What to Do Around Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on Hawaii’s Big Island
On our recent trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, we spent a lovely few days at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. It was the perfect spot to relax and explore the surrounding area.
The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel was founded by none other than Laurance S. Rockefeller in 1965. Apart from having lots of money, he was also a major conservationist. At the time, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel was one of the first environmentally focused resorts to be built.
Why did Rockefeller build Mauna Kea Beach Hotel at this exact spot? Because, in his own words: “Every great beach deserves a great hotel”.
More than 40 years later, it’s oceanfront setting on a soft white sand beach in Kauna’oa Bay on Hawaii’s Kohala coast, make Mauna Kea Beach Hotel a coveted vacation destination.
The History and Art Work of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Rockefeller’s vision for Mauna Kea Beach Hotel was for it to be a “private estate offering a cross-cultural resort experience”. It included acquiring art objects from around the globe. The result is an impressive collection of more than 1,600 pieces of authentic art pieces and artifacts.
Honoring the hotel’s location between East and West, the majority of the art and artifacts come from around the Pacific Rim.
The priceless pieces of art in the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is still displayed as Rockefeller intended – without signs or glass encasements. They decorate the hotel and grounds for guests to discover in an informal way.
One of the better-known pieces in the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel collection is a pink granite Buddha which was sculpted in India in the 12th century. The exquisite sculpture sits beneath a large Bodhi tree. Other valuable and rare pieces include:
Two “guard dogs” at the breezeway entrance to the Beachfront wing in the form of mythic bronze guardian dogs from a Thai temple.
A 700-year old head of a Buddha from Thailand.
The largest collection of handmade Hawaiian quilts. Each one is hand-stitched with up to 1 million stitches.
A Garuda (half-man, half-bird) from a Siamese temple.
Metal Burmese rain drums from the 17th and 18th centuries.
A Japanese tansu chest from the first half of the 20th century.
Complimentary guided art tours are conducted every Saturday morning for guests and non-guests who would like to know more details about the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel art collection.
Top 12 things to do in and around Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Play Golf at Mauna Kea
The USGA standard 18-hole award-winning championship course at Mauna Kea is legendary. It offers such dramatic and breathtaking views of the Kohala Coast that you may not be able to concentrate on your game.
Your ball may very well land in the ocean, with some holes right along the sea and others on cliffs 300 feet above. No-one can ever forget the signature par 3 third hole, featuring a tee box that overlooks a Pacific inlet.
Those who just want to enjoy the surroundings, can opt to hit a few practice balls only. Afterward, there is no better reward than to relax with a signature Mauna Kea cocktail from Number 3 Restaurant.
Challenge your Partner to a Game of Tennis
The Seaside Tennis Club at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel boasts 11 tennis courts, making it one of the biggest tennis attractions in Hawaii. In fact, it’s been named as one of the top 10 tennis resorts in the world.
Guests can rent everything they need for a great match of tennis at the resort’s pro shop. Those who need some help to get started, can take private or group lessons. To spice things up, daily clinics and round robin tourneys are also arranged.
After sweating it up on the court, why not relax in the shade on the club’s comfortable lanai overlooking the sea or just stop at the pool.
Experience Hawaii at the Mauna Kea Luau
An event rather than a place, the Mauna Kea Luau is where you get to experience the music, food and local dances of the Big Island of Hawaii. These traditional beachside events are perfect for guests of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel to experience the local culture.
Memories are made at the Mauna Kea Luau. Who will forget dancing the hula around fires with soulful guitars and the surf providing the background music? And when all the dancing leads to hunger and thirst, tables laden with imu-roasted kalua pig, fresh fish, and piles of island fruit are within easy reach.
Spend the Day on Hapuna Beach
Many people have rated Hapuna Beach the best in Hawaii. It’s half a mile long, as wide as 200 feet and sandy. Did I mention it’s also great for swimming and boogie boarding?
Pack a picnic and do some people watching in between sunbathing and cooling off in the water. Bring your snorkeling gear along too. Although the snorkeling areas aren’t big, they’re still worth exploring. You may even see a sea turtle.
Visit Lake Wai’au
A little emerald gem in the arid volcanic landscape of Mauna Kea, scientists are still baffled by the existence of Lake Wai’au. However, the Hawaiians don’t care that its origins are a mystery. They view it as the navel of the island chain. Some still follow the practice of placing the umbilical cord of their newborns in the lake to establish a strong connection with the gods.
Lake Wai’au may only be 100 m across, but it’s the highest alpine lake in Hawaii and the third highest lake in the US.
Stargazing at Sunset
While you’re on the summit, why not stay for sunset and join a special stargazing program? There is a free program offered by knowledgeable local volunteer astronomers outside the Visitor Information Station on four nights a week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday). The station also hosts presentations on astronomy and culture on Saturday nights.
Take note that while there are 13 independent multi-national astronomical research facilities with state-of-the-art observatories on the summit, they are not open to the public.
Discover Mauna Kea’s Summit Area
Is Mauna Kea the tallest mountain in the world? Yes, if you measure it from the sea floor to the summit at 13,796 ft. They say you are above 40% of the atmosphere if you stand on it. No wonder the summit area is home to the world’s biggest collection of telescopes.
The Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station is geared to entertain and inform while making sure no-one goes hungry or thirsty. You can watch videos, have a picnic, hike, and look at the sun through a solar telescope.
Watch (and swim with) Manta Rays
The coastline of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is known as Manta Ray Point. This is where these graceful creatures come to feed and play in the moonlight. The spectacle is only a short walk down the stone path from the hotel.
Manta Rays have huge wingspans. Watching them glide through the water is an unforgettable experience. Guests can now also swim alongside them under the expert eye of local manta experts. If you’d rather just watch from the shore, why not listen to one of the bi-weekly Manta talks presented by one of these experts?