Hotels, Restaurants & Activities
Guide to The Big Island's Kohala Coast

The Kohala Coast on The Big Island, nicknamed, "The Gold Coast," is punctuated by a string of master-planned resorts – each a meticulously placed emerald in an onyx sea of lava. All are jaw-droppingly beautiful, with magnificent beaches, beautiful surroundings, and impressive amenities. Here’s a quick guide to the Kohala Coast’s hotels, activities and culture.

The Fairmont Orchid

We never say "No" to any opportunity to visit The Fairmont Orchid, a AAA Four-Diamond Luxury destination nestled on 32 oceanfront acres. The best part? Its lagoon – a peaceful, safe area with calm waters that are custommade for snorkeling and swimming.

The Fairmont Orchid also features the Spa Without Walls (how about a massage in a heavenly outdoor hale?), cultural activities, golf, tennis, water sports, and a year-round children’s program. We also recommend staying on a Fairmont Gold Floor, offering an inimitable lounge with complimentary daily food presentations.

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

Like a beautiful hula dancer, The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai will open its arms to you and welcome you with genuine, first-class aloha spirit. At the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, one of the staffers said to us, "There is no 'No.'" As Ciro Tacinelli, the Director of Marketing told us, "Everyone here is a VIP."

That means that whatever your request, big or small, it is done with a smile; whether it’s opening the gym for you after hours, providing you with complimentary laundry facilities and detergent, or wowing you with a romantic, private dinner-for-two on the beach. Last year the resort unveiled a 15-month, $40 million enhancement, showcasing 20 new suites, a sweeping spa transformation, renovated beachfront bar, lounge and restaurant, and stylish new retail boutiques.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Want to know what makes the Mauna Kea Beach Resort tick? We found the answer in the water one day, as we set foot on its incomparable beach – probably the best beach on the Big Island of Hawaii. There, we met a woman from Santa Barbara, and struck up a conversation. "We’ve been coming here for 35 years," she told us. "We’ve tried other resorts on the Kohala Coast, but nothing compares to the Mauna Kea. Now our children and their children come here. We love it. It has everything we want."

She added, "When we first started coming here, my husband had to have a jacket, and I brought St. John knits. But today it’s all so relaxed." We also met other couples who were returning guests (all on the beach, by the way) and they kept telling us, over and over again, that they had tried other resorts on other islands, but that the Mauna Kea was for them, as good as it gets. The beautiful beach is a world-class crescent of natural white sand with a gentle surf.

Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel

The Hapuna Beach Prince is part of the Mauna Kea Resort, which also includes Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, with a shuttle bus that constantly travels between the two. It definitely offers the best of both worlds. The Hapuna Beach Prince is where you come to get wet. Start with a dip in the heated pool, then swim in the ocean. This is definitely how you will want to spend your time at the Hapuna (unless you’re playing golf).

If you have $7,000 to spare for one night, book yourself into one of Hawaii's best-kept secrets: the Hapuna Suite, an ultra-exclusive 8,000-square-foot villa discreetly set on the manicured grounds of Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel at Mauna Kea Resort, overlooking one of the world's best beaches. Want a complete Travel Quote including airfare, special hotel rates and FREE upgrades? Contact our Travel Specialist today!

Inside the suite, you'll find four expansive bedrooms, each with its own private bath and lanai, artfully linked by a gourmet kitchen equipped with Thermador and Sub-Zero appliances, $250 in pantry provisions and a fully stocked bar. Included in the experience is professional butler service and round-the-clock personalized attendants, deluxe continental breakfast, and hors d'oeuvres each evening. Enjoy the private swimming pool and whirlpool, separate media/den/game room, outdoor barbecue and shower, fitness equipment and decor to suit the most discriminating guest.

Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows

How about a sunny little bungalow? The Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows is just the place for you. The 2,700-square-foot bungalows feature two master bedrooms, 100% cotton Italian linens, fresh tropical flowers throughout the space, 50-inch flat-screen TVs, large hydrotherapy tub, full kitchen, and your very own heated swimming pool. Insiders know that the bungalows at Mauna Lani on the Kohala coast are one of Hollywood’s favorite Hawaiian hideaways.

Guests of the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows can also take advantage of the resort’s world-class facilities that include two championship golf courses, the award-winning Mauna Lani spa, and the famous CanoeHouse restaurant serving fresh island ingredients.

Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa

The 15-acre beachfront Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa features 555 spacious guest rooms, suites and cabana rooms. There’s also a world-renowned Mandara Spa, and a fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment from cardio to free weights. Nearby is the Waikoloa Golf Club offering 36 holes of championship golf. And here’s something else that’s drop-dead fabulous. Enjoy a foodie weekend with the Chef Shuttle Package where the resort’s chef will escort you to the local farmers markets in Waimea.

Together with Sous Chef Jayson Kanekoa, guests will talk story with local farmers and vendors, and purchase fresh produce to be taken back to the resort to be prepared in a special dinner. Starting at $335 per room night, the Chef Shuttle Package includes three-night stay in a garden or mountain view rooms, Sunday dinner for two at Hawaii Calls Restaurant & Lounge and two tickets to the resort’s Sunset Luau.

Hilton Waikoloa Village

Waikoloa on the Kohala Coast is also the perfect sunny destination with an average 360 days of sun and only nine inches of rain a year. Hilton Waikoloa Village offers a variety of activities and amenities, such as three magnificent pools with romantic alcoves set underneath spectacular waterfalls, a $7 million mile-long Museum Walkway and an abundance of shopping and dining.

The four-acre, ocean fed saltwater lagoon, set on a private, white-sand beach, is teeming with tropical fish and rare green sea turtles, making it the perfect place for snorkeling, swimming, and kayaking. At Dolphin Quest, you can take a journey into this captivating underwater world through astonishing personal encounters that allow guests to touch, feed, play, learn and swim with these beautiful, intelligent animals.

Oceans of Activities on the Kohala Coast

The Kohala Coast is a hole in one, when it comes to activities. When you’re lucky enough to find yourself in this exotic, extraordinary destination, you can rest assured that you’ll never be bored. With world-class tennis and golf, superb snorkeling, scuba diving and sailing, helicopter tours, whale watching, spa-going, and luaus galore, there’s a little thrill around every corner.

First and foremost, what you’ll love on the Kohala Coast are the beautiful beaches with calm, clear waters. On the Big Island’s spectacular Kohala Coast, Hapuna’s white sands have earned it a reputation as one of Hawaii’s finest beaches, being consistently rated on numerous international Top Ten lists, including that of "Dr. Beach." The largest of The Big Island’s white sand beaches, Hapuna offers consistently good conditions for swimming, body-boarding, sunbathing, strolling and snorkeling.

If you’re seeking romance, the hotels on the Kohala Coast can accommodate you superbly. Their concierges can take any request and make it happen. For example, you might wish to surprise your sweetheart with a romantic turndown – a trail of fresh orchids in your room, which leads to a heart shape on your king-sized bed. Add soft music floating through the air, and a hot bath complete with candles, massage oil, champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries – well, every hotel can make this fantasy request a reality.

This is not just another fish tale. We had a terrific Dolphin Encounter at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, where they offer an array of dolphin experiences, ranging from a half-hour visit to a kids quest.

Take in those greens! The Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel offers a world-class, 6,875-yard links-style, 18-hole challenge at Arnold Palmer/Ed Seay Course (plus the Robert Trent Jones Sr. course at the Mauna Kea). This championship course is nestled into the dramatic natural contours of Mauna Kea Resort, offering amazing views of the Kohala skyline and mountain range.

And you don’t have to travel to Hollywood to "see the stars." You’ll view galaxies, star clusters, nebulae, and planets thanks to Star Gaze Hawaii, which offers guided tours of the sky at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel.

Kohala Coast/Big Island Culture

Danny Akaka is a walking encyclopedia of Hawaiiana and is perhaps Hawaii’s National Treasure. We say this after taking a comprehensive, complimentary one-hour walking tour with Mr. Akaka. Mr. Akaka has been the resident Hawaiian historian at the Mauna Lani resort for more than 26 year. Because of Mr. Akaka, travelers to the island can connect to Hawaii’s ancient traditions and way of life. For example, have you ever wondered where the actual word "Hawaii" came from? Mr. Akaka explained to us that "Ha" means to breathe, while "wai" means water, and "i" is the supreme creature or God. For the ancient Polynesians, these were the three elements necessary for man’s existence. Put it together and it names this beautiful 50th state. We think that’s fascinating!

While touring with Mr. Akaka, you’ll learn all about the flora and fauna, the fish ponds, petroglyphs, and of course, the story of Francis H. I’i Brown, who purchased the Mauna Lani property back in 1932. You can learn more at the Mauna Lani’s new Hawaiian Cultural Center, a mini-museum filled with artifacts. This is a hub of activity for hotel guests, where they can learn lei-making, coconut frond-weaving, how to play the ukulele, and even hula. Spend time here and it will resonate so much that you’ll return year after year.

William & Debbi Kickham

Debbi K. Kickham is a professional travel journalist and veteran member of the Society of American Travel Writers, www.satw.org. She is also former Editor of Robb Report Magazine ' 'The Millionaire's Magazine,' www.robbreport.com Debbi is also former Contributing Editor to Bridal Guide Magazine, for the Travel Section. She is currently at work on her third book, a diet/beaut...(Read More)

Around the web