What to Do Around Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on Hawaii’s Big Island

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel | Hawaii’s Big Island | Kona | Hapuna Beach | Aloha | Travel | Bubbly Moments

On our recent trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, we spent a lovely few days at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. It was the perfect spot to relax and explore the surrounding area.

The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel was founded by none other than Laurance S. Rockefeller in 1965. Apart from having lots of money, he was also a major conservationist. At the time, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel was one of the first environmentally focused resorts to be built.

Why did Rockefeller build Mauna Kea Beach Hotel at this exact spot? Because, in his own words: “Every great beach deserves a great hotel”.

More than 40 years later, it’s oceanfront setting on a soft white sand beach in Kauna’oa Bay on Hawaii’s Kohala coast, make Mauna Kea Beach Hotel a coveted vacation destination.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel | Hawaii’s Big Island | Kona | Hapuna Beach | Aloha | Travel | Bubbly Moments

The History and Art Work of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Rockefeller’s vision for Mauna Kea Beach Hotel was for it to be a “private estate offering a cross-cultural resort experience”. It included acquiring art objects from around the globe. The result is an impressive collection of more than 1,600 pieces of authentic art pieces and artifacts.

Honoring the hotel’s location between East and West, the majority of the art and artifacts come from around the Pacific Rim.

The priceless pieces of art in the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is still displayed as Rockefeller intended – without signs or glass encasements. They decorate the hotel and grounds for guests to discover in an informal way.

One of the better-known pieces in the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel collection is a pink granite Buddha which was sculpted in India in the 12th century. The exquisite sculpture sits beneath a large Bodhi tree. Other valuable and rare pieces include:

  • Two “guard dogs” at the breezeway entrance to the Beachfront wing in the form of mythic bronze guardian dogs from a Thai temple.

  • A 700-year old head of a Buddha from Thailand.

  • The largest collection of handmade Hawaiian quilts. Each one is hand-stitched with up to 1 million stitches.

  • A Garuda (half-man, half-bird) from a Siamese temple.

  • Metal Burmese rain drums from the 17th and 18th centuries.

  • A Japanese tansu chest from the first half of the 20th century.

Complimentary guided art tours are conducted every Saturday morning for guests and non-guests who would like to know more details about the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel art collection.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel | Hawaii’s Big Island | Kona | Hapuna Beach | Aloha | Travel | Bubbly Moments

Top 12 things to do in and around Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Play Golf at Mauna Kea

The USGA standard 18-hole award-winning championship course at Mauna Kea is legendary. It offers such dramatic and breathtaking views of the Kohala Coast that you may not be able to concentrate on your game.

Your ball may very well land in the ocean, with some holes right along the sea and others on cliffs 300 feet above. No-one can ever forget the signature par-3 third hole, featuring a tee box that overlooks a Pacific inlet.

Those who just want to enjoy the surroundings, can opt to hit a few practice balls only. Afterward, there is no better reward than to relax with a signature Mauna Kea cocktail from Number 3 Restaurant.

Challenge your Partner to a Game of Tennis

The Seaside Tennis Club at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel boasts 11 tennis courts, making it one of the biggest tennis attractions in Hawaii. In fact, it’s been named as one of the top 10 tennis resorts in the world.

Guests can rent everything they need for a great match of tennis at the resort’s pro shop. Those who need some help to get started, can take private or group lessons. To spice things up, daily clinics and round robin tourneys are also arranged.

After sweating it up on the court, why not relax in the shade on the club’s comfortable lanai overlooking the sea or just stop at the pool.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel | Hawaii’s Big Island | Kona | Hapuna Beach | Aloha | Travel | Bubbly Moments

Experience Hawaii at the Mauna Kea Luau

An event rather than a place, the Mauna Kea Luau is where you get to experience the music, food and local dances of the Big Island of Hawaii. These traditional beachside events are perfect for guests of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel to experience the local culture.

Memories are made at the Mauna Kea Luau. Who will forget dancing the hula around fires with soulful guitars and the surf providing the background music? And when all the dancing leads to hunger and thirst, tables laden with imu-roasted kalua pig, fresh fish, and piles of island fruit are within easy reach.

Spend the Day on Hapuna Beach

Many people have rated Hapuna Beach the best in Hawaii. It’s half a mile long, as wide as 200 feet and sandy. Did I mention it’s also great for swimming and boogie boarding?

Pack a picnic and do some people watching in between sunbathing and cooling off in the water. Bring your snorkeling gear along too. Although the snorkeling areas aren’t big, they’re still worth exploring. You may even see a sea turtle.

Visit Lake Wai’au

A little emerald gem in the arid volcanic landscape of Mauna Kea, scientists are still baffled by the existence of Lake Wai’au. However, the Hawaiians don’t care that its origins are a mystery. They view it as the navel of the island chain. Some still follow the practice of placing the umbilical cord of their newborns in the lake to establish a strong connection with the gods.

Lake Wai’au may only be 100 m across, but it’s the highest alpine lake in Hawaii and the third highest lake in the US.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel | Hawaii’s Big Island | Kona | Hapuna Beach | Aloha | Travel | Bubbly Moments

Discover Mauna Kea’s Summit Area

Is Mauna Kea the tallest mountain in the world? Yes, if you measure it from the sea floor to the summit at 13,796 ft. They say you are above 40% of the atmosphere if you stand on it. No wonder the summit area is home to the world’s biggest collection of telescopes.

The Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station is geared to entertain and inform while making sure no-one goes hungry or thirsty. You can watch videos, have a picnic, hike, and look at the sun through a solar telescope.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel | Hawaii’s Big Island | Kona | Hapuna Beach | Aloha | Travel | Bubbly Moments

Stargazing at Sunset

While you’re on the summit, why not stay for sunset and join a special stargazing program? There is a free program offered by knowledgeable local volunteer astronomers outside the Visitor Information Station on four nights a week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday). The station also hosts presentations on astronomy and culture on Saturday nights.

Take note that while there are 13 independent multi-national astronomical research facilities with state-of-the-art observatories on the summit, they are not open to the public.

Watch (and swim with) Manta Rays

The coastline of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is known as Manta Ray Point. This is where these graceful creatures come to feed and play in the moonlight. The spectacle is only a short walk down the stone path from the hotel.

Manta Rays have huge wingspans. Watching them glide through the water is an unforgettable experience. Guests can now also swim alongside them under the expert eye of local manta experts. If you’d rather just watch from the shore, why not listen to one of the bi-weekly Manta talks presented by one of these experts?

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel | Hawaii’s Big Island | Kona | Hapuna Beach | Aloha | Travel | Bubbly Moments

Gaze into the Kilauea Volcano

Not far from Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, the world’s most active volcano is lurking. The goddess Pele is said to live inside the Kilauea crater and she is either very angry or very talkative. If you always wanted to get up close and personal with warm, running lava, this is your chance.

The Kilauea Volcano is part of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. You can explore on your own or with a guide. If you do decide to explore on your own, why not ask some of the helpful rangers to help you work out a plan?

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel | Hawaii’s Big Island | Kona | Hapuna Beach | Aloha | Travel | Bubbly Moments

Go Whale-Watching

Humpback whales migrate from Alaska during the winter (November to April) to mate and birth their young in the warm waters of Hawaii. Watching some of the 10,000 magnificent creatures frolicking off the coast near Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is an absolute highlight.

If you’re not lucky enough to spot them from the shore or want to get up close and personal, there are various companies offering whale-watching cruises.

Take a Helicopter Tour

There is more than one reason to take a helicopter tour of Hawaii’s Big Island. The most attractive one is probably to fly over the Kilauea Crater for a bird’s eye view of the volcanic eruption from above.

Other things worth seeing from a different perspective from the air include the observatories on Mauna Kea Summit, the waterfalls in the canyons on the northeast coast, and even whales swimming in the ocean.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel | Hawaii’s Big Island | Kona | Hapuna Beach | Aloha | Travel | Bubbly Moments

Drive to the Polulu Valley

At the end of Highway 270 lies the beautiful Pololu Valley. On the one side there is the ocean, cliffs and a black sand beach and on the other, the green valley floor snaking inland.

Do yourself a favor and hike down to the black sand beach. The trail is not even a mile long and won’t take more than 30 minutes of your time. Just take it easy on the way back if you’re not used to climbing steep hills.

5 tips to make your Mauna Kea trip more enjoyable

  • Dress warmly and be aware of the possibility of altitude sickness if you visit the Mauna Kea Summit. It’s one of a few places in the world where you can drive from sea level to almost 14,000 feet in 2 hours.

  • Arrive early at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station if you want to be on the summit during sunset.

  • The best time to visit the Big Island is between April and June or August and November when it is less crowded.

  • Pack binoculars and a flashlight for visiting Mauna Kea Summit and the Kilauea Crater.

  • Renting a car is the easiest way to get around the island. Why not splurge on a 4-wheel drive to really explore and enjoy all the natural beauty near Mauna Kea Beach Resort Hotel?

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel | Hawaii’s Big Island | Kona | Hapuna Beach | Aloha | Travel | Bubbly Moments

Find out more about things to do and travel recommendations for the other Hawaiian islands in my posts Kauai, Hawaii | Dramatic Cliffs, Tropical Rainforests and Pristine Beaches, Driving the Road to Hana – How to Make the Most of a Day Trip and Best Places to Visit in Oahu Hawaii.

Have you been to Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and the Hawaii’s Big Island? Any tips and recommendations?
How was your experience? 
Comment below!


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  1. Brandi Mollenhauer February 21, 2018 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    Gorgeous pictures!!

  2. bn100 February 21, 2018 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    looks fun

  3. Marcy February 21, 2018 at 11:12 pm - Reply

    Would love to visit Mauna Kea one day❣??

  4. Calvin February 21, 2018 at 11:19 pm - Reply

    This is such a dream resort. I have gone to hawaii once, it’s great.

  5. Amanda V. February 22, 2018 at 1:47 am - Reply

    My fiance’s grandfather used to live in Hawai’i and this post just made me sooooo bummed he has to move back to the mainland States!

  6. Lauren February 22, 2018 at 2:58 am - Reply

    Gorgeous photos

  7. Sharon February 22, 2018 at 6:46 am - Reply


  8. Mariah DeHerrera February 22, 2018 at 9:12 am - Reply

    As a mommy of three toddlers I would sure love to go on a vacation here. The helicopter tour would be amazing!

  9. Melinda Nieto February 22, 2018 at 1:54 pm - Reply

    I haven’t traveled to Hawaii yet but it looks like fun!

  10. Lucie Lavigne February 24, 2018 at 12:38 am - Reply

    Wow this place is simply EVERYTHING it is mesmerizing, extraordinary I have to say… This place as everything you need… it is so BEAUTIFUL to look at, the water front geez it’s great…they have 10 tennis court, the service they give..if you love art work BINGO youfound the place…then there is an amazing gulf overlook on the side of the see and many more things. Thank tou so much for SHARING LOVE IT… @Lucielavigne_sophisticated Beauty Blogger Instagram xox ???

  11. Lynn Mathieu February 24, 2018 at 6:54 am - Reply

    Wow, beautiful trip! I have always wanted to visit Hawaii

  12. nyx February 25, 2018 at 3:52 am - Reply

    simply gorgeous

  13. Vanessa Gomez February 25, 2018 at 10:04 am - Reply

    Awesome blog !

  14. Gabrielle February 25, 2018 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    I think I’d go there just to see the art at the hotel! What a wonderful place to stay.

  15. Vivian alvarez February 26, 2018 at 3:10 pm - Reply


  16. Laura February 27, 2018 at 11:17 am - Reply

    That looks lovely! Beautiful photos!

  17. Kylee February 27, 2018 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    Looks awesome

  18. Jasmin Williams February 28, 2018 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    Awesome awesome !!! Nice website

  19. Ivy May February 28, 2018 at 4:52 pm - Reply

    I would love to visit Hawaii. I love all of your pictures from there. It’s so beautiful

  20. ines March 5, 2018 at 9:12 am - Reply

    excellent place very beautiful

  21. Phyllis P March 5, 2018 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    I hope to one day visit Hawaii. It looks so beautiful.

  22. eda gur March 6, 2018 at 9:39 am - Reply

    Wow, it looks magical!

  23. Holly Thomas March 13, 2018 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    Hawaii is on my bucket list and these pictures made it #1.

  24. K Ruiz March 20, 2018 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    Wow this is a place I would definitely visit! So beautiful

  25. Julielove16 March 20, 2018 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    It looks so amazing!!! Definitely makes me want to visit ?❤️

  26. María March 20, 2018 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    Beautiful ❤️

    • María moralea March 20, 2018 at 4:06 pm - Reply


  27. Dana March 20, 2018 at 9:19 pm - Reply

    Hawaii is on my bucket list. These pictures are making me want to book right now.

  28. Terry March 21, 2018 at 12:06 am - Reply

    What a beautiful place to visit with a lot of activities to do. I love looking at all of the photos and would love to visit Hawaii one day as it has been a bucket list item.

  29. Cassandra D March 21, 2018 at 1:02 am - Reply

    Hawaii is beautiful. I like that this article has tips and stunning pictures.

  30. mhepz March 21, 2018 at 4:23 am - Reply

    You should try Palawan, Philippines if you love to travel. A must!

  31. Lindsay A. March 21, 2018 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    Awesome writeup – made me feel as if I was being given a tour. :D I’ve never been but would love to!!

  32. Ranae March 22, 2018 at 1:39 am - Reply

    Great post! I’m having a hard time deciding between Mauna Kea and Hapuna Beach for my trip this fall, gorgeous!

  33. Phyllis A Huebbe April 24, 2018 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    Awesome post, I felt like I was getting a guided tour.The pictures are gorgeous!

  34. Nigel Soper May 16, 2018 at 11:52 am - Reply

    Do I take it you would recommend a visit to Hawaii then? – it seems an absolutely wonderful place

  35. Sarah L July 1, 2018 at 12:08 am - Reply

    I’ve been keeping track of the volcano and all its lava for the past 2 months. They even had to close the park.

  36. Tatiana July 2, 2018 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    I would like visit to Hawaii.

  37. tiffany dayton August 10, 2018 at 11:35 am - Reply

    I would love to go there.Beautiful!

  38. Calvin August 10, 2018 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    Wonderful relaxing views. I like the green plants. I also like the vast sky

  39. Bobbiejo Patten August 13, 2018 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    I dreeam of going to Hawaii someday! So Beautiful!!

  40. Bobbiejo Patten August 13, 2018 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    what a Gorgeous place to visit! Someday

  41. Denise Low August 19, 2018 at 5:26 pm - Reply

    You are so lucky. Love to visit someday.

  42. Nena Sinclair October 3, 2018 at 9:58 pm - Reply

    Beautiful! Hawaii is my idea of heaven on earth!

  43. Brian L Gregory November 1, 2018 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    The big Island gets so much less press than the other islands, but it is gorgeous and there’s a lot to do.

  44. Sarah L November 11, 2018 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    When I visited the big island I stayed on the other side of the island. The place is beautiful and the stars are closer.

  45. Diane Adams November 23, 2018 at 12:35 am - Reply

    I’ve heard Hawaii is boring… this makee it seem anything but!

  46. courtney hennagir December 3, 2018 at 9:05 pm - Reply

    This looks like heaven! I would love to be sitting around that fire pit right now. Definitely adding to my bucket list!

  47. Dharma Erazo January 8, 2019 at 12:37 am - Reply

    Hawaii is SO Gorgeous wow what a great Blog post on this beautiful vacation! Wow I have to say this is one of my bucket list 100%. Breathtaking and the photos are just spectacular!!

  48. Oscar Brumel February 20, 2019 at 3:45 am - Reply

    I just wanted to say… Amazing photography. I like your style of color editing and image composition.

  49. Brandon England May 3, 2019 at 11:32 pm - Reply

    I could only dream of traveling to Hawaii. I know I’ve always wanted to go ever since seeing pictures when I was younger. In magazines or TV shows. I think it must be really expensive to live down there. So I’ve only heard. Really nice to hear of your travels and see your beautiful pictures. Hope to see and hear more from you in the future! Good Luck in every endeavor. Thank you!

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