The Big Island of Hawaii is known for its rocky, volcanic shoreline. In fact, there are few white-sand beaches on Hawaii Island. However, the upscale Mauna Kea Beach Hotel fronts a beautiful, crescent-shaped beach and calm lagoon-like ocean waves. Its awesome beachfront is just one reason why I’d name the Kohala Coast’s Mauna Kea Beach Hotel a top Big Island hotel for kids. Here are five reasons to take the whole family to the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel:
The beach: Indeed, my children, ages 10 and 12, rose before the sun (darn time change), and the first thing they did was put on their bathing suits and run down to the beach — even before I’d poured myself a complimentary early morning cup of coffee in the hotel lobby. The large stretch of white sand forms a crescent shape, so the protected ocean is quite calm. That is, some waves crash on the beach, but they are nothing like you might find on Oahu’s North Shore. In fact, the water was ideal for snorkeling — which we did with our own snorkel gear, but you can also rent it, and kayaks, boogie boards and stand-up paddleboards, from the Ocean Sports activities cabana. The kids had a ball spotting all sorts of tropical fish on either side of the “crescent” near the rocky parts of the shore (in the middle of the crescent it’s all soft, white sand).
For more fun on the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel property, we explored the numerous tidepools where all sorts of marine life and turtles make their home. Truly, we felt so lucky to be vacationing on this perfect slice of oceanfront heaven for four nights.
Shared privileges with the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel: The Mauna Kea’s Beach Hotel’s sister property, also owned by Prince Resorts Hawaii, is a short oceanfront hike, or a quick complimentary shuttle ride, away. We visited the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel one afternoon to check out the property, and it too has a big beach area and a huge swimming pool. Guests of one resort can charge food, drink or other services at the other resort to their room number, no problem. We enjoyed our hike to the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel; jumping in the refreshing pool was even better!
Accommodations: My family of four stayed in a standard room facing the ocean. Our huge lanai on an upper-level floor was a favorite place to rest and relax and simply revel in the beautiful view. The design of the guest rooms is clean and contemporary, with a bit of an Asian vibe. For example, we found two kimonos in our closet, along with traditional robes and slippers. (In fact, the entire property is modern, with some wonderful Asian art and antiquities on display, as well as a pretty koi pond).
My kids no longer like sharing a double bed, so we had a single rollaway brought in for my son. (Note: This is a hefty fee at $75 a night, which was kindly waived for me as a visiting journalist.) Sure, it made the 400-square-foot room a little tight, but having that large balcony made all the difference. I appreciated the in-room coffeemaker with Kona coffee, the mini fridge for storing snacks and drinks we’d bought at a local grocery, and the L’Occitane amenities. The tub was deep — like a Japanese soaking tub — and I liked the rain-shower head.
Kids’ entertainment: Cultural activities for families are scheduled at various times throughout the day at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel; some are complimentary and others cost a small fee. For example, families can decorate a gourd bowl, make a Ti-leaf hula skirt or master the art of flower lei making. We didn’t participate in any of these, but those folks who did sure looked like they were having fun! Instead, we spent an inordinate amount of time playing ping pong outside (oh yes, we have a barely used ping-pong table in our basement; funny how things somehow become more appealing on vacation). We also spent a ton of time playing in the pool and soaking in the hot tub, when we weren’t in the ocean.
Also on site is a kids’ club,where for $90/day your children ages 5 to 12 can enjoy a plethora of supervised activities: sand-castle building, T-shirt decorating, scavenger hunts and the like. Personally, I’d only recommend this service if you, Mom and Dad, need child care for your own off-property day-long excursion (half day with no lunch is $55). I can’t speak firsthand to the kids’ club, as my kids aren’t fans of hotel-run camps, and, frankly, we wanted to spend the large majority of our vacation with them! Still, it’s nice the hotel has this service for families needing supervised child care. Note that the service is offered mainly in peak family vacation times, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break weeks and such.
Luau: My kids had never been to a luau (my daughter on Maui at eight months doesn’t count), and we were delighted to be treated to the luau experience at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. The huge spread included many of the traditional Hawaiian dishes: Kalua pig, ahi poke, fresh pineapple, soft sweet bread, poi and lots more (go hungry). At $96 per person ($48 for children ages 5 to 12) this is not an inexpensive endeavor. However, it’s convenient to just walk over the the luau grounds to enjoy authentic Hawaiian food and some top-notch entertainment: fire dance, hula dances and storytelling.
We didn’t eat at any of the on-site restaurants during our stay (frankly, we’re too cheap to pay hotel rates for on-site dining). Instead, we went to the local grocery store and bought bagels and fruit for breakfast, sandwich fixings and chips for lunch. We went off property to some great (and not so great) restaurants each night for dinner. However, on-site options include Manta for breakfast and dinner (the Sunday Brunch menu offers some wonderful decadent dishes); it’s perched on a cliff above a spot where manta rays tend to gather, thus the name. Hau Tree is a beachfront, more casual option for lunch and dinner.
In addition to the amenities and services I mention above, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel also has a sprawling Mauna Kea Golf Course with practice facilities and driving range, as well as 11 tennis courts at the Seaside Tennis Club and the Mauna Kea Spa by Mandara, a fitness center and several shops.
My family and I thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Though it’s more expensive overall than its sister Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, if you’re looking for an upscale place to spend some leisurely days on Hawaii, I highly recommend this Big Island hotel for kids and their families.
I received a media rate at Hawaii’s Mauna Kea Beach Hotel for purposes of review. Beginning November 1, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel will offer the “Fall Into Winter” special room rates beginning at $299 per night for a Mountain View Room. The offer is valid November 1 – December 17, 2012, inclusive. No minimum night stay is required, black out dates and restrictions may apply.
For more help in planning your family trip to Hawaii’s Big Island, visit the official Hawaii Visitor & Convention Bureau website, chock full of information.