Mauna Kea Beach Hotel 50th Anniversary

By Napua Heen
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Photo courtesy of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

Graciously designed to complement its unrivaled surroundings, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel sits perfectly alongside spectacular, white sand Kaunaoa Bay. Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s tallest and sometimes snow-capped mountain stands majestically in the background. This is an enchanting sight to behold indeed: turquoise water juxtaposed against one of the world’s most magnificent mountains. And there, neatly nestled into nature’s bosom, is Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

“What is the one thing not to miss at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel?” I asked Vicky Kometani, PR Director. “It’s not so much a thing as a feeling,” she replies. “We hear this all the time:  No place has the soul that Mauna Kea has.”

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Photo courtesy of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

I can understand why. Mauna Kea Beach Hotel was the very first resort on Hawaii Island and the most expensive resort ever built at its inception. The result has been a timeless oasis where generations have made their memories. July 24, 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, and Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is still considered one of the best hotels on Hawaii Island.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel offers exciting seasonal specials.  Click here to view packages.

The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel 50th Anniversary

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Photo courtesy of Mauna Kea Beach Resort Archive Collection.

Laurance Rockefeller was the mastermind behind the vision. The vision started with Kaunaoa Bay and was accompanied by a desire for a very high level of luxury that was not obtrusive to the naturally beautiful surroundings.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Photo courtesy of Mauna Kea Beach Resort Archive Collection.

After going for a swim here in 1960, Mr. Rockefeller was inspired. He leased the land from Parker Ranch. Plans for the resort started in 1961. The golf course came first, completed in 1964. The hotel came next. The grand opening was held on July 24, 1965. July 24, 2015 marked the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel 50th anniversary!

The Vision Started with Kaunaoa Bay

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Photo courtesy of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

Kaunaoa Bay has consistently been recognized as one of the best beaches on Hawaii Island, if not in the world. Located between Spencer Beach to the North and Hapuna Beach (another award-winning beach) to the South, Kaunaoa Bay is open to the public yet remains un-crowded due to limited access.

The Golf Course

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Photo courtesy of Mauna Kea Beach Resort Archive Collection.

Mr. Rockefeller utilized a skill he called “experting.” Mr. Rockefeller was not an expert at golf courses, so he commissioned Robert Trent Jones, Sr.  for the job. Mr. Jones was an expert at designing golf courses, but the original Mauna Kea Golf Course was a field of jagged black lava rock. Mr. Jones, utilizing his expertise, became the first person to figure out how to build a lush green championship golf course over a lava field. His work was foundational in the industry.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Photo courtesy of Mauna Kea Beach Resort Archive Collection.

The groundbreaking new golf course was christened in December 1964 by Golf’s Big Three: Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus. The match was legendary. Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf televised their match on March 6, 1964 and featured the stunning 3rd hole.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Photo courtesy of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

The 18-hole championship golf course remains prestigious even today, having been upgraded in 2007 by Mr. Jones’ son, Rees Jones.

The Grand Opening

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Photo courtesy of Mauna Kea Beach Resort Archive Collection.

The Grand Opening in 1965 was indeed an event to remember, with Mr. Rockefeller unveiling his vision. People traveled from across the globe to attend. My grandparents were among the guests in attendance.  The experiences of that day and the memories made left an endearing impression on my grandmother’s heart.  She saved two of the bronze medallion souvenirs received that day.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Photo courtesy of Napua Heen.

She tucked them away in her jewelry box and brought them out to share with me several years ago.  I could see the magic in her eyes as she reminisced.  It seems Mauna Kea’s soul had touched her heart, and she wanted to share this special feeling with me.  Congratulations on 50 years of making memories, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel!

A Grand Art Collection

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Photo courtesy of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

The Grand Opening not only unveiled a grand resort, it also unveiled a grand art collection. 1,600 museum-grade art pieces were curated for the opening.

These pieces remain a trademark of the hotel today. The art is everywhere, tucked in every nook and cranny. You could miss most of it if you don’t wander the hallways of the main building and beachfront wing. Hawaiian quilts from the 1960s and 1970s adorn the walls. Priceless furniture stands unassuming in corners and corridors. Sculptures stand as sentinels along the pathways.

The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel offers a complimentary art tour every Saturday at 10:00 am.

Modern Luxury with Timeless Class

Following numerous renovations and upgrades over the years, the resort is now celebrating 50 years as the pioneer of resorts on the Kohala coast of Hawaii Island.  Mauna Kea Beach Hotel stands as the icon of modern luxury and timeless class.

Guests of Mauna Kea Beach Hotels have reciprocal signing privileges for even more golf and dining options at sister resort, Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel.

Click here to read about resort guest rooms, dining and amenities.

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