Hawaii Island

Six Kona-Kohala Coast Resort Communities You Should Know

The Kohala Coast is unique in Hawai‘i for its incomparable, rugged beauty, as well as for the residential resort lifestyle enjoyed by so many of the area’s residents. It all started with a barren coastline in the mid-1960’s, with dramatic black lava fields, white sand beaches, and snow-capped volcanoes as a backdrop. Little else existed along this coastline until venture capitalist Laurance S. Rockefeller was invited by Hawaii’s governor to tour the state in search of investment opportunities. Rockefeller chose the picturesque crescent of white sand at Kauna‘oa Bay to build the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

At the time, there were no roads, electricity or water running to this part of Hawai‘i Island. Today, all that has changed and the area is a thriving hub. In fact, it has been Hawaii’s premier luxury real estate market for several decades, outmatched only by the recent boom in Honolulu’s urban core.

Here are six Kohala Coast resort communities you should know – each with its own series of distinctive neighborhoods that everything from penthouse living, to condos, townhomes, luxury oceanfront estates, and vacant estate lots waiting for you to build your dream home.

Mauna Kea Resort

Centered around the legendary Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Mauna Kea is a residential resort community that has served as the blueprint for resort communities around the globe. Developed in the mid-1960s, the hotel opened to critical acclaim in 1965, and immediately became a hotspot for Hollywood stars. Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is reputed to be one of the first resorts to incorporate a residential component. The hotel was granted the American Institute of Architects Honor Awards in 1967, and was included in 2007 in their top 150 list of “America’s Favorite Architecture.”

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel’s stunning mid-century modern design takes its cues from the surrounding landscape, blending seamlessly into the surrounding landscape and topography. The stonework is the exact color of the sand of the beach below and the hotel is built into the natural rise of the hill at the edge of Kauna‘oa Bay. It is the lowest density construction of any resort on the Kohala Coast, giving guests and residents plenty of privacy and space.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel as seen from the other end of Kauna‘oa Bay. Photo Courtesy of Winston Welborn.

The entire hotel property underwent a two-year, $150 million renovation, completed in 2008. They successfully preserved the hotel’s understated beauty and charm, while adding every modern luxury available. The hotel’s highly progressive architecture and aesthetic have been modernized with carefully chosen details in the guest rooms and public spaces, making it contemporary without diminishing its sense of permanence.

In 2015, as the hotel celebrated its 50th birthday, Mauna Kea was inducted into the Historic Hotels of America. At that time, the celebrated Copper Terrace became the earth-toned Copper Bar, punctuated with copper-hued accents. The hotel’s signature restaurant Manta, named for the majestic rays often seen swimming nearby, underwent an expansion that added a new lounge, a private dining room, two new Vista Decks, poolside cabanas, central atrium decking and seating, new furnishings, and additional meetings spaces, including the Kauna‘oa Ballroom.

Notwithstanding these luxury upgrades, many residents and guests are drawn by the hotel’s enduring charm, incomparable art collection, and exquisite setting. The hotel remains one of the world’s most sought-after destinations, attracting visitors from around the globe. Possessed of an enduring allure, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is a mid-century marvel that is as relevant today as it has ever been. Homeowners in the nearby residential developments have the option of becoming a member of the Club at Mauna Kea to enjoy all these same luxuries, including beach and pool access, towel service, lounge chairs, beach umbrellas and signing privileges throughout the resort

A view of Kauna‘oa Bay from a room at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Photo Courtesy of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

Today’s Mauna Kea offers every imaginable luxury to hotel guests and club member residents. Amenities include the award-winning Robert Trent Jones 18-hole golf course (updated in recent years by his son, Rees Jones), an award-winning tennis facility, a deluxe spa and salon, a fitness center, luxury retail shops, and fine dining restaurants that source the freshest ingredients from local fishermen, ranchers, and farmers. .

Mauna Kea’s exceptional resort services also provide every convenience to both guests and club members. Their staff is available 24/7 to attend to every need. They handle home management and vacation rental bookings for the ten distinctive Mauna Kea Resort neighborhoods. They schedule spa treatments, airport pick-ups and tee times, as well as maid, yard and pool service appointments. They stock refrigerators and arrange private chefs for incoming residents and guests, for a turnkey vacation experience.

The perfect crescent of white sand at Kauna‘oa Bay on the Kohala Coast of Hawai‘i Island. Photo Credit: Winston Welborn.

Of course, there’s also the unparalleled beauty of Kauna‘oa Bay, a perfect crescent of white, sugar powder sand beach. Many Big Island residents claim it as the most beautiful beach on the island. Did we mention the views? Yes, all of this comes with a snow-capped volcano as its backdrop, with viewpoints from sea level to 1,000 feet above it. Residents in the ten distinctive neighborhoods at Mauna Kea Resort are treated to views of Maui and the five volcanoes that make up Hawai‘i Island.

For more information about Mauna Kea Resort community, its neighborhoods, and wide variety of real estate opportunities, please click here.  You will find a brief history of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and learn about what inspired Rockefeller to develop in this secluded location in our recent post Mission Mauna Kea.

The Kauna‘oa vine, for which the bay is named, grows along the shoreline at the iconic Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Photo Courtesy of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

Mauna Lani Resort

Also known as Kalahuipua’a or The Gathering Place, this 3,200-acre resort community boasts more than three glorious miles of oceanfront and two beautiful hotel properties – the 350-room Mauna Lani Auberge Resorts Collection and the luxurious Fairmont Orchid, with its lush tropical gardens, waterfalls and tranquil lagoon. Residents of the 15 Mauna Lani neighborhoods enjoy two 18-hole championship golf courses, a Hawaiian spa, a fitness club, tennis, luxury retail, casual and fine dining and a beach club exclusive to property owners.

It’s considered one of the most eco-friendly and innovative “green” resorts in the world, at the leading edge of environmental stewardship. Golf course irrigation is accomplished using brackish water from nearby wells, and the energy needs to supply nearly 3 million gallons per day are generated through solar power innovations. Mauna Lani generates more than 1 million kilowatt hours of solar energy through a robust photovoltaic system that powers the majority of the resort’s daytime water pumping needs.

Mauna Lani has a particular focus on preserving the beautiful surroundings and natural resources, but also on preserving the Hawaiian culture in this historic locale. Walking trails throughout the resort honor burial and archaeological sites, as well as petroglyph fields; they reveal shelter caves, royal fishponds, lava formations, and early foot trails forged by early Native Hawaiian settlers more than 800 years ago.

Green fairways against a dramatic black lava backdrop at Mauna Lani South Course, adjacent to the Ke Kailani resort community in Mauna Lani Resort.


Kohala Coast’s newest residential resort community spans 450 acres and boasts 1.5 miles of beachfront. It is the first new development of its kind on the Big Island in more than a decade. Kohanaiki is a family-friendly luxury residential resort nestled amongst lava fields on the spectacular Kona-Kohala Coast. The resort features a Rees Jones-designed golf course on par with the top golf clubs in the country, boasting six oceanfront holes – more than any golf course in Hawai‘i. However, Kohanaiki also offers an experience that goes well beyond great golf.

Kohanaiki residents point to the club’s broad range of amenities and services as the big draw. A 67,000 square-foot Member Clubhouse and Spa, which opened in late 2016, serves as the hub of the community’s activity. Built on two levels, it is equipped with a four-lane bowling alley, a movie theatre, a wine tasting room, a sumptuous spa, and dining options that range from casual to ultra-fine dining. Designed by architect Shay Zak, the clubhouse spans 6.6 acres and features a 120-seat restaurant, private dining rooms, fitness and movement areas, a 25-meter lap and recreation pool, a members shop, and a cigar lounge.

Kohanaiki also features a world-class tennis facility, a members-only beach, a Beach Club & Pool, and uniquely, an adventure team. Referred to as the A-team, the adventure team is comprised of experienced ocean and land guides who offer members unique activities and adventures that promise a glimpse of the real Hawai‘i. All of these first-class amenities are complemented by a welcoming, relaxed environment that reveals a genuine sense of community among resident members.

Beautifully clear water along the Kohala coastline. Photo Courtesy of Winston Welborn.

Hualālai Resort

If you’re looking for name brand luxury, the Hualālai Resort is a master-planned residential resort community built around the intimate, 243-room, Five Diamond awarded Four Seasons Resort on the Kohala Coast. The resort amenities include the highly acclaimed Hualālai Sports Club & Spa and two 18-hole championships golf courses. The private Tom Weiskopf-designed course is exclusively reserved for homeowners who have opted for a club membership, and the semi-private 18-Jack Nicklaus-designed course is right at residents’ doorsteps.

The Ke‘olu Golf Clubhouse and the Canoe Club overlook the beautiful Kuki‘o Bay and active residents can also take advantage of the resort’s four swimming pools, an eight-court tennis facility, along with miles of shoreline walking, running and biking trails. Watersports include scuba diving and snorkeling along the pristine beaches, tide pools and coral reef that fronts the resort, as well as local surfing and fishing. As if that weren’t enough, there’s nearby hiking, biking, and Hawaiian cultural activities.

Real estate opportunities at Hualalai offer a range of options within a number of small, unique neighborhoods. Those looking to build a custom home can find vacant estate lots, or for those wanting a faster move-in, there are luxury villas, condos, townhomes, and single-family homes available for purchase.

Hawaiian wildflowers with Mauna Kea in the distance, on the Big Island of Hawai‘i.

Kūkiʻo Golf and Beach Club

Situated next to the Hualālai Resort, you’ll find the private residential Kūkiʻo Golf and Beach Club. It boasts a 10-hole Tom Fazio-designed Short Course, in addition to a full, 18-hole Tom Fazio-designed championship golf course nestled into the slopes of Hualālai Mountain. For your days off the fairways, there’s naturally a full-service Clubhouse and Spa, a fitness facility, island-fresh cuisine at the private Beach Club, a tennis facility, and fine dining options at the Kūkiʻo Golf Clubhouse.

Residents can indulge in a full range of fitness and watersports activities through the Kūkiʻo Outdoor Pursuits and Mauka Fitness programs. Activities are designed to share Hawaii’s unique cultural history and traditions and to explore the hidden treasures of Big Island of Hawaiʻi. Resident favorites include outrigger canoe paddling, outrigger canoe sailing, surfing, ocean and land fitness training, swimming with dolphins, hikes to a black sand beach, bike expeditions, and customized tours.

Kūkiʻo properties include custom home sites, luxury cottages, and expansive single-family estates with incredible ocean views.

An ocean and mountain view from the Big Island’s Kohala Coast.

Waikoloa Beach Resort

Waikoloa Beach Resort is a 1,352-acre resort community built around Anaeho’omalu Bay, a crescent-shaped beach that features two oceanfront hotels: The Hilton Waikoloa Village and the Waikoloa Beach Marriott. Locally known as “A-Bay,” it’s ideal for surfing, windsurfing, swimming and sunset cocktail sipping. The resort features two award-winning, 18-hole golf courses –– the Waikoloa Beach Golf Course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and the Tom Weiskopf-designed Waikoloa Kings’ Golf Course.

Residents enjoy the luxurious Kohala Spa, a world-class tennis club, a host of Hawaiian cultural activities, and a myriad of luxury retail and dining options. The King’s Shops, located at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott, is an upscale mix of boutiques and fine dining, offering some of the very best of Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine and luxury retail shopping. Nearby, the Queens’ Marketplace is a more casual shopping destination offering big-name surf shops, plus all your favorite local fashion brands and aloha wear. A variety of real estate opportunities are available, at a wide range of price points. At Waikoloa Beach Resort, you’ll find everything from oceanfront homes and estate lots to resort villas and condominiums.

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