The Kohala Coast of Hawaii’s big island offers amazing sunset views you won’t want to miss. While the drive from KOA airport to Kohala Coast reveals an assortment of lava fields and mesmerizing rock formations, you’ll find pristine sandy beaches along Kauna’oa Bay, home to the five-star resort Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.
My stay at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel marked my first visit to the Big Island. I knew to expect a more serene experience than highly populated Oahu, or even the tourist hub of Maui. On first impression, flying in with my Hawaiian Airlines connector flight, I was swept up with the breathtaking landscape of Hawaii, an island known for its diverse geography and weather patterns. From the air, I was in awe of how the lava fields weaved down into the ocean, with black rock meeting bright blue waters. Once I arrived at Kohala Coast, however, I was delighted with the lush greenery, towering palm trees, and light sandy beaches surrounding Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is a 60-acre property overlooking Kauna’oa Bay, offering guests a quiet retreat just far enough away from the touristy waterfront of Kona, but within easy reach of the island’s many towns and attractions. As Hawaii’s first resort property, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel has been catering to guests since 1965 and you’ll find a wonderfully historic vibe to the traditional decor, yet notice modern amenities blending seamlessly to provide a luxurious travel experience. I immediately fell in love with my oceanfront suite for its island-inspired touches and deluxe furnishings. The spacious lanai offered comfortable seating perfect for morning coffee overlooking the beautiful bay. The suite itself was roomy with comfortable, contemporary furnishings and a bright and airy feel. The master bath felt extra spacious and provided luxurious L’Occitane toiletries and plush towels. I felt perfectly at home in my suite, and appreciated how I was just a few steps away from all the resort amenities.
The breakfast buffet at Manta was delightful. As my first stop each morning during my stay, I enjoyed the open air restaurant with a panoramic ocean view. This was a perfect way to start the day and fill up on regional tastes featuring local ingredients. I was quite impressed with the variety of hot and cold entrees, the bounty of fresh fruits and juices, and a made-to-order omelet and waffle station with a friendly attendant eager to make the perfect breakfast for guests.
Manta is also highly recommended for a sunset dinner. The restaurant offers a fine dining menu featuring local ingredients that will appeal to seafood and land lovers alike. For a starter, I tried the seared dry rub scallops with a roasted corn relish. For my main entrée, I was delighted with the tender macadamia nut encrusted Mahi Mahi, accompanied by a light potato puree and sautéed baby bok choy. The culinary team at Manta is led by Chef De Cuisine Rio Miceli and the set dinner menu is accentuated by daily specials.
Other on-site dining options include Number 3 Restaurant, Hau Tree, Copper Bar, and an in-room dining menu. During my stay, I never ran out of options throughout the day for trying something new and I appreciated the variety of menus for sampling local farmers and fisherman.
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel has an impressive art collection on display throughout the property. It was quite the pleasure to wander the sprawling property and enjoy the variety of art, tasteful decor, and island influences. Several seating areas are sprinkled throughout the resort, offering plenty of gathering spaces for friends to settle in for conversation and cocktails. Of course, one of the main attractions of the property is its beautiful location on the bay with a warm sandy beach within steps from the main building. Mauna Kea Beach Hotel provides beach towels, chaise lounges, cabana rentals, and an assortment of water activity rentals so guests can paddle board, surf, or kayak the calm waters of Kauna’oa Bay. An equally pleasing spot to soak up the sun is the large beachfront pool. Complete with bar service and lush towels, the pool deck is a great spot to float under palm trees and sunshine, or book a private cabana to offer shade for the whole family.
An on-site luau provides a lovely combination of island dining and entertainment. For a little adventure, I also recommend scheduling an evening snorkel with Manta rays. There is a calm inlet in front of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel where Manta rays gather for feeding in the evening and a guided snorkel session acquaints guests with these gentle creatures. This is one of those remarkable experiences you have to experience in person to truly appreciate.
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is also home to an award-winning golf course. Stay and Play packages are available, though tee times can also be arranged separate from your stay. Coming up this December 6-11, the 44th Annual Mauna Kea Pro-Am will take place, continuing the tradition since 1973. Additional resort activities include a tennis court, beach club, yoga sessions, bocce ball courts, and indulgent treatments at The Mauna Kea Spa by Mandara. Overall, I found the broad range of amenities and activities of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel to be of high caliber and with such attentive service, I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the possibilities.
While Mauna Kea Beach Hotel provides a quiet retreat, you’ll want to spend a little time exploring other areas of the Big Island. During my vacation, I ventured into Hilo for a day of exploring the east side of the island. Just outside of town, I toured the Mauna Loa macadamia nut visitors center and, in town, Big Island Candies. As a coffee lover, I also enjoyed a leisurely drive through Kona coffee country, visiting Mountain Thunder’s plantation tour, sampling Kona coffee, and taking a moment to visit with resident cat Hubert. There are hundreds of coffee farms on the Big Island, so if you’re a java lover you’ll want to save room in your suitcase for a beautiful variety of beans to take home and enjoy.
My time on the Kohala Coast was relaxing and rejuvenating, with luxurious resort accommodations at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Additional island attractions were a short drive away from this quiet retreat along Kauna’oa Bay, so I found this location to be an ideal destination for a deluxe resort to feel at home, while being within reach of everything else I could possibly hope to experience. I’m already counting down to a repeat visit to Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and highly recommend this beachfront resort for a picturesque, tranquil Hawaiian vacation.
Lori A. May is a Seattle-based travel writer.
Photo credits: CT Shier.
A portion of this itinerary was coordinated by Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.