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Kohala resorts - "resort experience" - worth it for us?

Salem, OR
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Kohala resorts - "resort experience" - worth it for us?

We've visited Maui and Kauai in the past and will visit the Big Island this year. We usually spend most of our time with small, cost-efficient condos as "home base" and do our own cooking etc., but we also like to spend a night or two somewhere more special. I have plans for our typical setup for a couple nights on the east side (so we can do VNP, Mauna Kea, and other east side things) and several in the larger Kona area (for snorkeling, swimming and general exploration), but I'm having a rough time picking a place that might be a good splurge. (Some of you are going to giggle at what we consider splurge, but read on.)

On Maui we've stayed at a big oceanfront resort in Kapalua and at the Plantation Inn in Lahaina - both good, though in very different ways (the big resort felt luxurious but impersonal, while the PI was so private and serene). On Kauai we checked out the St. Regis but, for around half the cost, we actually stayed at the condo resort next door (which felt super luxe to us with its modern layouts, pools and orchids, plus we could take a short walk or ride a golf-cart-shuttle over to St. Regis for dining). The experience I'm looking for is where everything you could want to relax and enjoy is right there, the feeling that staff is taking care of everything or available to take care of everything, and you never have to go back to your car (or have one in the first place, I guess). Touches like included activities, welcome drinks, and so on are nice. We want a great view (we had mountain and bay by the St. Regis, but typically oceanfront elsewhere unless oceanview is really a dead-on view).

The issue on the Kohala coast seems to be budget. I would like to do this at under $350 a night. (And I'm boosting that from what we've managed on Kauai and Maui...)

So, I'm looking at resorts on the Kohala coast and having trouble finding something that I think might fit into this description at rates we can tolerate. I'm sure the Four Seasons could do us at $1k a night or so, and the Mauna Lani looks like it offers most of what I'm looking for (and everyone seems to love it), but oceanfront starts at $440 in August.

Am I overlooking an obvious choice that suits our budget? Am I overlooking something special that's not oceanfront but does have great views of some other stripe (like mountain views on Kauai)? Should I be looking somewhere that isn't the Kohala coast?

We're a couple (no kids, and not looking for a super family-oriented place), snorkel and swim a lot, foodies, explorers (by car or foot). All advice welcome!

52 replies to this topic
Washington DC...
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1. Re: Kohala resorts - "resort experience" - worth it for us?

Mauna Lani condos got overbuilt and then with the recession, ended up going for lots less than hotel rooms. To see the ocean you need Terace or Point, but Palm Villas cost less and are walkable to the beach. Ka Milo are nice you drive to the beach.

But for a great view, you will pay more. Condos are not serviced, usually. But you can eat breakfast in peace :).

Seattle, Washington
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2. Re: Kohala resorts - "resort experience" - worth it for us?

We stay within Mauna Lani when we visit BI. We have stayed at ML Terrace for the view but honestly we prefer Golf Villas and Ka Milo which offer golf course views and Mauna Kea - it's so peaceful and really is beautiful. We prefer condos to hotels and we especially like the two story corner units in the Golf Villas as you get an actual "backyard" so more outdoor space. The access to the beach club gives us ocean views whenever we want them. When we stay in Kapalua I like the distant ocean views but I really have come to love the golf course views with the "yard" for more outdoor room in the evenings.

Waikoloa, Hawaii
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3. Re: Kohala resorts - "resort experience" - worth it for us?

Have you looked at Hali'i Kai, Kolea or Hilton Kingsland? Hali'i Kai and Kolea are condo resorts with properties that are oceanfront or oceanview. Hali'i Kai has a private restaurant while Kolea is closer to the beach and the shopping. Both are 8-10 years old. Hilton Kingsland is even newer.

Canby, Oregon
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4. Re: Kohala resorts - "resort experience" - worth it for us?

I second Zubsin. We have stayed twice at Mauna Lani. Not with ocean view, but superb accommodations. Houses were set in groups of four, but not at all crowded.

We rented in June and as I recall, with taxes and cleaning they ended up being around $300/night. That was for 3 bedrooms.

Big Island, Hawaii
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5. Re: Kohala resorts - "resort experience" - worth it for us?

Ok, first I want to caution you that for your "typical setup" (I.e., your condo) for what you want to do, you want a condo on the Kohala Coast, not in Kailua Kona or environs. It sounds like what you're envisioning is two nights on the east side, then 4-5 in Kailua Kona, then ending with a Kohala Coast resort. This would not be best practice, IMO. Choose a condo in the Mauna Lani or Waikoloa Beach resort areas for the majority of your west side time. $250 per night, all in, plus or minus, will get you a very nice condo with central air (necessary in August). You might be able to find something in the $200 range as well in Waikoloa Beach (all in) or even a little less.

As far as the resort splurge, there aren't any resorts except on the Kohala Coast (although technically the FS is on the North Kona coast), so you're looking at the right area. The least expensive oceanfront rooms are at the Hapuna Prince. Generally you can find those in the $300s, so check around. It's not a great hotel, but the rooms are huge and it's on a big, long, lifeguarded beach (the longest one on the island) nice for swimming in summer. It's a busy beach by BI standards, but the hotel end is quieter. There's lesser known and quite good snorkeling by the oceanfront rooms in a rocky cove on the north end of the property that really only hotel guests can access easily. Service is less polished than at the higher end resorts but very friendly. There is a shuttle to the Mauna Kea hotel and beach, which has a beautiful and very quiet beach that is very difficult to access if you're not staying there due to the very limited public parking spaces.

$440 sounds about right for ML oceanfront, their standard rooms start around $300 in summer. Same for the Fairmont, although sometimes there are deals there, so check it out. Mauna Kea will be out of the budget as is Lava Lava, and I don't recommend the Waikoloa Marriott, so that's pretty much it.

As far as whether it's worth it, I understand the appeal, but in your case, especially since you should be looking at a Kohala Coast condo anyway in these very same resort areas, it might be better for you to forego it and put that money toward a nicer condo, walking distance to beaches and snorkeling, like the Mauna Lani Terrace. There are some one bedroom units there for around $250/nt. in general though don't limit your search to one bedrooms, there are hardly any, so most couples include the two bedrooms in their searches.

Hawaii
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6. Re: Kohala resorts - "resort experience" - worth it for us?

First I have to question that you are well set with your efficiency condo. it is very possible that you think you are but are not, not for the activities you mention.

You're not missing anything. You probably won't get a full ocean view from your room, full resort feel, everything you need and want at your fingertips, walkable to good snorkeling, for the price.

You'll want to stay at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, the Point, and the Terrace. From the Point, you can walk to the beach and snorkeling, view is great, and there's a nice restaurant, but it's not an easy walk to the other shopping and dining.

The Terrace offers next door to hotel location, but no free use of the amenities.

Honestly I would go for the hotel. I think you would enjoy the on call hotel shuttle that gets you around without the car. Included activities aren't really a thing here, although there will be a discount on some things that comes with the resort fee.

A nice aspect to the Mauna Lani is they do not (did not when last I stayed, but all is subject to change, so ask) charge you for a cabana setup. Fairmont does. It's not a luxury cabana, but the location is great, and you can have it all day.

The Mauna Lani offers paid room upgrades that you can purchase at check in if you need a better view. The advantage is it MAY be less money and you can see the room and approve it first. The con is it's subject to availability. The Mauna Lani POV varies depending on location. It's not a hotel where all the views are similar.

Edited: 09 February 2017, 04:17
Big Island, Hawaii
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7. Re: Kohala resorts - "resort experience" - worth it for us?

Oh, also, Mauna Kea (the mountain) is best done from the west side, not east. Most of the recommended summit tours leave from the west side, and if you're planning to drive yourself and skip the summit and just go to the VIS for the nightly stargazing, the drive back west is much easier and less treacherous and time consuming.

Hawaii
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8. Re: Kohala resorts - "resort experience" - worth it for us?

Shea and I were writing at the same time, so to tag on to her post, as you can see, I agree you are probably a poor course with some Kona option although you haven't said what place. You could do as she suggests to improve the overall experience.

YOU NEED A/C in a condo in August, central A/C, that is not ancient and is maintained well, which you won't get in an efficiency. The cheap places often smell from mold in the system/ducts.

The drive to any place north of Kailua Kona for exploration is either tedious (lower highway) or on a somewhat dangerous route (the upper highway). South has a lot of choked traffic at peak times especially from school bus stops. Kohala Coast is a way better base as it is gateway to North Kohala, Hamakua Coast, Hilo.

Washington DC...
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9. Re: Kohala resorts - "resort experience" - worth it for us?

If you stay at a Mauna Lani condo, unless you decide to spring for the Four Seasons, it is not worth going to any hotel for one night. The ML condo complexes have their own pool and jacuzzi setups, some much nicer than Mauna Lani hotel's. They all have a/c--these are places that originally were intended to sell for $1m and up.

The beaches are the same. You get to park in the lot and use the resort chairs at Makaiwa. You can drink and eat at the hotel beach bar and grill, paying via cash or credit card. Napua is there at the Beach Club.

Use the $ and eat at the Four Seasons. We had dinner there 3 times lastbtrip.

Edited: 09 February 2017, 05:00
Salem, OR
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10. Re: Kohala resorts - "resort experience" - worth it for us?

KamaainaK and SheaG, can you expand on what's wrong with Kailua Kona? I have seen this sentiment elsewhere but without much explanation. What are your negative bullet points for that area?

(I see traffic and unfun roads noted here - so noted!)

We're not tied into anywhere yet so don't panic on my account. ;) Trust, we'll have AC. (We somehow survived an unusually humid time on Kauai without AC, and it was pleasant anyway, but I am not anxious to do that again...)

Edited: 09 February 2017, 06:09
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