Magnificent Mauna Lani Resort: A world-class experience

By Lottie Tagupa, Contributor

Long before the Big Island developed it's taste for opulence and grandeur, the Mauna Lani Resort set the standard of casual Hawaiian elegance that has since been uniquely the Kohala Coast. The resort is located between two of the few natural white sand beaches in the area. Surrounded by lagoons and historic fishponds, heiau, and petroglyphson, the beach has landscaping that includes an abundance of trees and foliage.

The resort's Mauna Lani Bay Hotel has 350 guest rooms and suites, six villas and eleven bungalows. Rooms are done in a contemporary casual style decorated with teak cane and other natural fibres. All rooms have double sinks with two double beds or one king bed. All rooms have spacious private lanais, individual air-conditioning, ceiling fan, room safe, phones with data capabilities, remote controlled cable television, refrigerator, mini-bar, make-up mirror, hair dryer, bathroom scales, and robes.

Guest rooms and suites are at least 550 square feet in size. Ninety percent of the rooms have ocean views. The remaining ten percent have views that overlook the mountains or gardens. Highly recommended would be the deluxe oceanfront or corner oceanfront categories. These rooms offer wonderful unobstructed views of the beach and ocean and the blazing tropical sunsets.

The hotel also offers a unique category of accommodations called the villas. Located adjacent to the hotel property, each unit includes a full kitchens, laundry facilities and daily maid service. It's a wonderful option for those traveling with extended families and young children. Villas are available in one, two, and three bedrooms and range in price from $525-$865 per night.

Then there are Mauna Lani Resort's bungalows. They are wonderfully spacious and extravagantly private. There are only 11 of them and each is quite special. Each offers 4,000 square feet of living space surrounded by gardens and tropical fish ponds. Private landscaped entries and open beamed ceilings enhance the feeling of casual elegance of Hawaii.

Each bungalow has two master bedroom suites, two master baths, one guest bath, spacious living room, lanai, swimming pool, private steam bath and whirlpool spa. The views from the bungalows are especially exciting in the winter months. During the months of December through April, views of migrating whales and snow capped Mauna Kea may be enjoyed from the privacy of the spacious lanais.

The Mauna Lani has an array of dining choices. The Canoe House specializes in the unique combinations of eastern and western flavors in a presentation that has come to be quite popular worldwide. The Bay Terrace serves a full breakfast menu "al fresco" with the brilliance of the morning sun and the ocean beyond to pair with your morning Kona coffee. The Ocean Grill offers lunch, sunset cocktails, and light dinners in a kid-friendly environment.

The Gallery restaurant at Mauna Lani Resort overlooks the beautifully manicured championship golf courses. The menu offers many selections that include everything from fresh grilled fish, pastas, and desserts. The adjacent Knickers Bar and Lounge is a wonderful spot to enjoy late afternoon cocktails and pupus. The Honu Bar is an exceptional addition to the evening activities at the Mauna Lani. Upscale and stylish, it's perfect for an enjoyable evening of socializing and entertainment.

Billiards and other game tables are available in addition to live entertainment. There is a fine selection of notable wines, premium cocktails, coffees, and liqueurs. Also available is an appetizer menu, including caviar by the spoonful, gourmet pizzas, and a good selection of sushi and sashimi.

There are many interesting activities and services that make the Mauna Lani Resort an especially enjoyable destination resort. The resort offers a wonderful year-round camp for children between the ages of five to twelve. Sessions are held daily during the day. The children visit tide pools, prehistoric caves,and fishponds. Educational activities include Hawaiian crafts and games. Everyone enrolled in the program receives a Camp Mauna Lani Bay T-shirt and beach pail to take home.

Mauna Lani Resort offers guests many complimentary activities and services. These include fitness center membership, snorkeling equipment, beach accessories, historical tours, classes including hula, flower arranging and hula, Hawaiian activities, games, and demonstrations.

Along with these services and activities, recreation at the Mauna Lani revolve around tennis, wellness, and golf. The Racquet Club is located a few steps from the main lobby. It is a 10-court facility with Plexipave playing surfaces of three varying speeds. Six of the courts have been customized for medium fast play. Lessons and clinics are also offered on a daily basis.

The Fitness Center, adjacent to the Racquet Club, features LifeFitness cardio and strength training equipment, steam, locker rooms and a watsu therapy and waterdance pool. A 25-meter lap pool and Jacuzzi is also available. There are several fitness classes offered including step aerobics and yoga.

An hour or two at the Mauna Lani spa is a special treat. There is a wide variety of massages, facials, and other treatments to choose from. Highly recommended is the Mauna Lani's Hawaiian Stone Therapy. Warmed stones are placed on and around the body at points of stiffness and soreness to relieve stress and to to open your energy pathways. This 50 minute treatment is combined with an oil massage that is wonderfully rejuvenating.

Golf at Mauna Lani Resort

The highlight of Mauna Lani Resort is the fabulous golf facilities and the most beautiful 36 holes of golf on the island. There are three things that are particularly enjoyable about this golf facility. The free golf clinics, the executive putting course, and the refreshment wagons.

Free clinics are held twice a week. On the putting green at 12:00 p.m. on Monday afternoons, the focus is on the short game. Bring your putter and 8 iron or borrow one at the facility. Thursday's noon clinic focuses on the long game. Located on the driving game, learn how to hit the ball farther and straighter. Golf clubs are provided or feel feel free to bring your own.

Mauna Lani Resort has an executive putting course that is just fascinating. Located at the Racquet Club, the course is a finely manicured 18-hole championship course in miniature. Complete with sand traps and lava rock hazards, this putting practice that will keep you interested for hours.

As you may already know, the Kohala coast is known for warm and sunny weather. Some days on the golf course, the sun and heat can be quite brutal or the rain can come out of nowhere. So, a wonderful touch is the Mauna Lani's refreshment wagons. A mobile wagon stocked full with everything from water and wine to sunscreen and umbrellas, it is a welcoming presence on the links.

There are two championship courses at Mauna Lani Resort. The North Course and the South Course both have championship, tournament, middle and forward tees. Mauna Lani Resort's South Course is primarily a shoreline course and therefore more scenic and popular of the two. It is also the course of choice for the Senior Skins Game. The 15th hole is the signature hole of not only the South Course, but for Mauna Lani as a whole.

The longest of the tees need the shot to pass over the crashing surf and onto a large two-tiered green that is completely surrounded by sand. During the winter, whales are often sighted just offshore which tends to slow play in the area.

Mauna Lani Resort's North Course is the more challenging and more interesting of the two. Designed as a challenge to the most relaxed golfer, this course is definitely one for the serious player.

The 17th hole is the signature hole of the north course. A short high par three amphitheater surrounded by black lava rock is uniquely attractive. At the bottom of a deep lava bowl, the signature hole is worthy of a picture. From the elevated tees, the green is easily accessible.

Mauna Lani Resort is truly a world class destination. There is lots to do, to experience and enjoy. Many resorts have adopted Mauna Lani's standard of excellence as their own over the years, but there's something about the gracious service and casual atmosphere that makes the Mauna Lani Resort truly a genuine destination.

Lottie Tagupa, Contributor

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