The Rebirth of Hawaii's Outrigger Kona Resort & Spa

Outrigger Kona Resort & Spa. Photo by Jill Weinlein

Kona Hawai'i is filled with culture, history and dramatic landscapes. It was the birthplace of King Kamehameha III, and playground for Hawaiian royalty.

King Kamehameha established the community back in 1795, and designated Kona as his seat of government while he was chief. Kona was established as the capital of the unified 'Kingdom of Hawai'i' until the capital was moved to Lahaina on Maui, and now in Honolulu on Oahu Island.

The Outrigger Kona Resort & Spa in Kona is a storytelling resort enlightening guests about the area’s natural beauty, history and Hawaiian culture.

Built in 1971, as the Kona Surf Hotel, it later became the former Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay before Outrigger Resorts & Hotels took it over.

Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa

According to Geoff Pearson, General Manager of the oceanfront resort, there are 509 guest rooms and suites. 'Renovations have been taking place in sections and should be completed by June 2024,' said Pearson. 

Guests will appreciate the island-inspired decor, large furnished lanais with views of Keauhou Bay, lava cliffs, verdant mountains, landscaped gardens, swimming pool and Pacific Ocean.

Hawai'i Manta Rays

The Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa is a unique property located about a 7.5 mile drive to the center of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. One of the many reasons this resort was built on a black lava bay overlooking Keauhou Bay, is because it is home to the enormous manta rays. This resort is one of the only places in Hawai'i where guests can watch them feeding up close.

According to the State of Hawai'i Division of Aquatic Resources, 'The oceanic manta ray is the largest ray species in the world. This gentle giant has a wingspan reaching up to 26 ft and can weigh over 5,300 pounds!'

The resort has special lights that shine into the bay near the black lava rocks. These lights attract zooplankton, a favorite food for these magnificent ocean creatures. Guests stand at viewing areas around the hotel to watch the rays soar through the water into the light. They feed by unfurling their cephalic fins on the sides of their mouth. This funnels water and food through their wide open mouth and over their gill rakers.

Guests watch as two or more mantas glide together in feeding strategies to make a feeding chain. Excitement builds when mantas barrel roll gracefully flapping and showing off the tips of their wings.

The resort provides an opportunity for guests to learn about giant manta rays at the Manta Center exhibit near the viewing areas. They can also arrange for guests to join an evening snorkeling tour to learn about the myths, legends and facts about the Hahalua “Manta ray” from a certified and licensed captain and crew.

Cuisine at Feast and Fire Luau. Photo Jill Weinlein

Another way to learn about the history of the island of Hawai'i is by attending the Feast and Fire Luau. Located on the grassy lawn of the Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa, guests dine at sunset and watch a spectacular live show under the stars.

Complimentary tropical drinks, wine and beer are served throughout the show, as guests taste a variety of authentic Hawaiian dishes. Dinner might include slow roasted Kalua pig, Hawaiian purple potatoes, rice, fresh pineapple, papaya and huli-huli chicken. Guests finish with a basket of warm malasadas, a small, deep fried dough confection sprinkled with sugar.

Feast and Fire Luau Performers. Photo Jill Weinlein

It's a live theater production with beautiful costumes, alluring dancing, and an exciting fire show accompanied by live musical performers. 

Black lava coastline. Photo Jill Weinlein

Two active volcanoes, Kilauea and Manunaloa provide all of the black lava surrounding the Big Island Hawai'i and the setting for the resort.

These volcanoes make up the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Less than a two hour drive from the resort, this sacred area was established in 1916. The National Park offers a vast 323.431 acres for visitors to sightsee and explore while learning about the history and dramatic landscape.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Guests who seek to immerse themselves even more into the nature of the island, can volunteer with the non-profit Aina Ho'ola Initiative. It's a hands-on role in restoring the estuarine wetlands and fishponds of the Keaukaha area on the east side of the island. Visitors and local volunteers learn about the area’s unique ecosystems, and help to make a real impact on its continued preservation.

Fieldwork completed on the Initiative’s volunteer days helps to restore, protect and aid in native species flourishing. Volunteer hours are usually from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Guests who volunteer on Saturdays might even receive a light lunch after their shift. 

Outrigger Kona Resort & Spa

There are two swimming pools at the Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa. The ultimate lagoon-style, oceanfront family pool has a fun 200-foot long twisting waterslide.

The interior adult-only quiet pool is located in the center of the resort with breezeways leading to the Holua Poolside Bar & Lounge. There is a heated hot tub to enjoy in the morning until 10 p.m.

Visit Hulihe‘e Palace. Photo Jill Weinlein

To learn more about the Kingdom of Hawai'i, drive into the center of historic Kailua-Kona along Ali'i Drive to the Hulihe'e Palace. Originally built out of lava rock, this was the former residence of Kamehameha the Great. It was first the home to High Chief John Adams Kuakini, brother of Ka‘ahumanu, the favorite wife of Kamehameha, and later home to other members of Hawaiian royalty.

Tours consist of six large graciously appointed rooms, an inviting oceanfront lanai and the home's lovely grounds. Reservations must be made before arrival.

Visitors will learn that in the early 1920s, the grounds of the Palace were overgrown and the estate was in need of repair. The Territorial Legislature purchased Hulihe‘e Palace and set it aside for the Daughters of Hawai'i to use and maintain as a museum. When the Daughters finally took over Hulihe‘e in 1927, there was very little interest in historic preservation in the islands.

When the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company began plans for an oceanfront hotel in Kailua-Kona, they thought the grounds of Hulihe‘e would be the most desirable location. They put pressure on the Daughters to relinquish Hulihe‘e. These ladies held firm to their Hawaiian preservation spirit, and Kailua-Kona still has some open waterfront at Hulihe‘e Palace today.

In 1973, Hulihe‘e Palace was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Artifacts from King Kalakaua and Queen Kapi‘olani, include beautiful koa wood furniture, portraits, kapa, feather work, Hawaiian quilts and other items from Hawai‘i’s royal past.

Now is the time to discover the beauty and wonder of The Big Island of Hawai'i by staying at Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa. Walk in the King of Hawai'i's footsteps along the picturesque land and sea that he discovered and called home.

Jill Weinlein

Los Angeles based Jill Weinlein covers travel, food and lifestyle destinations for multiple newspapers, magazines and websites. Her areas of expertise include, luxury travel, culinary reviews, cruising and family travel destinations. Born in Los Angeles, Jill studied Communications and Theatre Arts at UCLA. She has a a Dine and Travel blog - and she writes a weekly restaur...(Read More)

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