The buildings are arranged to maximize ocean views, and interiors are full of Hawaiian touches, including rattan and teak in rooms, with koi ponds outside. (The hotel also sponsors a release of baby turtles every summer.) Guests at the Mauna Lani--or its neighbor hotel, the Orchid--can play at the affiliated Francis H. I'i Brown golf courses for $85 to $90 per 18 holes; non-guests pay $160 to $170. The Mauna Lani, which prides itself on an inventive Pacific Rim menu, stages an annual Cuisines of the Sun food conference. During my February visit, the severe geometry of the building's 1983 design--and the cascading water display by the lobby stairs in particular--was beginning to look dated. But since then, the hotel had closed for a $10-million "refreshment." It reopened Aug. 1.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday August 31, 1997 Home Edition Travel Part L Page 5 Travel Desk 1 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
Big Island--Due to an editing error, a United Airlines fare to Hawaii's Kona Coast was misstated in last week's cover story ("Big Island Deluxe," Aug. 24). The correct round-trip restricted fare from LAX is $368.
Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, tel. (800) 327-8585 or (808) 885-6622, fax (808) 885-1484. Brochure rates: $275 and up.
Four Seasons Hualalai
Have the photographers from Architectural Digest arrived yet? This is that kind of place, and if you're looking for the most handsome guest room interior on the Big Island, this is where you should come. Style. Spaciousness. Also, many golfers will surely like the idea of playing its exclusive Jack Nicklaus-designed course.
On arrival, they give you a lei, a fruit drink and a cool towel. Voices are soft; room service is 24 hours; horseplay around the pools is inconceivable. My room, 3404, had handsome (but itchy) coir carpet, slate and wood flooring, mahogany and rattan furniture, a view of the 18th hole, an indoor-outdoor shower with two glass walls and its own lava-walled courtyard.
Outside the rooms, one of the four swimming pools is set in volcanic rock and filled with brackish water. (That's a good thing: it's a mix of fresh and saltwater that sustains sea life and snorkeling.) Another "horizon" pool is designed so that its edge seems to spill directly into the sea. A separate kid's pool is for wading and has a sandy bottom.
In the hotel's fancy restaurant, Pahui'a, the cuisine has Asian and Hawaiian overtones and dinner entrees run $19 to $32 (I liked the Dungeness crab cake and the carrot and ginger soup). At the Hualalai Club Grille, they make an admirable pizza with Portuguese sausage, pineapple and macadamia nuts.
There is an interpretive center where ukulele lessons are offered and local art is shown. And there's the golf course, open only to guests at $105 for 18 holes. There's a well-outfitted health club, and a seawater area that's walled off from the rough surf for safety.
But the bottom line is that this hotel has a crummy beach. It's too dangerous to bodysurf, and there's not much room to lie down either. And consider these room-service breakfast rates: $7.75 for granola, $11.75 for fruit, $9 for a large pot of coffee, $6.25 for orange juice, a $3 delivery fee and a mandatory 18% service charge.
How many seasoned travelers will want to spend that, on top of $450 a night (or more) on a Hawaiian shorefront hotel with an unswimmable beach?
As nearly as I can tell, if you stay here, you're really paying $350 a night for the service and amenities, and $100 more for the comfort of knowing that most of the uncouth world will be excluded.
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, tel. (800) 332-3442 or (808) 325-8000, fax (808) 325-8200. Opened September 1996. Brochure rates: $450 and up.
Hapuna Beach Prince
Hapuna is one of the island's most popular beaches, drawing many locals on weekends, and this hotel is well-positioned to exploit it. Another advantage is its relationship with its elder sibling, the Mauna Kea, at the other end of the beach. Guests at either hotel can sign for expenses at the hotels' combined 10 restaurants, eight shops and seven lounges. (Both hotels' guests pay $80 to $90 per 18-hole round to play the two adjacent golf courses; non-guests pay $130 to $150.)
I didn't feel entirely spoiled here; for instance, the Prince requires that guests sign for beach towels, a bother not imposed at the Four Seasons or Kona Village Resort. But I did feel up-to-date. The design is modern--lots of circles and curves--and guest rooms include slate floors, blond wood, separate shower and tub.
Islanders say the hotel is particularly popular with Japanese travelers, who fill half the rooms on some nights, giving the property a more international flavor than its neighbors. (Hence the seaweed option in the Ocean Terrace breakfast buffet.)
Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, tel. (800) 882-6060 or (808) 880-1111, fax (808) 880-3200. Brochure rates: $325 and up.
Here's a pleasant but odd place. At the entry, a crystal chandelier hung (like an overdressed Ritz-Carlton ghost) above a koa wood bowl on a table. Similarly, Hawaiian quilts lined the walls in some ground-floor hallways, but when I turned the corner toward the meeting rooms, I was suddenly among silk wall coverings and more crystal chandeliers. Is it formal or is it native?