Golf Vacations Magazine


Mauna Kea & Hapuna: Where the Ocean Meets the Mountains


Wouldn’t it be great to stand in the middle of the world’s tallest mountain and dip your toes into warm ocean water?

Well, you can! And, even better, it’s in Hawaii smack dab on the Big Island. 

Get out?!?!

That’s right.  Mauna Kea, from its base at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, rises more than 33,000 feet to its highest peak, yet at the 19,000 foot mark, you can swim, surf, snorkel, paddleboard or whatever you want right at the Mauna Kea and Hapuna Beach resorts.

How good is that?

Well, it goes up another notch. The two hotels at Mauna Kea Resort possess possibly the finest beaches in the world, ranking in the Top 10 on almost everyone’s list. Throw in world-class restaurants, spas and amenities and it’s a no-brainer. 

But, maybe the best part is that the two championship golf courses are truly that, not some hit-and-giggle resort course that typically is found at most Hawaiian hotels. These are true tests of golf, so if you hope to bring your A Game to a course that demands it, then this is the spot for you.

But, we’ll get into the golf in a bit.  After a long flight, my guess is that you’re like me and want to check in and unwind at the beach. So, whether you’re at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel or Hapuna Beach Hotel, you can’t go wrong as tranquil white-sand beaches await your arrival.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is the Grande Dame on the island, opening in 1965 by none other than visionary Laurance S. Rockefeller with the hope that it would stand the test of time with a timeless tradition of understated elegance. It does just that.

Many of the other luxury hotels on the Big Island are more about the glitz than what the island is all about, so it’s refreshing to have an option like Mauna Kea. Don’t get me wrong, Mauna Kea stands toe-to-toe with the other resorts on the island, offering incredibly beautiful, well-appointed accommodations, spa facilities that will relax every muscle and dining options that make your mouth water even before you sit down. But, for me, when I go to Hawaii, I want to feel like I’m in Hawaii, so the thoughts of trams shuttling you around the hotel and water slides with a million kids running amuck simply doesn’t appeal to me.

Mauna Kea is just so perfect for that relaxing getaway from the hectic, daily rat race we call life. From the time you’re greeted at check-in with a cool towel and a glass of mango juice to the time you check out, the resort says “chill” at every turn.

The Mauna Kea Spa by Mandara is ideal for a late-afternoon massage. They offer a wide variety of treatments, so if you just want to unwind or you need to get really kneaded, the therapists have just the prescription. Top that off with a spectacular dinner at Manta, Hau Tree or Copper Bar restaurants with an even more spectacular setting and all that’s left is to slip into your robe, sit on your lanai and watch the stars before turning in.

Mauna Kea’s baby sister is the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, and when it joins the Westin Hotels & Resorts family in February 2018, you can safely say that little sister is now all grown up. To bring the Westin brand to the hotel, hotel owners committed to $46 million in renovations and the hotel will participate in Starwood Preferred Guest, one of Marriott International’s award-winning loyalty programs, allowing guests to earn and redeem points to stay at the hotel. The hotel will still be owned and managed by Prince Resorts Hawaii.

“Well-being is a big part of the local culture here, so we couldn’t be more excited to bring the Westin brand to the island of Hawaii,” said Donn Takahashi, President of Prince Resorts Hawaii. With longtime Westin-veteran Craig Anderson at the helm, we’re confident that his leadership will allow us to leverage the brand’s successful lifestyle positioning and elevate the guest experience.”

Situated on the sunny Kohala Coast, the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort (the resort’s future new name) has defined Big Island luxury since its opening in 1994. As the second phase in Rockefeller’s creation of Mauna Kea Resort, the hotel shares 1,839 acres of oceanfront paradise with Mauna Kea. Perfectly nestled into the bluffs above the idyllic Hapuna Beach, the hotel presents a flowing, contemporary Hawaiian style where guests experience the true essence of rejuvenation.

Okay, time for golf. It’s pretty simple.

Mauna Kea is not only the best golf course on the Big Island, it’s the best golf course on any of the islands. The famed 3rd Hole, a Par 3 over the ocean is its calling card but nearly every hole on the course demands your attention. Fortunately, every hole has an amazing aesthetic appeal as well, so it’s the best of both worlds. Put simply, it’s world-class. Words don’t do it justice. Just play it. And then play it again.

With its seemingly endless views and dramatic elevation changes beginning at sea level and rising to 700 feet, Hapuna Golf Course nestles into the rugged desert terrain above the west shore of Hawaii’s Big Island. This Arnold Palmer/Ed Seay golf course is a championship “links-style” design that was built in 1992 and stretches to just under 6,900 yards. The Pacific Ocean serves as the picture perfect backdrop and can be seen from every hole. Teeing off at just under 700 feet of elevation, the signature par 4, 12th hole provides one of the most spectacular panoramic views on Hawaii’s Big Island – including Maui in the distance.

Both resorts, naturally, offer an abundance of activities for the resort guests…all the stuff that you would normally expect from a world-class resort. But if you have a sweet tooth like me, then you might want to head over to Hapuna’s Coast Grille, which will reopen as Meridia after the renovation. You see, Mauna Kea Resort is debuting their own honey for guests to enjoy and infusing it into a variety of items at the signature restaurant. Thanks to on-property apiaries, both hotels are harvesting honey and Flow Hives at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel produced 45 pounds of honey within weeks of installation. The honey is now feature on regular dinner specials and menu items including, the Hudson Valley Foie Gras, in addition to sauces and dressings such as the barbeque sauce on the Duroc Pork Ribs and red wine vinaigrette on the Greens Salad. At Mauna Kea, Manta Restaurant chefs are incorporating the honey into a new signature biscotti item and Copper Bar is using the honey to enhance the house-made dough used for all flatbreads on the menu.

Another cool buzz item is the relationship with Sunshine Helicopters, stationed on-property at Hapuna Beach Resort. Spend a day at the beach, clean up and walk to the valet, where you will be shuttled directly to the helipad about a mile or so away. Then enjoy the ride of your life, seeing the Big Island in all its glory with a birds-eye view.

Speaking of bird’s eye views, take a trek to the top of Mauna Kea for a truly memorable afternoon. Not only will you marvel at the amazing vistas of the Pacific from its summit, you’ll come home with some bragging rights. After all, you can honestly say that you stood on top of the tallest mountain in the world.

Not many, if any, of your friends can make that claim!

Story by Larry Feldman

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