hiked most of the resorts in my many trips trip to the Island of Hawaii and now have a good idea about the resorts of north kona and kohala from an exterior/aesthetic point of view.
Mauna Kea: An older hotel that was designed by Larry Rockefeller and his team. Wonderful location overlooks the best beach on Hawaii. It’s interesting architecture, it is a box but is designed to compliment its location. Beautiful gardens surround the resort. The gardens have a more formal and maintained looked. This tends to reinforce the image of class. World-class golfing and recreational opportunities awaits the guest. Now that the MK is reopened it appears that the Mona Kea is the resort de jour on Hawaii. Hard to say anything bad about the MK, except maybe their heavy-hand manner of controlling how many tourist can visit the beach.
Hapuna Beach. From a distance, this resort seems to be the poor step-sister to the Mauna Kea. Smaller less elaborate gardens surround the property. Not as sweet a location as the MK but it does sit above Hapuna Beach which is a nice beach. It’s a nice resort but not as impressive as others. On the plus side, it is cheaper than many of the resorts on the west and guest have access to all of the amenities of the Mauna Kea.
Fairmont, I haven’t spent any time walking the property so these are rough observation. It’s on the Mauna Lani property so the area has a wonderful feel about. It has miles of trails to hike though in a large but well planned community. I don’t think it has much of a beach small and appears manufacture. The resort architecture is a box. It has first class amenities. Hopefully, some Fairmont friends will fill-in the blanks.
Mauna Lani. Architecturally this is a bold big modernist box building. It’s like an arrow pointed at the ocean. The design gives almost every room a great view. The ML has a very impressive check-in area, elegant and classy. The gardens are somewhat formal immediately around the hotel but further out in quickly goes to elegant jungle and ponds. Very impressive grounds maybe the most impressive land on the west coast, imo. There is a man-made swimming area in front of the hotel but the small crescent beach about .3 mile south is wonderful for swimming, playing and snorkeling. Miles of pave pathways to walk or run. Beautiful golf courses surround the community. Excellent but expensive restaurants are on property. A wonderful Hawaiian feel graces this resort.
Marriot Waikoloa. I didn’t go inside so hopefully someone will aid me with this resort. A quick review of the property shows pretty standard box type hotel, a nice pool and interesting pond area and well maintain gardens. Has a good feeling as a result of location but the architecture is definitely not exciting. This resort doesn’t send me but I am not offended by it. It is the least expensive of the big resorts and the only resort that fronts Abay’s beach.
Hilton. I spent over an hour hiking this resort and my feelings are negative. The Hilton is really three hotels managed as one. It has a feeling of Disneyland without the warm and fuzzy part. They have a monorail type transportation system and boats ferrying people to the out-builders. The architecture is modern, box with a curvilinear theme. The style is resortus grandiose. Everything is oversized. You are in awe when you first start walking the property, 9-foot Ming vases and 8-ft. marble Chinese horses dot the resort. The pool is large a maybe the best on the big island. There is no ocean access. Instead, the architect created a huge lagoon. Surrounding this lagoon is both formal and informal gardens. There is ocean access to the lagoon, but I can’t imagine that the water quality is all that good but people were snorkeling in it. I also didn’t see many tropical fish. I suspect the lagoon is inhabited by fish that are comfortable with brackish water.
What this hotel lacks is a feeling of Hawaii. How the owner could spend so much and miss the point is beyond me. This resort for all its grandeur could be located in Thailand, China or San Diego. There is nothing that says Hawaii. This is not a resort I would spend time at but your opinion may differ. It is at times breathtaking. I do think this is a great resort for families with younger children.
Four Season: I spent many hours wandering the FS and I am most impressed. Much thought went into the design of this resort. The hotel in broken into four shell shape (U) sections. The design fits nicely into the coast. And the coast is what is so striking at this resort. Between and among each section is a pool and garden. The gardens are formal and clean, and give one a sense of tropical Hawaii. The pools are fantastic especial the tropical fish pool, where one can snorkel with most tropical fish found in Hawaii included spotted eagle rays. This is a cool feature. The other pools are elegant and fine places to be seen. There are two international quality golf courses and the coast walk to Kukio beach is a really fine resort hike. It claims a top-notch spa and some really excellent restaurants. This is different but equal to the Mauna Lani and Mauna Kea.
Kona Village: I debated whether to add Kona Village Resort to this list. It comparing the others to Kona Village, is really comparing different resort concepts. KVR is really an anti-resort. The housing is recreated hales or huts from around Polynesia. Because of this design element, there is an intimate village feel to the resort. As far as the gardens, there are three distinct areas. There is lava area with its views of the ocean and its minimalist gardening. Then there is the pond area that gives one a feeling of an old hawaiian village that surrounds ponds circled with soaring palm trees and junglish vegetation. It has a very intimate feeling back there. The beach area has a formal jungle feeling. Hawaiian and tropical trees abound, hibiscus and gardenia scent the air. This resort represents Hawaii of our dreams. Everything here speaks tropical Hawaiian paradise. At times the village shows its age but that will be resolved during the forthcoming facelift.
There are two pools neither are Olympic sized. KVR has great beach for sunning, swimming, snorkeling and water sports. It has some of the best diving on the island. It is not great for just playing in the waves. There are miles of hiking trails north, south and through the resort. As a result of the Dell purchase, you can now golf on the Four Season’s courses. KVR is different but equal to the best resorts in Hawaii.
The resort is huge. Though one can walk it, end-to-end, in less than half an hour, it's easier to travel either by tram or boat (which runs on tracks in the "canals").
Rooms are in one of four buildings; they're large and many have ocean views.
There are two places for a lavish breakfast buffet. There are also three restaurants for lunch and dinner: Chinese, Japanese, and continental.
Many activities are offered (for a price), including whale-watching and cavorting with dolphins. There are also a number of shops, including a parfumerie in the lobby.
Though we rented a car and explored the island from west to east (to Hilo) -- and ate at restairamts on both sides of the island -- one could have a perfect vacation without leaving the grounds of the Hilton Waikoloa Village.
The Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel is an American-huge, Japanese-elegant, and Hawaiian-friendly hotel with a fantastic beach (our favorite in Hawaii) and a beautiful golf course. It is located at the north end of the Kohala resort district on the Kona (sunny) side of the big Island of Hawaii.
It is the sister property of the historic next-beach-north Mauna Kea Hotel. By car it is about an hour north of Kailua-Kona town, and half an hour north of the Kona (KOA) airport (a rental car is almost essential here).
On our recent stay in February, 2009, we split our ten day vacation between the Outrigger Keauhou Hotel near Kailua-Kona (for the world-class and easy snorkeling next door at Kahalu’u Beach) and the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel (for the world-class beach and relaxing atmosphere).
Because of the recent economic downturn, especially in Japan, this hotel has made some rooms available to bidding on priceline.com, where we obtained our room for the amazing price of $105 per night plus tax. This is a fraction of the hotel’s usual rates, and is a special value since the hotel does not impose the annoying resort and parking surcharges that some other hotels in the area do.
The Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel is shaped like a huge X, with the lobby at the center and each arm extending outward about 200 meters (two football fields long). It is built on a slope above the beach, so one enters on the top floor (eighth) and the hotel extends down the hillside to the pool and beach.
All rooms face the ocean to the west, but not all rooms have a full ocean view. The golf course and fitness center are to the east. The parking structure and convention center are in the lower right arm, the deluxe ocean front rooms are in the upper left arm, and the remaining rooms (most with great views) are in the lower left and upper right arms.
The hotel web site has a diagram of the hotel, which is worth reviewing before your stay. We made the mistake of self-parking on arrival (valet parking is not surcharged) and getting lost with our luggage between the parking structure and the lobby.
The front desk was a bit off-putting on our arrival (the clerks whispered about our reservation in front of us, and gave us no choice of bed configuration), but the remainder of the staff was absolutely wonderful.
The standard rooms are quite large (over 600 square feet or 55 square meters). Each has an enormous marble bathroom with double sink and separate tub and shower. The bedroom has a refrigerator and coffee maker alcove, a touch pad room safe, internet access, a small CD player, cable TV, and a sliding glass wall accessing a private patio or balcony.
Instead of drapes, the rooms have wooden shutters, and there is a secure shuttered screen door at the entry for maximum cross ventilation if one prefers that to air-conditioning. We slept with the windows open, and were delighted by the absolute quiet.
The large infinity pool is beautiful and kid-friendly (only about 4 feet at the deepest), but the adjacent Hapuna Beach is what makes this our favorite hotel in Hawaii. All beaches are public access in Hawaii, but the northern end of Hapuna (below the hotel) seems almost private.
The beach is long enough for great sunrise and sunset walks. The rocky headlands at each end of the beach are supposed to be good snorkeling, but in the winter the ocean surge is often too rough and the visibility too low.
The hotel’s beach staff is very friendly and very safety conscious. When you pick up your beach towel at poolside, they will give you the latest surf conditions. Listen to them -- a rough shore break can be dangerous.
The surf is usually great for boogie boarding. The hotel charges $7 per hour for board rental, so buy or bring your own.
What amazes me is that most other Kohala resorts do not have a nice beach, and some do not even have a beach at all. The Waikoloa Hilton, for example, is great for families with kids due to its water parks and (expensive) dolphin encounters, but it has no natural beach, which is the sine qua non for us.
In addition to the golf course and fitness center, those who like exercise can walk the beautiful beach trail past mega-mansions to the neighboring Mauna Kea Hotel, where there is another great beach and a wonderful lobby art collection. A twice hourly free shuttle between the hotels will take you back to the Hapuna Prince.
The Hapuna’s restaurants and grills are expensive by our standards but average for the Kohala resort area (the breakfast buffet is $30 pp, and an evening meal can easily cost more than $60 pp, although the restaurant features a small dinner entrée and salad combination for $30 pp).
The poolside lunch grill has hot dogs for $10 and hamburgers for $15. As a concession to budget conscious guests, there is a deli in the lobby area which offers hot sandwiches and snacks for less than $10.
The Mauna Lani and Waikoloa resort areas 4-8 miles south of the Hapuna both have small shopping centers with grocery stores (and a fast food court in the Waikoloa Queen’s shops).
In the evening the lobby lounge has very pleasant vocalists who specialize in Hawaiian songs. Because the lobby is huge (half a football field in size) and completely open to the ocean, a drink and music during sunset make a wonderful way to relax at the end of each day.
The Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel is one of our favorite hotels in all the world, and our favorite in Hawaii.
Two pieces of advice before I close:
First, what really helps us enjoy all our Hawaii vacations is Andrew Doughty’s fantastic guide (with maps) Hawaii the Big Island Revealed. It is the best travel guide we have ever encountered anywhere -- just like having a best friend who lives on the island. He has a book for each of the other main islands also.
Second, the Hapuna’s self-parking is adjacent to its valet parking in an underground structure with three car stalls between concrete pillars. For some reason, drivers seem to have a problem with this. If one of them hits your car (and does not leave a note), the damage can cost more than your entire vacation. Enough said.
Beautifully decorated studio, granite counters, slate floors, two person shower, jacuzzi tub in bathrooom, bar b q, laundry facilities, friendly owners, incredible view of coast near Place of Refuge
Almost forgot the lanai- fully screened too! You can leave the huge sliding glass doors open to the view and not worry about bugs!! Lanai has large dining table and leather sette
for your comfort.Their website is www.houseofrefuge.com One of the best places I've
stayed on the Big Island at a reasonable price........and no I'm not related!!
We were thrilled with the Turtle Beach Cottage. It is a traditional 2 bedroom Hawaiian home located right on a secluded bay. The house was recently remodeled, spacious and immaculate. Full kitchen and a lanai with sweeping views of the ocean.
I have never seen such views - you walk out your frontroom door and the ocean is right there - spectacular sunsets and watching the surfers out in the distance. Very private location but we did have to share our beach with a family of 6 sea turtles.
We stayed at some family friends' place in Kona Estates Palisades in their beautiful house.
The hospitality of the people we were staying with.
Hilton Waikaloa Village Resort
can't recall, sorry
Quiet, immaculate grounds with beautiful views of the windy coastline. Private lagoon has the best snorkeling ever. Dolphin Quest onsite is expensive, but worth it. Just watching them is free.
Picture of the Pool at Hapuna Prince.
This Hotel has guest priveleges at the Mauna Kea Beach hotel. Stay here and you get access to Mauna Kea's fantastic beach shown above and all that the two hotels offer together. Classy and low key, these two hotels are fantastic. I have stayed here as a 25 year old and as a 32 year old...whatever age you are, you will have an amazing vacation!!!
most resorts are an hour away from town...king kamehameha and keahou beach hotel is the best in town...we have a hostal and it is by hamburger hills that is becouse it is near macdonals, no camping allow in the beach.
The night we arrived in Kona from the mainland, we stayed in the condo complex Kona Bali Kai. It was pretty nice.
REasonably priced at about $117/night.
It did have a washer and drier as well as dishwasher (which was out of order in our condo). It wasn't nearly as nice as Kona Coast REsort, but nicer than just having a small hotel room.
Patey's Place Hostel
Dorm room is $20 per night - they have private rooms too.
Meeting people (best aspect)
Full kitchen facilities available
Picnic table gathering place in center courtyard
Internet access stations
Ping-pong played regularly
It is possible to get a room with a bath down the hall for $25 single $28 double (cheaper weekly and monthly rates).
Otherwise rooms range from $42-61 single or $45-64 double.
Oldest hotel in the area. Captain Cook is at 1000 ft altitude so it is cooler here. I stayed here for 3 months in 1985 without a car and hiked down to the Captain Cook monument in Kealakekua Bay daily.
In Anaehoomalu Bay, there are two big hotels: the Hilton (very big and too artificial for my taste) and the Outrigger Waikoloan, formerly known as the Royal Waikoloan. This hotel also owns the beautiful beach and has a lovely garden.
If you travel with children, you´ll like the Hilton better, they have got water slides, dolphins (poor things) and boat rides. But no real beach.
$$$ to $$$$
The Bay Club
Upscale fully equipped condominium complex with pools, jacuzzis, lava hot tub, tennis, golf and free shuttle service.
*Photo of the saltwater lagoon and Hang Ten cafe*
62 acre resort nicknamed 'Disneyland' with golf course, saltwater lagoon, flamingos, dolphin lagoon, restaurants, bars, monorail, gondola boat rides, art collection along a mile-long walkway and more!
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