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Trip Report: Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Trip Report: Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Old Jul 5, 19, 6:29 am
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Trip Report: Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Map| 4 Reviews | 75% Recommended

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr Kamuela, HI US 96743

Trip Report: Mauna Kea Beach Hotel (15 Photos)

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Intro

After the Four Seasons Hualalai, we continued our Hawaiian adventure at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. We thought it would be a great addition because of it’s beautiful beach (something the Four Seasons didn’t have) and it’s easy snorkeling for our 7 year old son. This hotel is a 1960s architectural gem…i.e. it’s well maintained but very dated. Particularly the lobby and the motel-like corridors. But the hotel has so much else to offer and some parts of it, like the Manta restaurant, are really beautiful.

We made our Virtuoso reservation through DavidO.

Beautiful Beach

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1960s Design

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Flower

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Ocean Front Deluxe Room

A suite at at this property would have been well over $2000 a night, so we opted for an Ocean Front Deluxe Room. At 880 square feet and with multiple enclosed spaces (foyer, walk in closet, bedroom, large dressing area, and bathroom) this room perfectly met our needs. It was located in the tower of the hotel with lofty views to the beach below not only from the bedroom but from the shower and deep soaking tub as well. We were able to fit the rollaway bed fully into the walk in closet. And the room boasted two verandas.

Ocean Front Deluxe Bedroom

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Ocean Front Deluxe Details

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Ocean Front Deluxe Balcony View

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Service

The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel delivered lots of welcome treats to our room, including beach toys for our little boy. And the staff members were very kind and helpful.

But there were a few things that made the property seem more 4 Star than 5. Service wasn’t as proactive as it could have been. For instance one of the towel attendants intended to just hand us towels, but when we asked her to help us find and set up chairs, she happily complied. Another example was when the hotel had run out of flower leis as we checked in. Rather than offering to have one delivered to our room later, the front desk staff advised us to keep checking back. The room also had thin scratchy towels (a personal pet peeve of mine) and the beach had old school vinyl loungers.

Welcome Treats

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Activities

The little 4 Star quibbles noted above were completely made up for by our beach and snorkeling experience. The soft sand, the calm turquoise water and some gentle snorkeling for our little boy were everything we had hoped for. There were reefs on either side of the crescent beach with some pretty (though bleached) coral and lots and lots of fish in varieties we hadn’t seen before. FYI, the employees recommended the reef on the right side of the beach since it started closer to shore and was larger than the one on the left.

We also loved the resident Manta Rays at the Mauna Kea. After dinner one night, we attended a 20 minute talk about them and watched as the powerful light was turned on and they arrived to feed on the plankton. Our son was amazed by their “loop-d-loops”. The more adventurous could sign up to snorkel with these gentle giants.

Beautiful Beach

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Snorkeling

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Snorkeling

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Dining

The restaurants here were very good, especially Manta which had dozens of tables with full length views over the amazing beach. We enjoyed the banana bread at breakfast each morning and the excellent mahi mahi and other seafood served later in the day. The restaurant was beautifully lit each night.

We were also lucky enough to attend Mauna Kea’s highly regarded oceanfront luau. Yes, it’s a little touristy, but it was great fun especially for our 7 year old. We opted for the preferred seating, which put us at a front table. The evening began with a viewing of the underground oven (pork and turkey) and a tasty buffet. The performance featured the history of the Hawaiian islands, as well as some beautiful hula and fire dancing.

Manta (right side of photo)

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Manta Bar Seating

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Luau

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Luau

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Summary

Sure, the The FS Hualalai was a better overall experience…the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel wasn’t as luxurious. But this hotel gave us some wonderful experiences we’re unlikely to get elsewhere and we’re glad we included it in our itinerary!  Aloha!

Mai Tai

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Trip Report: Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

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Ericka is offline  
Old Jul 5, 19, 7:25 am
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From what I saw the room is not really my dream regarding style but at 880 sqft it would be called a suite in many hotels. What I really loved are the snorkeling pictures!
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Old Jul 5, 19, 9:41 am
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No mention of the beach bar in the report. We really enjoy walking up from the beach and finding a shady spot at the bar. Delicious sandwiches and salads and we can stay in our swim suits while having lunch. There are also tables adjacent to the bar for those who prefer to be seated at tables and chairs. We also enjoy dinner (not open every night) at the tables. It is very casual and nothing we enjoy more than walking down to the waters edge, grabbing a couple of beach chairs and watching the sea and stars.
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Old Jul 5, 19, 3:55 pm
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Thanks for this report! How plentiful are the dining options outside the resort and did you try any?
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Old Jul 5, 19, 5:28 pm
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Originally Posted by Herrick View Post
Thanks for this report! How plentiful are the dining options outside the resort and did you try any?
We were only there two nights so we made a decision to keep to the hotel. We didn’t go off property. Sorry I can’t help with that.
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Old Jul 5, 19, 5:51 pm
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Originally Posted by Herrick View Post
Thanks for this report! How plentiful are the dining options outside the resort and did you try any?
I have been to Mauna Kea many many times over the years and have never felt the need to go outside of the resort. Our usual stay is a week or more. Food is plentiful, good variety and we are just there to relax. We also do not rent a car. Taxi from Kona airport and once we settle in to the hotel, we feel more and more relaxed and less inclined to explore outside.
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Old Jul 6, 19, 1:50 pm
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Ericka, great report! I absolutely love Mauna Kea. Growing up in California, Hawaii was always one of the logical places to go for a beach vacation. I was very fortunate that my parents introduced it to our family when I was a little girl and we spent every year at either Christmas or Easter staying there. My husband and I go back every few years and despite having tried practically every major hotel/resort in the Hawaiian islands it is still our favorite. Yes the Four Seasons is more of your typical 5 star experience, but for us nothing beats the Mauna Kea beach, the views from the upper floor rooms in the tower, and the old fashioned Hawaiian ambiance. Summer is great for snorkeling, winter you can get some small, nice and safe waves for body surfing. And you always have those great Manta Rays. They remodeled a number of years ago and turned some of the rooms in the tower into the large rooms Ericka describes. They basically put two rooms together. These to me are the best ( unless you can spring for a suite), and fully adequate in terms of space especially considering you will likely be spending most of your time on the beach. It’s not as glamorous as some of the other Hawaiian resorts but you will have the best beach in Hawaii. And sitting out on your balcony at night with a nice glass of wine or a drink, watching the sunset is always special overlooking that gorgeous beach.

Restaurants we like outside side of Mauna Kea are Merrimans and the Canoe Club at Mauna Lani. Restaurants at Four Seasons are also good, but we usually stick to Mauna Kea with one night at Merrimans ( a bit of a drive) and one night at the Canoe Club which has good food and a lovely setting.

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Old Jul 6, 19, 9:52 pm
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Having visited the Mauna Kea resort, I wouldn't necessarily have expected it to score a mention in the Luxury Hotel forum but I did develop quite a soft spot for it. I enjoyed a top floor/ top category room in the main building which was indeed huge and with a gorgeous view, but some of the rooms without a view and any of the rooms in the cheaply constructed beach annex would not have impressed.

I absolutely intend to come back one day for the architecture, the "club"-like feel and the old-school service, but only in a nice room in the main building, and despite it not meeting the usual standards from a hotel at a near $1,000 a night price point.

Service overall was adequate, but as a first-time visitor I felt relatively ignored compared to the 40+ year older regulars who had obviously been coming since before I was born. Nonetheless, I could appreciate that there was something a bit special there for the frequent visitors (a friend of mine from Hawaii gave me very specific instructions of how she wanted me to say hello to the parrots on her behalf). I also went to the Luau meanwhile which I felt was one the worse wastes of money I'd had that year with bad food and terrible drinks, which just serves to show how different people can appreciate things!
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Old Jul 7, 19, 3:16 am
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To me a beach resort is all about the beach, and in this respect the Mauna Kea is spectacular. That said, I normally rent a house at Mauna Kea. There are some beautiful choices, and they all come with hotel privileges. The food is quite good especially Manta, and Merriman's (as someone mentioned) is a very nice restaurant. It's a bit of a drive but not too far. Also near Merriman's, you can get an amazing American breakfast at the Hawaiian Style Cafe. Hotel service is very good for an American resort. Great golf and tennis facilities also and horseback riding with incredible views about 30 to 40 minutes away. IMHO, if you rent a house at Mauna Kea, it's about as nice a resort experience as you can get in the U.S.

I honestly have no idea why anyone would go to Hualalai. The beach there is a dump, it's overcrowded, cramped, marginal food and service and spectacularly over-priced.
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Old Jul 8, 19, 2:31 pm
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Thanks @Ericka for the review! I'd never really considered this an option at all until the Marriott takeover of Starwood, but even then I wasn't sure about its 4 star experience. Your review and some of these other comments give me hope.

One question: how is the air con in the rooms/suites? This has been a major issue for us all over Hawaii (and the chief reason we'd never return to the overrated FS Hualalai). If you or anyone else can answer that, I'd be supremely grateful!

Ironically, my Marriott Ambassador status probably will elevate our service experience here to closer to 5 star even if we didn't get any uggprade. But my status almost always gets me upgraded (and almost always to a suite), anyway.
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Old Jul 8, 19, 3:00 pm
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Bhrubin, I have to laugh because I thought of you during the luau! We were seated at a table where the first four seats were being held for VIPs. A DYKWIA started having a fit that he and his family couldn’t sit in those seats. He insisted he was an ambassador and there was no one more special or important than him. The guy actually convinced the manager to pick up the VIP place cards and move them farther back so that the ambassador and his family could sit at the front. It was an embarassing display and I thought, “Bhrubin wouldn’t do that.” Anyway, the VIPs showed up and were completely pleasant and happy with their seats. I’m not even sure how much affiliation the luau has with the hotel...at least parts of it seem to be run independently.

Regarding the AC in our room, it worked well. My husband bumped it down a few times when he was packing, etc. It stayed a little warmer in the bathroom, though.
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Old Jul 8, 19, 3:31 pm
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Originally Posted by Ericka View Post
Bhrubin, I have to laugh because I thought of you during the luau! We were seated at a table where the first four seats were being held for VIPs. A DYKWIA started having a fit that he and his family couldn’t sit in those seats. He insisted he was an ambassador and there was no one more special or important than him. The guy actually convinced the manager to pick up the VIP place cards and move them farther back so that the ambassador and his family could sit at the front. It was an embarassing display and I thought, “Bhrubin wouldn’t do that.” Anyway, the VIPs showed up and were completely pleasant and happy with their seats. I’m not even sure how much affiliation the luau has with the hotel...at least parts of it seem to be run independently.
Oh dear. That's so disappointing and yet so not surprising. I'm grateful at least that you wouldn't expect that from me!

Regarding the AC in our room, it worked well. My husband bumped it down a few times when he was packing, etc. It stayed a little warmer in the bathroom, though.
I am reassured. Thanks so much! A surprise trip to the Mauna Kea might be in the cards for my hubby now...
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Old Jul 8, 19, 3:53 pm
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Originally Posted by Herrick View Post
Thanks for this report! How plentiful are the dining options outside the resort and did you try any?
There are a lot of dining options off the resort. The closest places are going to be at Kawaihae or Hapuna about 10-15 minutes away. If you go further out there are lots of options at Waikoloa or Waimea. Off the top of my head; Pueo's Osteria in Waikoloa Highlands, Aloha Deli in Kawaihae, Noodle Club in Waimea or Naupaka at Mauna Lani.
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Old Jul 8, 19, 7:10 pm
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Originally Posted by muran View Post
There are a lot of dining options off the resort. The closest places are going to be at Kawaihae or Hapuna about 10-15 minutes away. If you go further out there are lots of options at Waikoloa or Waimea. Off the top of my head; Pueo's Osteria in Waikoloa Highlands, Aloha Deli in Kawaihae, Noodle Club in Waimea or Naupaka at Mauna Lani.
We really enjoy the Canoe House at the Mauna Lani. Lovely atmosphere and good food. Also Merrimans which is not on the water but has good food. The Hapuna Prince hotel which is next door used to have a pretty good sushi restaurant but I’m not sure if it’s still there.

I find the food on the Big Island, good but not fabulous. For fabulous food there are some great choices on Oahu in and around Honolulu/Waikiki. In fact we sometimes stop over for a couple of days just to eat at our favorite spots! If we have time that is.......
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Old Jul 8, 19, 11:38 pm
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"Lucas left Los Angeles the day Star Wars opened in 1977 to hide out at Hawaii’s Mauna Kea resort, on the Big Island. Spielberg soon joined him, and they talked over their plans. "I told him that I wanted to, for the second time, approach Cubby Broccoli, who had turned me down the first time, to see if he would change his mind and hire me to do a James Bond movie," Spielberg says. "And George said, ‘I’ve got something better than that. It’s called Raiders of the Lost Ark.’ He pitched me the story, and I committed on the beach." - from a Vanity Fair article, 2008.

This former Rockresort, Mauna Kea is a classic, no getting away from it, and it was in the 1970s something of a Hollywood hang-out. After that beach summit between George Lucas and Steven Spielberg they would return every year for years.

Last edited by Pausanias; Jul 8, 19 at 11:57 pm
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