach. So easy to relax and enjoy the lovely surroundings most anywhere on site. I particularly enjoyed lounging by the pool and having lunch served to us there. Great service & the rooms and sleep quality were superb. Looking forward to returning someday and staying longer!
We returned to the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel for four days in September. Kauna'oa Beach is perfection. The water is clear, warm and calm this time of year. This is one of our most favorite beaches in all of Hawaii and why we return to the Mauna Kea. We enjoyed getting our loungers/umbrellas but more importantly the little low rise beach chairs that we pulled to the water's edge.
We stayed in an Ocean Front Room in the Main Tower. At first we were placed on the 5th floor end room. We were not happy here as there was lots of noise and a chlorine smell from the pool. For the huge price of the room - just shy of $1000 - we asked to be moved. After some attitude from reception they were able to move us to the 7th floor more center after 2 nights. This room was much better. The views from the two lanais just spectacular! However the rooms are showing their age and not as fresh as our previous 3 stays. The towels were like cardboard - no pile whatsoever.
The food program at the hotel is mediocre at best. Mantra provided a stunning view and sunset for our first night's dinner however the menu is very uninspiring and expensive. Service was very slow and unprofessional. We asked to talk to someone knowledgeable with their wine list and told no one was working this evening that knew about wine. Really, Saturday night?! All other dinners we took elsewhere. Merrimans, Sansei and Ulu Ocean Grill at Four Seasons were our choices and did not disappoint. Lunches at Hau Tree on the beach provided friendly service but again a pretty mainstream dining menu.
We liked the addition of the little store where we could purchase snacks, drinks and sundries.
We never saw a manager circulating and making contact with guests. No one asked how our stay was going, if we needed anything.The overall feel of the staff was like they were just going through motions but not genuinely caring.
If it were not for the beach we would not return to Mauna Kea. They have a premium spot on Hawaii and we feel like they are just coasting on this asset. They could be so much better! The hotel lists itself as one of the Marriott Autograph Collection Hotels which offer upper-upscale luxury. They have a long way to go to be true to this category of hotels.
Beach & Pool
Mauna Kea's Kauna'oa Bay beach is one of the largest found on the Kohala Coast. The largest, however, is located at Hapuna Beach Prince, so a stay at either resort guarantees your family the area's best beaches. Complimentary sandcastle building tools are provided for kiddies.
The resort's pool is relatively small in comparison to neighboring Kohala Coast resort pools, but with the expansive beach and plenty of cabanas and chairs, families won't mind.
Available water sports include snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, canoe rides, paddleboarding and more. The concierge can also assist with off-property excursions.
The Keiki Club provides supervised activities for children 5 to 12. Half- and full-day programs are offered, with activities like beach scavenger hunts, hula dancing and Hawaiian arts and crafts. The programs are offered seasonally.
For guests of all ages, cultural activities take place throughout the week with Auntie Donna Jensen, who provides arts and crafts, lei making and hula lessons.
Mauna Kea's 18-hole, par-72 golf course includes putting and chipping greens, a driving range, lessons and a pro shop. Guests may also want to visit the Hapuna Golf Course, which is also 18-hole and par-72 with the same amenities.
Mauna Kea's traditional Polynesian luau was created in the 1960s and continues today, every Tuesday and Friday evening at sunset.
The resort features 11 oceanside tennis courts, and its Seaside Tennis Club has been ranked No. 5 in the world.
The resort features a number of dining options on property, as well as at its sister property, the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel. At Mauna Kea, breakfast is served, along with an all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch. Dinner is served at Manta & Pavilion Wine Bar. Breakfast is offered from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., and dinner is offered Tuesdays through Saturdays from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday brunch is offered from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Full lunch and dinner is offered at Hau Tree, which features a clambake on Saturday nights. The beachfront casual restaurant provides beach and pool dining, as well as seated lunches from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays.
Lunch is available daily at Number 3, the resort's 19th hole clubhouse golf course, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, and light appetizers and sunset drinks can be enjoyed daily at Copper Terrace from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel
At Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, breakfast is served at Ocean Terrace, which also features a crab feast on Friday nights, and CafÃ© Hapuna, which also serves lunch and dinner.
Lunch and snacks can also be enjoyed at Hapuna's Beach Bar, and dinner at the Coast Grille provides outside, casual dining with ocean views.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Babysitting services are available.
Welcome gifts are provided to children upon arrival, and usually include a manta toy, coloring book and crayons.
The Art of Smart Timing
The Kohala Coast gets very minimal rainfall and winter temperatures remain in the 70s, making the tropical resort a great year-round vacation destination. The resort is busiest during the summer months, school vacations and holidays.
Mauna Kea is located on the Kohala Coast, 30 minutes north of the Kona International Airport.
Complimentary shuttles are offered to the resort's sister property, Hapuna Prince Beach Resort, so guests may enjoy the amenities and dining on both properties.
For Mom and Dad
The Mauna Kea Spa by Mandara offers a full-range of spa services, including hair and nail salon services, makeup applications, outdoor cabana massages, couples therapies, body treatments and skincare.