Let’s face it: You probably flew long enough that you’d like to minimize travel time to the water once you’re in Hawaii. Here are the best hotels right on the best beaches, all on the Big Island’s Kona (west) side, heading north to south.
Feature Photo: Mauna Kea Facebook
TIP: Most hotels have 4 pm check-in. Ask for an early check-in.
If they can’t accommodate, they will let you store your bags so you can head to the beach!
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Now marketed as part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel has lost none of its distinctive character that has won it generations of repeat guests since its debut in 1965. A treasury of Asian and Pacific art adorns the airy, mid-century modern main building above a vast green lawn and what is undeniably the Big Island’s best beach. Kauna‘oa Beach, widely called Mauna Kea Beach, has soft white sand, clear waters and, around the rocky points at either end, spectactular marine life. The famous golf course offers spectacular vistas, as does the resort’s Seaside Tennis Club. Dining options are excellent, and you can also charge meals at the nearby Westin Hapuna (which has the same owners.)
- Spacious rooms have a subtly Japanese aesthetic, with natural wood and lots of the hotel’s signature orange. Take advantage of the free beach services, from lounge chairs to stand-up paddle boards. Don’t miss sunset hula and cocktails at the Copper Bar, or dinner at Manta restaurant, named for the graceful manta rays that can be observed below it at night.
Westin Hapuna Beach Resort
The only hotel along half-mile-long, broad and sandy Hapuna Beach takes its name from the beach and its design inspiration from the water, sand, natural wood and greenery of the Kohala Coast. It has commanding views of the blue Pacific and deep-orange sunsets from its open-air lobby and two guest wings with 294 recently renovated, spacious rooms with Hawaiian-accented contemporary decor. Terraced gardens with koi and water lily ponds lead to the adults-only infinity pool with roomy hot tub and in-pool lounges; below is the 6.800-square-foot family pool, large enough for a lap swim. Four terrific ocean-view restaurants and cafes, an Arnold Palmer-designed 18-hole golf course, a spa and an enormous fitness studio and CrossFit deli mean you can easily cocoon onsite; a complimentary evening shuttle will bring you to Mauna Kea Beach Hotel for more dining options.
- In calm conditions, look for sea turtles while snorkeling around the rocky point at the northern end of the beach. The resort sets up first-come, first-serve lounges and umbrellas on the northern end of the beach, which is part of a state recreation area that has a concession stand, restrooms and picnic pavilions on the southern end. In calm conditions, look for sea turtles while snorkeling around the rocky point closest to the hotel; you can also pick up a coastal trail there for a scenic, 1-mile hike to Kauna‘oa Beach (a/k/a Mauna Kea Beach.)
Mauna Lani, an Auberge Resort
Until this year, few people have had a chance to experience Auberge Resorts’ stunning transformation of the former Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, which debuted just before the pandemic hit. Two beautiful new pools — one just for adults — plus a sandy-entry one for kids beckon next to a beach renowned for sea turtle sightings; friendly, knowledgeable staff will take you on outrigger canoe rides or e-bike tours of the wider Mauna Lani resort. Rooms have an understated but chic decor, while the soaring lobby spaces have become inviting, open-air living rooms infused with tropical greenery. There’s a spa and fitness room with first-rate equipment on site, but guests also have access to the Mauna Lani’s stand-alone fitness center with large lap pool and tennis courts a short drive away. Dinner at sunset or under the stars at open-air, oceanfront CanoeHouse is memorable for its artful menu as well as ambiance, while poolside HaLani and Ha Bar also provide delicious dining.
- Don’t miss one of the frequent cultural experiences offered by the resort’s revered expert, Danny Akaka Jr., who also supervises the long-running monthly concert and storytelling series (virtual during the pandemic era) amid the resort’s historic, oceanfront fish ponds. Follow the short shoreline trail past the fish ponds to a great cove for swimming and snorkeling.
Lava Lava Beach Club
These four one-bedroom cottages share owners, a name and a sandy stretch of lovely ‘Anaeho’omalu Bay with the lively Lava Lava Beach Club restaurant. They also share its casual-chic, beach bungalow vibe, with a bright palette and comfy, island-inspired artwork and furnishings, including an oversized Hawaiian-style day bed and koa wood ukulele in the living room and a large rock-walled outdoor shower as well as a roomy modern bathroom. The beach is public, but early risers and moonlight walkers will often find privacy, except for the company of basking sea turtles. Live Hawaiian and pop music will waft over most evenings from the restaurant, so this is a good choice for guests who like a little nightlife with their romance.
- Complimentary bikes and stand-up paddle boards are at the ready for you to explore the resort or the bay, while lunch and dinner at the restaurant with your toes in the sand make restoring your energy easy and delicious. Sunsets are gorgeous here, especially accompanied by a cocktail on your private lanai.
Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
Two historic and picturesque fish ponds are all that lie between you and the golden crescent of ‘Anaeho‘omalu Beach at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. Snorkeling, swimming and paddle-boarding are typically good here year-round, with catamaran and glass-bottom boat cruises leaving right from the beach. Three island-style pools, including one with a water slide, offer ocean views and recreation on rare occasions when the surf is too rough. Rooms are not overly large, but comfortable with cooling white, ocean-blue and gray tones. (if you want more space, plus a kitchenette and dining area, just book a suite in Marriott’s Waikoloa Ocean Club, which occupies another wing of the hotel.) Dining options are serviceable, but you also have a wealth of restaurants as well as shops, groceries and movie theaters within walking distance at the Queens’ Marketplace and Kings’ Shops open-air shopping centers.
- The oceanfront Sunset Luau is one of the best on the island, with an inviting atmosphere, delicious cuisine and spirited dancers. The beachfront concessionaire offers kayaks, hydrobikes, standup paddleboards, boogie boards and snorkel gear to rent, plus Hawaiian Ocean Sports concessionaire, plus all sunset, whale-watching and snorkeling cruises.
Four Seasons Hualalai
Everything is exceptional here, from the newly renovated, subtly island-inspired guest rooms and the exquisite sushi and steaks at ‘Ulu Ocean Grill to guests-only amenities such as the enormous, indoor-outdoor spa with apothecary treatments and the championship golf course. Families will love the multiple pools, including a sandy-bottomed one with miniature lounges just for kids, as well as the complimentary Kids for All Seasons program and seasonal Camp Manitou offerings. The waters of the long, somewhat rocky beach may not be the best for extensive swimming and snorkeling, but the always-attentive staff will help you make the most of any activity, including outrigger canoe paddling.
- Ground-floor rooms boast large, outdoor showers with lava rock walls and tropical foliage. Snorkeling amid rays and tropical fish in the saltwater-fed, carefully monitored King’s Pond is a magical experience, which you can now extend by basking in the new infinity-edge pool or lounging areas next to it.
Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel
King Kamehameha the Great claimed the best sand beach on Kailua Bay for his royal compound; in protected Kamakahonu Cove, warm salt water mixes with cooling freshwater springs before entering broad Kailua Bay. A small heiau (temple) and reconstructed thatched huts mark where he gathered with advisors; his legacy is also present throughout the freshly renovated, 452-room hotel, which includes an art gallery of Herb Kane’s renowned portraits of the king, other Hawaiian monarchs and historic events. This is also Ironman World Championship headquarters every October, with the race starting at adjacent Kailua Pier and ending just in front of the hotel. Non-triathletes can just relax by the infinity-edge pool or in a woven cabana, both with ocean views, or get a massage in an oceanfront cabana. The ground floor has a wealth of conveniences, including the best shave ice on the island, a coffee shop (with Kona coffee, of course), day spa, fitness center, yoga studio and Honu’s on the Beach, a resort-quality restaurant with more affordable prices.
- The friendly staff at the Kona Beach Boys concession will get you in the ocean with all kinds of gear. Afterwards, enjoy a drink and burger with a view from Billfish Poolside Bar & Grille. Sports fishing, sunset, snorkeling and seasonal whale-watch cruises depart regularly from Kailua Pier. The oceanfront luau is entertaining and reflects the area’s history, starting with a royal procession that arrives by outrigger canoe.
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