Updated: May 21, 2015

REVIEW: Mauna Kea Beach Hotel - Big Island Hawaii

Laurance Rockefeller founded the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in 1965. Why did he pick this place? Mauna Kea Beach and the neighboring Hapuna Beach are the very best beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii. Located on the northwest side of the island on what is known as the Kohala Coast, this area has the fanciest resorts, the most sun, and the least rain. It's where you go when you want the best Hawaii has to offer. You can see the location of the Mauna Kea Hotel on our map of Hawaii resorts. Our most recent visit to the Mauna Kea was in 2009. This review will give you an idea of what to expect during your vacation -- with videos and pictures of the hotel and beach, and all you'll need to know about planning your stay at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.
mauna kea beach hotel review




mauna kea beach hotel lobby

Mauna Kea Beach Resort - Getting There

The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is about a 30 minute drive north of the Kona Airport along Hwy 19. This is a not-so-scenic drive through lots of lava fields and dry, desert land -- you'll feel like you are in Arizona. Keep your eye out for the Mauna Kea after passing the turn for the Hapuna Prince on your right -- the Mauna Kea turn will come up shortly on your left. Follow the road down through the golf course and towards the ocean as you make your way towards the hotel. There is covered parking along with valet parking. You can see a picture of the lobby to the right. It's a multi-story open air lobby like many resorts offer -- you can see one of the many Asian art pieces highlighted here as well. The front desk is always attentive and helpful -- don't hesitate to ask if you need assistance with anything, from planning activities to getting restaurant suggestions. One thing to keep in mind -- this part of the island is fairly remote and not really close to any towns, so you'll likely have to visit other resorts within a 10-15 minute drive if you want to try some other places to eat.

Here's a Mauna Kea Hotel video from the top of Tower 1 (also called North Tower), looking out over the pool and beach area.



Mauna Kea Beach Resort - Big Island Hawaii Rooms

The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel offers almost 260 rooms and suites. The rooms were recently updated when the hotel was renovated, meaning all rooms have flat screen TVs, iPod dock, etc. And rooms and bathrooms became larger, as basically 3 prior guest rooms became two (ie, rooms are 50% larger than they used to be). Mini refrigerators let you store drinks and snacks. The usual robe, slippers, ironing board, hair dryer, safe, etc. Unfortunately, Internet access is $15 per day -- this should be free! Some resorts manage to have all their rooms facing the ocean -- the Mauna Kea however has rooms that overlook the golf course and mountains, which means you miss out on that classic Hawaiian lanai view (but they are cheaper). In general, the higher floor rooms have better views. Standard rates for Mountain View rooms are $450/night, $710 for Ocean View (check around for deals -- during 2009 recession you could get every 3rd night free and other discounts). Overall, we were impressed with the renovations -- rooms are spacious and light, bathrooms are first class, beds comfortable, all conveniences. This is a luxury resort, and room prices reflect that.

Mauna Kea Beach Resort Amenities

When you walk into the Mauna Kea Hotel, one of the first things you notice is the Asian design and artwork -- there are more than 1500 pieces of art spread around the grounds, much of it collected by Rockefeller himself. Apart from the natural scenery, the Mauna Kea Resort offers many additional amenities:
  • Access to the first-class Mauna Kea Beach, also a shuttle every 20 minutes that will take you over to the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel (their sister property, 5 minutes to the south -- see separate detailed review of Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel). Boogie board, snorkel, swim, paddle board.
  • The hotel also offers an 18 hole golf course (designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr.). Cost is $225, $145 twilight (after 1:30), $25 extra for non-hotel guests (maunakeagolf.com for tee times).
  • There are also 11 seaside tennis courts if tennis is your thing ($25 per person per day, ball machine $35 per hour, racket rentals $5 per day).
  • Mauna Kea Spa offers all the usuals: facials ($135+), massage ($145+), etc.
  • Fitness Center with 43 Life Fitness machines, plus fitness classes
  • Manta Ray Point - stop by at night and see the large mantas feed as they are attracted to the lights
  • Weekly Luau on Tuesday nights 6-9PM ($86 per adult) (we prefer the Kona Village Luau, more authentic, but wish they offered unlimited drinks like many luaus do)
  • Saturday night (6-9PM) beachside clam bake - lobster, shrimp, crab, prime rib, etc. ($86) (never done this in person, heard a variety of comments from fellow travelers that they thought it was not worth it)


Restaurants:
  • Hau Tree Beachside offers lunch right on the beach - one of our favorite beachside settings on the Big Island. Even if you are not a guest here, it's a great place to stop and have lunch and walk the beach. Try the Ovaltine froth.
  • Pavilion at Manta Ray Point - breakfast buffet served here, along with nightly dinner
  • Copper Terrace - with nice views over the bay, great place for evening drink or just enjoy the sunset view. Nightly music.


Public Parking: There is limited public beach access parking right near the golf shop as you come in past the front of the hotel. The parking lot was monitored when we were there -- a woman quickly drove up in a golf cart, asked if we were accessing the beach, and since we weren't, gave us a parking pass instead to use one of the golf parking spaces.

Mauna Kea Hotel Beach and Pool Photos

mauna kea beach As we mentioned, the beach here is one of the best in all of Hawaii -- long, deep, lots of white sand. With no easy public access, it really is like a private beach for the hotel. You can rent a variety of equipment for snorkeling, boogie boarding, etc. The pool area leaves a little more to be desired. It is fairly small without a whole lot of decking around it for lounge chairs. I would say it ranks among the smaller pools we saw on the Big Island. True, it is just steps away from the beach and ocean, but a lot of people like to sit by the pool when they are on vacation, and this one can get crowded...

Below are more pictures of the pool and beach area.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel Review and Summary

It's hard to choose a "bad" resort along the Kohala Coast. The Mauna Kea ranks among the best, and the recent renovations have made it even better. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, restaurants and public areas are accomodating. Being beach people, the beachfront setting here can't be beat. Our only complaint is the smallish pool area -- would love to see a second pool somewhere to handle the crowds. The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel isn't cheap, but it is luxurious and divinely located to enjoy your Hawaiian vacation. Overall, we give it a 9 out of 10 -- if you can afford it, book it without hesitation. In terms of other things nearby, Waikoloa Village is about a 10 minute drive (heading east towards Waimea), which offers a full grocery store. Also, about 8 minutes back towards the airport is another shopping center and grocery store at the Mauna Lani.

Additional photos follow. Enjoy. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Photo of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel Pool, from above. Not real big...

mauna kea resort pool
Another shot of the pool from ground level.

View looking south along Mauna Kea Beach..

Balconies from Tower 2 rooms (south tower) facing the pool and ocean area..

View of the main Mauna Kea Hotel building from the beach...

Looking inside the inner atrium on Tower 1 -- rooms to the left are ocean view, rooms to the right are mountain view...