A Barefoot Luxury Resort on the Kohala Coast, The Big Island, Hawaii
Mauna Lani, part of the Auberge Resorts Collection, is a newly redesigned open-air resort nestled in the center of the Kohala Coastline on the island of Hawaii. Best known for its outdoor activities, luxurious accommodations, and family-friendly atmosphere, I’m going to review what we loved about our stay at Mauni Lani and share some insider tips that will make the most of your visit to The Big Island.
Perfect For: Families | Weddings | Multi-Generational Families | Groups | Couples | Golfers | Surfers
Mauna Lani location: Located in in the center of the Kohala Coastline on the island of Hawaii.
Getting There: Only a 25-minute drive (or 23 miles) from Kona International Airport (KOA), Mauna Lani is easily accessible as a non-stop option from many major hubs in the continental Unites States. We recommend renting a car if you plan to explore, or we can set up airport transfers for you, if you’re just looking to relax and stay on property.
Vibe: We traveled to Mauna Lani with our three kids and both grandmothers, and it was a perfect resort for this multi-generational trip. Walking into the grand open-air lobby, you’ll feel an instant sense of place of having arrived to your Hawaiian home away from home.
While this is a 333-room property, it does not feel that big, and I will explain why. The resort was originally designed in the shape of an arrow, which points in the direction of Tokyo, where the original owners resided. This orientation actually allow more than 90% of the rooms to have ocean views, with the advantage of unbeatable sunset views. The two pools on property are located near each other, with the adults-only pool set back away from the ocean. With the location of the Surf Shack and the Kalahuipua’a fish ponds, the resort feels centered around one hub. This is advantageous because it makes the property feel intimate and boutique-like, where families can gather and not feel lost on a sprawling property.
With new ownership and a $100 million renovation, Auberge’s first Hawaiian resort reopened in 2020, just before the start of the pandemic. Because of this timing, the resort has stayed under the radar for the last few years with growing popularity as word spreads about the renewed spirit at this classical resort.
Food & Beverage:
I want to start by saying that my expectations about food were not very high going into my stay at Mauna Lani. I don’t know why, but perhaps past experience at other Hawaiian resorts didn’t inspire much confidence. Our family arrived hungry late at night after a delayed travel day. We devoured a large family-style steak dinner in HāLani restaurant, where servers buzzed around us and attended to every table with lightning speed.
For adults traveling without kids, Hā Bar is located perfectly between the adults-only pool and family-friendly pool. It was a gathering place and the perfect spot to have a leisurely conversation and watch the sun set.
Finally, the CanoeHouse was one of my favorite spots at the resort. With an expansive grass lawn that lies between the sea and the dining tables, it is the perfect spot for golden hour family photos and a shared Japanese-inspired meal to enjoy stories from the day’s adventures. Kids can play freely while the adults enjoy cocktails with dinner, and the 180-degree ocean views from the outdoor tables really cannot be beaten. We enjoyed dinners at Four Seasons Hualalai and the Fairmont Orchid, but the sunset views from CanoeHouse are simply the best.
The next morning, brunch was just as busy. Even though service at breakfast was lackluster, the buffet had endless great quality options. I developed a routine of strong Hawaiian coffee and a colorful Acai bowl almost daily. The best part about booking your stay with Diego Travel? Every day, the same plentiful breakfast is complimentary.
The Market is another eatery that provides grab-and-go snacks, drinks, and goodies to take home. We loved the convenience of The Market because as any parent can attest, kids are always hungry between meals. With the convenience of the bracelets that are given to you at check-in, our kids could visit The Market as often as needed. Remember how I talked about the resort being centered around a hub? The Market is perfectly located so that I could watch them enter and exit from my poolside lounge chair, so I didn’t have to accompany them every time they wanted a gluten-free white chocolate macadamia nut cookie… and yes, my kids bought all of them. Every day of our vacation. Note to advise the hotel to make more next time we go for a visit.
Wellness: The spa at Mauna Lani was basic. They offer an abbreviated menu of massages and facials that incorporate local, organic ingredients. There are two separate Goop outlets at Mauna Lani, so skincare products from Goop are featured in spa treatments. The spa is small and simple and gets the job done if you are looking for a relaxing massage. I came home with a jar of body cream that was made locally and smelled delicious.
We also loved the complimentary kids club, Holoholo Kids Crew, for kids ages 5-12. It was perfect for us because it spanned our kids’ ages. While they have a fantastic indoor space with plenty of arts & crafts and games for the little ones on rainy days, they spend most of the time outdoors with the kids, exploring the Hawaiian beach and learning about nature and the Hawaiian culture. Kids 4 and under can play in the kids club, but they must be accompanied by an adult. During summer months, kids also eat free at all dining outlets, which is huge bonus when you’re feeding several children!
The Mauna Lani also offers sunrise canoe paddles, pickleball and tennis clinics, tennis camp for kids, golfing, turtle releasing (again, this is seasonal), canoe snorkeling in the reef, historic biking tour (which we did), and a Ukulele lesson, just to name a few more things.
Activities: One of my family’s favorite things about Mauna Lani resort are the activities here. My husband is a die-hard surfer, so most of our personal vacations are prioritized around surf breaks. At Mauna Lani, there were two options for surf breaks that are directly infront of the resort. One is a few minutes’ walk and the other is a 5-10 minute walk, and they’ll also take you by golf cart if needed. The Surf Shack offers rental boards and some of the best kid-friendly surf instructors we have ever experienced. Our youngest, who was 5 at the time, became confident in the waves and consistently stood up on a tandem (sharing a board with the instructor). Our kids have had lessons at other resorts, and no other instructors compare to those at Mauna Lani.
One of the highlights of our entire trip was the private boat charter that we took aboard Kalama Kai to go whale watching. Our four-hour charter sped by in a flash as we saw dozens of whales traveling in different pods, each showing off different whale behaviors. Our visit was in February, which is one of the peak months for whale watching, so keep in mind that this is a seasonal activity. Like much of Hawaii, many things are seasonal, such as surfing, whale watching, and rain, so you can always consult with me to find out best times to visit.
Off property, there is so much more to explore beyond on the Big Island of Hawaii, such as volcanos, ‘Akaka Falls State Park, Parker Ranch Rodeo, Waimea Farmers Market, Nāhuku lava tube, and more. Stay tuned for my Hawaii Destination Guide for more details of what to do during your time on the Big Island.
What Sets It Apart: This resort truly makes it easy! Everything is very convenient and focused on family-friendly, without being too in-your-face. There were plenty of adults-only groups as well, so it wasn’t overtly family-friendly (ie: there are no water slides here), yet there is something for everyone. However, if you also just want to read and nap by the pool or in front of the ocean, it is the perfect relaxing environment to do so..
For families that want to surf, Mauna Lani has surf breaks in front of the resort. No other luxury hotel on The Big Island has this convenience, so for our surfing family, this pro is a big one! It’s one place we will return to…
My only two complaints about the entire resort were that the rooms could be larger, but this is Hawaii and Hawaiian entry-level rooms are typically small! If you’re wanting extra space, I highly recommend the ocean front suites or the 2-bedroom villas, where you’ll have full butler service and access to your own Moke cars. My second complaint was the prominent display of inappropriate products at the goop shop at a family-friendly resort. I took my kids to browse and quickly shuffled them out of the store, and I heard another family talking about the same. However, I loved the merchandise they carried in the upstairs Milo shop and at the Market
How Much Does Mauna Lani Cost? Rates start at under $700/night for the entry-level mountain view room, but the Mauna Lani frequently offers exclusive promos for Diego Travel clients, with free nights that are combinable with our preferred partner amenities. On the high end, the 2-bedroom villas start at around $5,000/night.
Diego Travel Loves: The sunsets sitting on the lawn at Mauna Lani overlooking the Pacific Ocean are magical!
In addition to everything already mentioned in this article about Hawaii’s best luxury hotel, Mauna Lani, we can’t forget to mention, Mika, the resort’s yellow lab mascot. She makes a daily appearance at the resort to greet guests, and is just as personable as the rest of their warm and sincere staff.
Extras You’ll Get with Diego Travel:
- Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
- Daily Breakfast for up to two guests per bedroom
- $100 USD equivalent Food & Beverage credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
- Early Check-In / Late Check-Out, subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
- Welcome box for new Diego Travel clients with custom trip planning
Our current exclusive promo is on all oceanfront & residence bookings. You’ll receive a bottle of Billecart champagne, one Sunrise Canoe Paddle for four, one-day use of an oceanside Hālau daybed (the one mentioned in my insider tips), and one MY Menu Tasting for two (excludes alcohol). Residence bookings will also get a half-day excursion on the powerboat Kalama Kai. These Diego Travel perks equate to thousands of dollars in value…and this is in addition to the extras you’ll get by booking with us! For other room categories, they are also offering 20% off rates + kids eat free all summer long, so book your last-minute travel now to take advantage. Plus remember, direct hotel bookings are complimentary, so you literally have nothing to lose by booking your stay through Diego Travel.
Mauna Lani Insider Tips:
You won’t want to miss the Hale Ho’aloha Lū’au. Invest in the VIP ticket for priority seating, wine, welcome cocktail, family-style pupus, entrées, desserts and keepsakes.
There is a complimentary laundry room that stocks detergent right off the hallway behind the front desk. There’s nothing better than returning home with a suitcase full of clean clothing!
The cabanas are worth the splurge! You’ll have poolside or beachside service with a fully-stocked cooler, fresh towels and a comfortable space with plenty of shade. I have my preferred cabanas in my notes, so when you book your stay with us, I will be sure to snag these for you.