Big Island’s beloved Mauna Kea Hotel is scheduled to reopen next Spring. I received this preview today of what it’s going to look like.
The hotel was closed due to damage from a 2006 earthquake, which was strong enough to be felt throughout all the main Hawaiian Islands.
When the hotel opened in 1965, it was the first hotel on the Kohala coast and the most expensive one ever built at that time, at a cost of $15 million. In today’s market that would be a steal. The renovation of Mauna Kea is a whopping $150 million.
Revolutionary for its time, the open air architected hotel was developed by Laurence S. Rockefeller and designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
Rockefeller, who died in 2004, was asked by Hawaii governor William Quinn to find a resort location that would help reduce congestion at already popular Waikiki. The chosen setting was an isolated location on the Kohala Coast. There was no highway at the time to easily transport guests. The only route from Kailua-Kona was the Hawaii Belt Road over the mountains.
Rockefeller’s vision of the hotel was that it should respect the people, culture and environment of Hawaii. Accompanying the hotel would be the beautiful Robert Trent Jones golf course.
Rockefeller envisioned the hotel as a private, personal (100 room) estate, offering a multi-cultural experience.
Amazing Art Collection
On my last trip to Mauna Kea just prior to the earthquake, I took a tour of the hotel’s art collection which included a look at its history. Rockefeller brought 1,600 Asian and Pacific museum art pieces to adorn every corner of the interior and exterior. My favorite is the 700 year old Buddha’s head sculpture, which came from Thailand. A book, “The Art of Mauka Kea,” in its second printing, gives an in-depth look at the amazing collection.
Mauna Kea is the Setting of a Mystery Book
On a side note, mystery writer Edith Skom, used the Mauna Kea as the setting for her book, “The George Eliot Murders.” You can read the book and feel like you’ve already been to the hotel.
Two Properties for the Price of One
Mauna Kea has an adjoining sister Hotel, Hapuna Prince, which is another great Kohala Coast hotel. Guests can use facilities at both hotels, and it is a short walk between the properties which we’ve done.
We’ll keep you updated on their development and intend to be there for the grand reopening.