The Resort on Keauhou Bay: Experience the Idyllic OUTRIGGER Kona Resort & Spa

The Resort on Keauhou Bay: Experience the Idyllic OUTRIGGER Kona Resort & Spa

Sparkling Keauhou Bay on Hawai‘i Island’s Kona side and the verdant area around it take their name from the Hawaiian word for “new era” or “new current.” Rich in Hawaiian cultural sites, Keauhou is also where an infant King Kamehameha III was revived in a bayside spring after appearing stillborn; he went on to become the longest reigning monarch of Hawai‘i.

So it’s only fitting that the iconic resort on Keauhou Bay has been reborn several times since it began life in the early 1970s as the Kona Surf. Its newest incarnation, OUTRIGGER Kona Resort & Spa, pays the most stylish tribute yet to the area’s scenery, history and culture, thanks to a recently completed $60 million renovation that has dramatically transformed its rooms, public spaces, restaurants and other amenities.

Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa Oceanfront View

“You can’t choose any better colors than Mother Nature’s,” says the resort’s General Manager Geoff Pearson on a recent private tour, pointing to the sapphire and turquoise water lapping onto black rocks below the lanai (balcony) of one of the 511 guest rooms. The water is so clear along this shoreline, you can easily spot yellow tang reef fish, honu (green sea turtle) or even the giant and graceful manta rays, especially at night, when shoreline lights attract the microplankton that fuel their endless motion.

Suites with larger balconies now have tables and chairs shaded by cheery royal blue-and-white striped umbrellas, similar but subtly distinct from the new teal and white umbrellas and lounge teal lounge chairs by the oceanfront pool — renowned for its 200-foot-long lava tube slide, Pearson notes. Inside the rooms, a wavelike splash of blue and white billows across the dark dresser drawers, while the new inky-blue-on-light-blue carpet evokes both the deep sea and the intricate patterns printed on kapa, the traditional Hawaiian cloth made from pounded tree fibers.

Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa Deluxe Oceanfront Suite

The design by Honolulu’s Looney & Associates reflects other natural and cultural elements, too. Look closely at the textured ivory wall covering behind the bed and you can spot the outline of palm fronds. An open-weave chair at the long combination dresser/desk suggests the Hawaiian art of lauhala, weaving pandanus leaves into useful and beautiful objects. Woven cords around a horizontal pole on the new wooden headboard “are meant to remind you of the lashings on outrigger canoes,” according to Pearson. Voyaging outrigger canoes brought the first Polynesians to the Hawaiian Islands, while outrigger canoeing is the official team sport of Hawai’i.

Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa Ocean View Suite

Outside the rooms, schools of golden, orange and white geometric fish appear to swim through a variety of azure swirls on the plush hallway carpet. “They’re moving forward, symbolizing the new beginning of Keauhou,” Pearson says. The motifs of waves and currents are part of the designers’ concept of kōī au, literally translated as “a flowing current” with a figurative meaning of “a flow of eloquence.”

Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa Lobby

The new flow actually begins in the rotunda of the light and airy lobby, which allows tantalizing glimpses of the cerulean sea and greenery through a carved wall as you check in at the relocated front desk. Around the corner, a carved wooden panel recounts some of King Kamehameha III’s accomplishments as well as Keauhou’s location in what was once “the breadfruit belt” of Kona. Today, there’s a renaissance in  growing ‘ulu (breadfruit) around the islands.

Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa History of Keauhou Display

Next to this wooden panel is a large flat-screen TV offering an interactive video introduction to more history of the area, with three smaller screens on the side providing additional details. A replica hōlua sled is mounted on the same wall; one of the video series explains this ancient, breakneck sport of snowless sled racing and how you can see the remains of a mile-long rocky course in the hills above Keauhou, an area still called Hōlualoa (long sled course.)

Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa Concierge Desk

Guests can discover more ways to experience the region’s natural and cultural treasures at the  concierge desk across from the video screens, or in the brand-new cultural center. The latter features a long table for lei making with fresh plumeria blossoms or ‘ukulele lessons and display cases of  handsome wood and stone implements, including kapa beaters, poi pounders and fishing tools, as well as lauhala mats, baskets, bracelets, vases, fans, hats and other items. The cultural center staff also lead a free, 90-minute walking tour of cultural sites around Keauhou Bay, including the historic fishing village of Kaukulaelae, while the twice-weekly, outdoor Feast & Fire Lū‘au by the rugged shoreline shares  Hawaiian traditions and legends with entertainment by one of the island’s most esteemed musical families, the Lims.

The luau buffet features local favorites such as kalua pork, taro rolls and malasadas (sugar-dusted, deep-fried sweet bread), but the menus at the OUTRIGGER Kona Resort & Spa’s revamped dining outlets highlight the region’s  agricultural richness and diversity, too. At the bay-view Wailele Café, open for breakfast and dinner, I enjoyed a heart of palm salad topped with fresh grilled Kona kampachi, but could have ordered grilled ribeye from Hawai‘i Island and a side of “crispy canoe crops”—a mix of taro, breadfruit, sweet potato and kabocha pumpkin. The ‘ulu hummus with taro and sweet potato chips and fresh catch fish tacos at Holua Poolside Bar & Lounge are more locally sourced temptations.

Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa Piko Cafe and Wine Bar

At the new, open-air Piko Café & Wine Bar near the adult pool, I have a hard time choosing between delectable macadamia nut croissant and the granola-style “power bar” topped with chocolate ganache, which Pearson advises to enjoy cold, with strong coffee, so I order both — and take home a cylinder of plump miso chocolate chip cookies to enjoy later. Guests who have access to the new Voyager Club can also sample delicious pastries and other breakfast items as well as dinner bites and drinks that reflect the local heritage. 

Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa Family Pool

Children of all ages flock to the oceanfront pool with its sandy-bottomed kids pool, fountains and 200-foot lava tube slide, but parents will have an additional option to entertain young ones when the Coral Kids Club opens later this summer.  The new, deliberately low-lit and well air-conditioned youth room gives teens a literally cool place to chill. A bold mural of manta rays faces a large room with classic arcade games, pool table, air hockey,  Foosball, spacious leather couches, a wide at-screen TV and plenty of Wi-Fi for gamers. Like the rest of the reimagined resort, it conveys a newly energized sense of place, ideal for both relaxation and exploration.

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