Once considered part of greater Kona in terms of Big Island geography, the Kohala Coast just north is carving out its own distinct vacation ethos, a charge led by Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection. The property recently underwent a $200 million renovation that focused on brightening and energizing guest rooms, modernizing the spa, and adding two pools, family and adult-infinity, to the water options. Perhaps the most impressive upgrade of all is the overhaul of Canoe House, the property’s main restaurant, which hits all the right culinary notes while balancing luxury and casual comfort, formality and kid-friendliness — and there is no better view, as it sits right on the beach.
Rooms are either on the pool/lawn side or the quieter north- or east-facing side, and since the building is diagonal to the ocean, you can get good views from any of the angles. While the feel of the resort is somewhat adult-groovy, kids will also be happy around the pool and at the kids’ club, where they can have supervised play and learn about Hawaiian culture and history. Danny Akaka, Jr., the resort’s kahu hanai (knowledge keeper), is the property’s heart and soul, leading educational tours of the resort’s ancient fishponds and talking story with guests of all ages.
There are 295 rooms, 38 suites and five private bungalows across 32 acres, and in some ways, the resort feels like a private island given how tucked away it is from the main road.
But you can easily walk, bike, or take a Moke (little electric) car around the neighborhood to the Puako Petrogylyph Archeological Preserve, where you can take a gentle hike to see petroglyphs dating back to 1200 AD, or head in the other direction to the fish ponds, one of which you can submerge your feet in for a “fish pedicure.”
Back at the hotel, rooms are peaceful and thoughtfully appointed, minimalist in style with natural elements anchoring the functional aspects. The renovation was led by New York-based firm Meyer Davis.
A centerpiece of the experience of the resort is the main pool, which has a large deck and full food and beverage service, as well as three cabanas at the ocean end. There’s lots of space for families looking for activities, and a huge lawn leading to the beach where kids and run and play, as well as a separate adult pool for a more meditative experience. And there’s a beach activity center on the ocean where you can rent equipment and sign up for lessons in snorkel, canoeing, and more.
Mauna Lani’s fine-dining restaurant, Canoe House, is a tough reservation these days, so book well ahead for what is one of the top restaurant experiences on the entire island. Start with the excellently curated wine list to arrive at just the right pairing for one of Chef Matt Raso’s elegantly simple fish dishes. General Manager Yuka Raso seamlessly runs the front of the house.
Even a few days as this magical resort will lighten your load, rejuvenate and recharge you and your family, and deepen your connection to this beautiful part of Hawai’i’s Big Island.