Timeless Mauna Kea
History of Mauna Kea
An idea for the island's future
In 1960 Hawaii's Governor William Quinn invited American venture capitalist Laurance S. Rockefeller to visit the Big Island and scout beachfront sites for potential resorts. A noted conservationist and lover of the outdoors, Mr. Rockefeller believed that buildings should conform to, not intrude on, beautiful natural surroundings. As they flew over the white sand crescent of Kauna‘oa Beach, Mr. Rockefeller asked if he could go in for a swim. From the water, he looked upslope at the towering summit of Mauna Kea and was inspired to create a great hotel that reflected the spirit of this special place.
When it opened in 1965, The Mauna Kea was the most expensive hotel ever built at the time, at $15 million. Praised by travel writers and critics worldwide, the luxury resort hotel was named one of the "Three greatest hotels in the world" by Esquire magazine, one of "10 best buildings of 1966" by Fortune, and presented with an honors award by the American Institute of Architects.
Following his business strategy of "experting," hiring the best person for the job, he contracted Belt Collins, site planners and engineers, Skidmore Owings Merrill, building architects, Davis Allen, interior designer, and Robert Trent Jones, golf course architect, who pioneered a technique of creating soil from lava rock. The Mauna Kea Golf Course debuted with a televised "Big 3" match between Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player before the Hotel opened.
Experimenting on the beach
A noted conservationist and lover of the outdoors, Mr. Rockefeller believed that buildings should conform to, not intrude on, the natural surroundings of a place. His original concept for The Mauna Kea luxury resort was a cluster of individual cottages along the beach-with no televisions or air-conditioning to interfere with the natural experience. SOM produced a dome-shaped model that was almost washed out by a tropical storm, so they literally went back to the drawing board for a single-building design by lead architect Charles Bassett. Air-conditioning proved to be a must in the warm South Kohala climate, but from 1965 to 1995, the Hotel operated contentedly without guestroom televisions.
When it opened in July, 1965 with 154 guestrooms, The Mauna Kea luxury resort was the most expensive hotel ever built, at $15 million. Praised by travel writers and critics worldwide, it was named one of the "Three greatest hotels in the world" by Esquire magazine, one of "10 best buildings of 1966" by Fortune, and presented with an honors award by the American Institute of Architects in 1967. The "exorbitant" room rates started at $43, including breakfast and dinner in the Pavilion, which featured rotating menus of international cuisines.
The "new wing"
In 1968, the Beachfront wing was added, designed by Honolulu architects Wimberly, Whisenand, Allison, Tong and Goo and interiors by Phyllis Brownlee. John Young created original paintings for the guestrooms and for the television lounge named after him. The Batik restaurant and Lounge were also added at that time.
Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel
The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel was closed for renovation in 1994, a few months before Hapuna's opening in August of that year. Designed by Wimberly Allison Tong and Goo (who created The Mauna Kea's Beachfront wing) Hapuna offered a more contemporary take on Hawai‘i hospitality. With all ocean-facing rooms and a spacious, multi-tiered atrium lobby that captured a breathtaking pool-to-ocean view, luxury meeting spaces and first-class business services, ultra-exclusive Hapuna Villa and more, Hapuna was the perfect completion to the Mauna Kea Resort experience. The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel reopened in December 1995 and the two hotels in tandem offered a world-class resort and residential experience second to none.
The "next generation"
Following an unprecedented $150 million renovation, the luxurious Mauna Kea Beach Hotel reopened in December 2008. With a fresh new expression of the unmistakable Mauna Kea style, we look forward to welcoming generations of guests in the years ahead, and maintaining her timeless tradition of aloha, not by standing still, but by stepping ahead and setting the pace. Imua.