Landing at Kona International Airport on The Big Island is different as you descend over the lava fields. The largest island of the Hawaiian Islands, also named Hawaii, is the most diverse in my opinion. Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or go cowboy at Parker Ranch, a working cattle estate. Championship golf and all types of sports and soft adventure are popular. Recreate your own version of the famous Ironman World Championship. There are some spectacular suites and terrific resorts to base yourself on, which are the focus of this week’s issue.
1. Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
Awards: Forbes 5-stars; Travel + Leisure World’s Best; Conde Nast Traveler Gold List, US News #1 on the Big Island
Of the top pick for the Big Island, U.S. News reports, “Just northeast of Kekaha Kai State Park, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is one of the most luxurious resorts on the Big Island. Recent visitors suggested indulging in the Hualalai Spa, which features spa treatments with island twists, like a Polynesian Niu (Coconut) Scrub or a Sun Relief Ti Leaf Wrap. Meanwhile, the resort’s seven unique swimming spots – from a saltwater pond with a few friendly manta rays to an oceanfront infinity pool – earn high marks across the board.
Should you be interested in learning more about Hawaiian life, the Ka’upulehu Cultural Center offers interactive programs that give insight into the island’s history, traditions, and even music. After a long day of learning (or relaxing), enjoy a fresh seafood meal at one of multiple restaurants or lounges before retiring to your room. Accommodations at this Four Seasons resort feature nature-inspired hues and Hawaiian art, as well as balconies, granite bathrooms, and plasma TVs. Although recent guests won’t deny that room rates and dining costs here are high, they say that the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai’s facilities and customer service are worth the price.”
Forbes Travel Guide rates it 5 stars and notes, “The resort is centered around the beautiful Beach Tree Pool, both in style and in service. Pool attendants come by regularly with an endless stream of amenities: Evian spritzes, ice cream, sunglass cleaning service, and more. ‘ULU Ocean Grill and Sushi Lounge is one of the most romantic places to dine in Hawaii and the impeccable hospitality makes it even lovelier (the staff happily snaps photos in between serving courses). The Hualalai Sports Club is easily one of the nicest and best-outfitted facilities we’ve found, offering 15,000 square feet of health and fitness facilities, including a yoga studio, a tennis pavilion, a four-lane fitness pool, a rock-climbing wall, a sand volleyball court, and a 1,300-square-foot state-of-the-art fitness center.”
Hawaii Loa Presidential Villa
The top suite here is a villa. The 5,253 sq.ft. two-story villa is set directly on the oceanfront. Enjoy expansive indoor and outdoor living and dining spaces, complete with a spacious lanai featuring a private spa and sweeping views of the Pacific. It’s a perfect location to watch the seasonal migration of Humpback whales.
The downstairs master has a king bed, the upper-level master has a king bed, the third bedroom has two queen beds, the fourth bedroom has a king bed, plus a pull-out sofa bed. Each bedroom has a private full granite bathroom, plus there is a guest powder room with a shower. The Master bedroom features an expansive outdoor lava rock shower.
More suites and villas at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai.
2. Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts
Awards: Condé Nast Hot List 2020, Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best
Forbes Travel Guide inspectors report, “Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection is a resort for those who crave an out-of-the-ordinary tropical getaway. After being closed for a 15-month renovation, the property reopened in January 2020 with an outstanding redesign overseen by Auberge chief creative officer Kemper Hyers and design boutique Meyer Davis, which incorporated traditional Hawaiian cultural elements into the modern design, complementing the original 1983 structure. The $200 million makeover presents new rooms, three pools, a spa and fitness center, a kids club, and a cultural center all along a stunning oceanfront setting.”
A Conde Nast Traveler writer adds, “We stayed in a suite on the top floor—meaning gorgeous views and tons of space. The room itself is done up in clean, modern neutrals: Think crisp white linens, jute decorations above the bed, and just a few pops of green and blue. The subtlety feels appropriate given that the view from every balcony takes center stage. A friend stayed on the side facing the fish ponds, which makes for an incredible, unobstructed sunset each night. However, keep in mind that the pools and private event suite (with a huge outdoor patio just a couple of floors down) are all on that side, and the noise travels a bit. I’d bet the side facing the Canoe House restaurant, or the waterfront would be preferable for anyone getting to bed by 9 or 10 when the pools, bar, and event space shut down.”
Francis H. I’i Brown Suite
Named after Francis H. I’i Brown, a famed golfer and Senator, the one-bedroom 4,625 sq.ft. suite is located on the south side of the resort with unmatched views of the Pacific and the resort’s Great Lawn, expansive pool, and fish ponds. There’s a spacious living room for private dinners and entertaining, along with a state-of-the-art gourmet show kitchen, and expansive furnished lanai.
The 4,000 sq.ft. two-bedroom Oceanfront Residences are just steps from the beach. Complete with a full kitchen and private pool, and with all of the amenities of Mauna Lani Resort there are two master suites, a spacious lanai, and are accessed by a separate entrance.
Private dining options are available with a dedicated chef and service staff. The ultimate in privacy and personalized service, a dedicated Guest Experience Team will help you with any requests, from stocking your kitchen before arrival to arranging private on the beach.
More suites at Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts.
3. Fairmont Orchid
Awards: AAA/CAA Four Diamond Awards 2020, Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards 2020, Condé Nast Readers’ Choice List 2020
US News says, “The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii is all about immersing guests in a serene atmosphere. It’s located on 32 acres of carefully crafted grounds and pristine beaches along the Kohala Coast. Families, in particular, will find reasons to love this Fairmont property with the plethora of outdoor programming for kids and on-site babysitting services. No matter why you’re visiting or who you’re visiting with, recent guests say that you’ll find many of the makings of a five-star hotel here. The Fairmont Orchid’s 540 guest rooms and suites all feature private lanais as well as marble bathrooms, flat-screen TVs, and Wi-Fi access. But don’t plan on spending the whole trip inside: The Fairmont boasts opportunities to golf, play tennis and simply kick back by the pool. You’ll also find the relaxing Spa Without Walls and several restaurants, bars, and lounges to choose from.”
Conde Nast Traveler adds, “This stucco resort on the Big Island’s Kohala Coast is fronted by a white sand beach. The lobby overlooks the ocean, and in the evenings, you’re greeted by a ‘ukulele player or local musician. Rooms feature lanais, rattan furniture, and carpeting with bamboo motifs. Brown’s Beach House focuses on fish dishes such as crab-crusted mahimahi and an excellent kids’ menu. Alternatively, belly up to the 14-seat sushi bar at Binchotan Bar & Grill, where they serve you dinner in style: Standout dishes include sea urchin eggs, Hawaiian abalone, and octopus. Try out dishes like sea urchin eggs, Hawaiian abalone, and octopus. Save Friday nights for Fairmont’s Hawaii Loa Luau under the stars.”
Presidential Suites – North and South Tower
Both 3,766 sq.ft. Presidential Suites can be extended to two bedrooms. Located at the end of the sixth floor of the South and North Tower, the sister suites overlook the white sand beach, swimming lagoon, and the Pacific Ocean. Each features a king-bedded master bedroom, a living room with sofa bed, powder room, dining room, butler’s pantry, two private lanais. The master bedroom also features a dressing area and vanity, plus a full bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub.
More suites at Fairmont Orchid.
4. Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Awards: Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards 2020, Condé Nast Readers’ Choice List 2020
The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Autograph Collection, says U.S. News “is one of the Big Island’s more historical properties: In the 1960s, the site was hand-picked by founder Laurance S. Rockefeller specifically for its beautiful crescent-shaped shoreline. Although most of the original architecture was battered in 2006 by an earthquake, the modern and sweeping redesign lends a sense of fresh and airy luxury to the hotel. Each of the 252 spacious rooms and suites comes appointed with minifridges, flat-screen TVs, and your very own lanai off of the bedroom. Although this hotel may not be as flashy as some of the Big Island’s other luxury resorts, it does boast a Robert Trent Jones, Sr. golf course, the full-service Mauna Kea Spa by Mandara, and seaside tennis courts. The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel also boasts several restaurants, all of which serve up different island-inspired cuisine but note that some require advanced reservations. Recent guests offered glowing praise for the adjacent beach, one of the island’s best, though the service throughout the hotel received mixed reviews.”
Conde Nast Traveler adds, “Though its glam environs were eventually usurped by Hawaii’s many newer luxury resorts, an extensive renovation in 2008 gave the Mauna Kea an update without sacrificing its throwback charm. Guests are lei’ed on arrival, and refurbished rooms feature private lanais, large baths and flatscreen TVs. Pull up a chaise longue on Kauna’oa Beach, play a few rounds of golf, or grab a bite at one of the hotel’s three restaurants, plus a weekly clambake and twice-weekly luau.”
Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa Presidential Suites
The 1,610 sq.ft. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa Presidential Suites are located on opposite ends of the top – 8th floor. Each features a separate living area, dining room, and bedroom and four private, walk-out lanai with panoramic ocean and coastline views.
More suites at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.