Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows
Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, situated on the Kohala Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island, has our vote. No doubt you will want to book one of the bungalows for an exclusive stay. There are five 2,700-square-foot bungalows that act as guests’ home away from home, each with its own private pool and Jacuzzi. There are three Ocean Front and two Ocean View bungalows that look out over the Francis H I’i Brown North Golf Course. Private butler service is available upon request. Note: Be sure to book these bungalows after the New Year, as they are undergoing a full renovation and are scheduled for completion in December.
If it is views you seek, you cannot go wrong with the Ocean Front Rooms, which afford unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean. We hear you can see Maui in the horizon, most notably the Haleakala volcano. During whale season, these rooms arrange for a front-row seat to watch the whales breach.
For bookings, reach out to Kerstin Busse ([email protected]; 808-881-7034), director of sales and marketing.
Visitors to Mauna Lani Bay would be remiss if they did not experience all that the resort’s spa has to offer. The spa’s theme revolves around fire and ice, which speaks to both Big Island’s snow-capped Mauna Kea mountains and the active Kilauea volcano crater.
There are 25,000 square feet of indoor space and 15,000 square feet of outdoor treatment space. There are nine thatched hales (huts), two large enough for couples’ massages and all with outdoor showers. Two hales have lava rock soaking tubs for specialty treatments and one has an outdoor Vichy shower.
Spa facilities also include nine treatment rooms, including a deluxe suite for couples with steam bath and whirlpool, manicure and pedicure rooms, facial rooms and a full salon.
It is best to book treatments out as far in advance as possible. To do so, reach out to Spa Operations Manager Gina Kapeliela ([email protected]; 808-881-7042).
The resort is buzzing as of late with the news of Chef Allen Hess, who is the new Chef de Cuisine at the CanoeHouse restaurant. Hess was brought on to serve up a “Hawaiian culinary adventure,” using locally grown ingredients. Tip: Try the goat tacos that are Waimea-raised, Korean-braised and are served with spicy daikon salsa.
Getting There: The closest airport is Kona International Airport, which is just 23 miles from the hotel. We hear the hotel can organize private limos or shuttles for VIP clients.
On Oahu, Halekulani emerged from a lengthy renovation that saw some impressive improvements this summer. Guest rooms got new furniture, carpeting and linens; reconceived bathrooms (think updated showers, sinks and fixtures); and updated technology. A new bar also opened within the hotel’s restaurant, La Mer.
The most popular rooms at the hotel are Diamond Head Ocean Front rooms, but we’ve also heard good things about the Diamond Head Suites, which all have a wet bar and panoramic views of Diamond Head. Six of the suites also have connecting second bedrooms, making them ideal for families.
And then there are the Premier Suites, which are all in a class of their own. Overlooking Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach, The Halekulani Suite, The Royal Suite and The Orchid Suite all have top-tier amenities and perks, including private butler service.
|Halekulani’s renewed suites provide top-tier amenities and perks, including private butler service.|
The Halekulani Suite was designed by Vera Wang, and includes private services and amenities like complimentary champagne, and a special cocktail menu created by Halekulani’s mixologists. Guests of the Halekulani Suite can also get private, en-suite services of SpaHalekulani. Optional services include classes (like flower-arranging) and a tour of “Shangri-La,” the estate of the late Doris Duke, and also one of the world’s most valuable and extensive collections of Islamic art. The custom “For You, Everything” fine arts program gives guests VIP passes to the Honolulu Symphony, the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Bishop Museum, The Contemporary Museum and ‘Iolani Palace.
The Royal Suite, which also recently completed a renovation, has two bedrooms, a dining room, a dressing area, 2½ bathrooms and a large wraparound lanai. Movie fans will appreciate the 50-inch plasma-screen TV and the wireless portable TV that can go anywhere in the suite. Good to know: Airport limousine services are included for guests staying in the Royal Suite.
The Orchid Suite, meanwhile, is set apart from the hotel’s main building with floor-to-ceiling doors that open up to private lawns and an open-air trellised lounge—ideal for weddings, receptions or intimate functions, we say. And we’re impressed by all the things the suite has: For example, the master suite has a great view of Diamond Head; the entertainment lounge has the world’s first Steinway & Sons Model M in-room home theater by Steinway Lyngdorf; and the en-suite master bath has a steam shower, deep-steeping therapy pool and a cold plunge tub with garden views. The Orchid Suite also has a special culinary program that includes interactive cooking lessons with Halekulani chefs, daily market deliveries, an en-suite vintage wine cellar, and a good variety of dining options each day; from alfresco beachside meals to cocktail parties and formal estate dinners.
SpaHalekulani includes therapies and treatments from Samoa, Tonga and Tahiti in addition to Hawaii. The spa has seven relaxation suites, including two tandem suites for couples. We hear the most popular treatment is the Polynesian Nonu Massage, but we’re more intrigued by the two-hour Waianuhea experience, which means “cool, soft fragrant waters” (sounds lovely!). The treatment reportedly integrates culturally significant aspects inherent to Halekulani’s location by Gray’s Beach, where fresh water meets salt water. When booking, ask for Laura to perform the treatment. Utilizing ocean shells, Laura is able to determine each guest’s bothersome areas, and then continues with a massage to work out the specific spots using essential oils.
Families are welcome to the spa as well: In addition to a children’s manicure and pedicure, SpaHalekulani has a selection of Tween to Teen spa options specifically designed for children ages 11-15. Kids can take makeup lessons (a valuable skill for high school); get mani-pedis; or unwind with a three-step mini facial, skin assessment, daily skin-care recommendations and complimentary customized samples. And if they want a souvenir of their visit, the teens can also get a temporary tattoo of a tropical flower, island motif of Polynesian armband.
The renovation also launched new bar concept within its fine dining restaurant La Mer: L’Aperitif was reportedly inspired by the French cocktail culture of the late 19th century, and offers unique cocktails amuse bouches (restaurants this fancy do not serve “bar bites”). And if guests are not interested in the bar, La Mer still has plenty to recommend it: It is Hawaii’s longest consecutively ranked AAA Five Diamond restaurant. Top Tip: Book a week out to reserve La Mer’s love seat, which has great views of Diamond Head. To reserve this table, call at 808-923-2311.
While there is no head concierge by title at Halekulani, we hear the concierge team can pull off some impressive feats either individually or as a group. One guest was planning to propose to his girlfriend over dinner, and had the ring sent on ahead, only to have it stolen en route. Koki reached out to the Tiffany store on Waikiki, and had a replacement ring ready in time for the big moment. (And she said yes, too.)