Paradise on the Big Island… and Above It

Mauna Kea Beach HOTEL’s Beachfront Wing can be booked as a “hotel within a hotel” experience for large group gatherings.
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel’s Beachfront Wing can be booked as a “hotel within a hotel” experience for large group gatherings.

Commonly referred to as “The Big Island,” Hawaii Island is home to both an iconic, five-star resort that just completed its 50th year of operation and a helicopter operator that allows VIPs to soar over active volcanoes or to make Dorothy proud by literally flying somewhere over the rainbow.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel 

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel has become a landmark on Hawaii Island having recently completed its 50th year of pampering A-listers on the Aloha State.

The hotel entices older couples and smaller families with its prime location on Hawaii’s best beach, Kauna‘oa Beach, and uses its tastefully designed rooms and views to keep them from wanting to leave.

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The best rooms for families are located in the Beachfront Wing, which houses 90 rooms. These are the most requested rooms on the property along with the Deluxe Ocean Front rooms, which are better suited for couples. Note: All even-numbered rooms in the main building and all Beachfront rooms have ocean views. Tip: A-listers looking to jet set between December 20 and January 2 should be booked one year in advance.

Hint: The entire Beachfront Wing can be taken over and booked as a “hotel within a hotel” experience for family reunions or other large group gatherings. Adjoining alcove entryways create an ideal two-room configuration for families on this floor.

Beachfront Guest Rooms of the hotel offer views of the lawn and the ocean.
Beachfront Guest Rooms of the hotel offer views of the lawn and the ocean.

Luxury Travel Advisor stayed in a Plumeria Beachfront Suite. Note: There’s one of these per floor. Ours had two bathrooms, a living room with a dining area, and a bedroom with a king-sized bed. The best part of the room is that the terrace offers both garden and full ocean views. Nice Touch: The flat-screen LG TV in the living area rotates so guests can be entertained while dining or while sitting on the couch. There are also ocean views from the king bed and the tub located in the bathroom.

Advisors looking to meet any special room requests should reach out to Libby Child ([email protected]; 808-880-3442), leisure sales account executive.

Multiple companies offer VIP ground transportation services, which may be pre-arranged through the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel concierge. Note: Sunshine Helicopters has a landing pad within Mauna Kea resort and private helicopters may land there with prior arrangements.

The spa has four single treatment rooms and one “luxury” couples suite, which includes a whirlpool Jacuzzi tub. Hint: The most requested treatment is the 80-minute Lomi Lomi Massage, which is the traditional healing massage of Hawaiian royalty. It is a combination of long, gentle strokes using the forearms to help induce deep relaxation and well-being.

Note: Young adults, ages 13 to 15 years, can receive a spa massage or facial services, although parents are required to be in the treatment room. For teenagers 16 to 17 years old, parents must remain on the spa premises for the duration of the treatment.

Advisors can contact Barbara Bates ([email protected]; 808-882-5630), spa director, for special occasions.

Joe Pike, the writer of this article, experienced the Volcano & Kohala Landing tour.
Joe Pike, the writer of this article, experienced the Volcano & Kohala Landing tour.

Guests and locals are welcome at the hotel’s signature restaurant, Manta & Pavilion Wine Bar, which focuses on locally sourced ingredients prepared elegantly and deliciously. Note: During high season, or when there are special requests, reservations made two weeks in advance are recommended. Otherwise, reservations may be secured 24 hours in advance. 

Hint: Those interested in a tasty pre-dinner cocktail should sip on Mauna Kea’s signature drink, The Frederico, which is made of Bacardi Light rum, Jack Daniel’s, pineapple, passion fruit, guava and orange juices with a splash of grenadine. Be careful though, as these cocktails pack quite a punch and are easily deceiving since the taste of the whiskey and rum are overshadowed by all the fruit juices.

For VIPs looking to tie the knot, with any three-night stay, full wedding coordination services are available, including assistance with venue location, bride and groom lei, officiant, photography services, cake, music and salon services. Packages are also available.

Advisors should connect with LaRoma Tomosada ([email protected]; 808-880-3424), catering and conference services manager.

At Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, guests enjoy shopping in the golf and tennis pro shops, the Beach Shop Boutique, Tiffany’s Art Showroom and Hildgund Jewelers. Hint: The Queens and Kings’ Shopping Centers at Waikoloa are located just a 10-minute drive away, while the Shops at Mauna Lani are about 15 minutes away.

Note: As of January 14, the hotel became a member of the Autograph Collection, Marriott International’s distinctive portfolio of high style, high personality independent hotels. This agreement will allow Mauna Kea to participate in Marriott Rewards loyalty program and present the hotel to millions of high-value Rewards Members.

Luxury travel advisors with general inquiries on customizing the perfect getaway for A-listers should reach out to Nikki Reeves ([email protected]; 808-882-5707), head concierge.

Paradise Helicopters

VIPs looking for a life-lasting memory outside of the Mauna Kea property are recommended to book a helicopter tour at Paradise Helicopters. The company offers between 10 to 20 percent commission, depending on annual volume.

Paradise Helicopters offers air adventures across the Hawaiian Island. It allows guests to soar over active volcanoes, hover next to waterfalls or take coffee tours to taste some traditional Kona coffee.
Paradise Helicopters offers air adventures across the Hawaiian Island. It allows guests to soar over active volcanoes, hover next to waterfalls or take coffee tours to taste some traditional Kona coffee.

Paradise Helicopters, which just wrapped up its 15th year in business, offers A-listers tours of everything from active volcanoes oozing with plumes of molten lava to valley tours where countless numbers of waterfalls can be spotted to coffee tours where passengers can land and taste some traditional Kona coffee.

The company is located in several of the Hawaii islands and its Kona office is located at the Kona International Airport (KOA), which is about 45 minutes south of the resort. Note: Paradise Helicopters can arrange transportation for all VIPs.

There are a total of 17 pilots working for Paradise Helicopters. We were told three of Paradise Helicopters’ pilots are former Marine One pilots. Marine One is the call sign of any United States Marine Corps aircraft carrying the president of the United States. Many of the other pilots are ex-military pilots. Besides perhaps some of the safest pilots you can hope for, all pilots are experts in the topography of the island.

Note: Calvin “Cal” Dorn, Paradise Helicopters’ owner, director of operations and pilot, has been a long-time resident of Hawaii and Hawaii Island, and focuses on “stewardship” of Hawaii’s natural resources, affording the company the opportunity to provide unique landing experiences for VIPs that other helicopter companies cannot. Paradise Helicopters currently holds contracts with the State of Hawaii, County of Hawaii, County of Honolulu, United States Federal Government and Department of Hawaiian Homeland.

Note: There is no lava guarantee. If there is no lava visibility, it is beyond the company’s control as the elements change constantly and quickly. Passengers may be able to see lava on one flight, then get nothing on the next. Tip: If the pilot feels it is unsafe to fly due to dangerous weather, Paradise Helicopters will give VIPs the option to rebook or receive a full tour refund.

We experienced the Volcano & Kohala Landing tour, in which we were supposed to see lava activity and also land at one of the many waterfalls on the way. The waterfalls were spectacular and require a short hike to get to. We weren’t lucky enough to see any lava because of poor visibility and generally poor weather conditions, but we did fly over a few rainbows. In fact, rainbows are quite common to spot, but also aren’t a guarantee. If VIPs see one, however, spotting one from the ground will never be the same. High above, they appear to be closer to full circles than simple arches.

Should the volcano portion of the tour be canceled due to unsafe weather conditions, the company will offer guests the opportunity for a modified tour to the Kohala mountains, where the waterfalls and valleys are absolutely spectacular. Hint: We were told the valleys and waterfalls are the pilots’ favorite tours.

There are about 15 different tours available. The newest tour is the Volcano by Air and Land tour on Kona. Hint: The most popular tours are the Circle Island Experience, the Volcano & Kohala Landing and the Volcano by Air & Land tours.

Paradise Helicopters’ fleet includes one Hughes 500 on Oahu, which seats four passengers plus the pilot, and three more in Hilo and four Bell 407 planes on Kona that seat six passengers plus the pilot. Note: The Bell 407 is faster and more efficient, allowing the pilot to reach a highlight point faster and remain longer. Fun Fact: The Hughes 500 is a replica of the helicopter ’80s TV character Magnum P.I. flew.

Hint: Charter flights are available. This is an emerging segment for Paradise, as they are able to customize and combine all types of activities on multiple islands. The company flies about 35,000 passengers a year. Charters make up about 5 percent of that total business.

Advisors should reach out to Waynette Kwon ([email protected]; 808-836 -3336), director of marketing.

Advisor Insight

“Make sure to make dinner reservations at Manta, the restaurant on the water at Mauna Kea,” says Patti Lehman of The Travel Agent Inc. in Carmel, IN. “Each night brings the opportunity to see the manta rays glowing just steps from where you are eating. Have after-dinner drinks on the Copper Terrace and relax listening to local Hawaiian music.”

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