When I think of famous, elegant hotels – the Ritz in Paris, the Plaza in New York and the Pera Palas in Istanbul – come to mind. In the Hawaiian Islands a historic property joins the club of bejeweled, historic hotels, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on Hawai’i Island. Fifty years of Hawaii history at a luxury resort.
The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel was created by venture capitalist and passionate conservationist Laurance S. Rockefeller. As a guest of the governor, he visited the Big Island in 1960 looking for the perfect site to develop the first resort on the raw and stunning Kohala Coast. He stopped looking when he dug his toes into the soft sand of a long, crescent beach in Kauna’oa Bay – a place the Travel Channel would on day describe as “America’s No. 1 Beach” and “Number 5 Beach in the World”.
When Rockefeller began planning the hotel he stated “The design should follow the natural contours of the land, incorporate lava rock and in every possible way make the hotel invisible.” He and his architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill created a clean Mid Century Modern design and carved out an oasis from a hillside of lava rock. The resort incorporates the topography with open-air galleries, hallways, gardens, Koi fish ponds and a blue-tiled lobby that draws your eye to the ocean.
Fifty years ago curators combed the Pacific and Asia for art pieces to decorate the hotel. Imagine the pleasure of walking to the lobby and passing two thousand year-old Buddha statues or hand-stitched Hawaiian quilts. The stellar collection has more than 1,600 pieces, so there’s a surprise around every corner.
Esquire Magazine listed The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel as one of the three greatest hotels in the world in 1967 shortly after it opened in 1965.
This year marks its 50th anniversary and it remains a landmark of luxury in Hawaii.
Let’s dine al fresco. With the stars above and the illuminated surf below, the Manta Restaurant earns kudos for creative combination of international cuisine and fresh, local fish. My husband Gary tasted four superb wines with dinner thanks to the high tech, latest development for wine aficionados. The three “Enomatic” machines store 48 superb wines, selected from high-end and the latest stars from various vintners.
Another evening we took the shuttle to the Coast Grille, at the hotel’s sister property, the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, to feast on locally sourced Kona Abalone, farm-raised jumbo shrimp, Ono, Mahi Mahi, and seared Ahi with truffle sauce. Chef Vincent Logan, who boasts an impressive pedigree, regaled us with fabulous fish, eight hours out of the water, and tender greens recently picked in the property’s organic garden.
The beach, architecture and art at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel remain timeless a half century after it opened and its classy clientele, from couples to multi-generational families, return every year. www.MaunaKeaBeachHotel.com