Winter Getaways: Hawaii’s Newest Hot Spot
Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection, raises the bar on excellence
The Kohala Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island — a 30-mile stretch of lava flow and Pacific Ocean that stretches north from the Kona airport to the legendary Mauna Kea Beach Hotel — is home to some of the best golf resorts in the world, including the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, often voted the top resort in the state.
As of January 2020, the Four Seasons has some competition at the top. The latest and greatest must-visit hot spot here is the new Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection. “New,” that is, in every respect aside from the structure itself, which was formerly the iconic Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows.
With 3,000 acres and three miles of ocean frontage, Mauna Lani is an impressive resort. First and foremost, the warm, crystal clear Pacific Ocean is perfect for snorkeling, diving, paddling, and other ocean activities, including whale watching in the winter months.
“It was a perfect fit for us,” said Chris White, the executive director of marketing and brand experience for Auberge Resorts Collection. “We’re known for one-of-a-kind, iconic properties, and this hotel fit both criteria. Mauna Lani is so well known and has been so beloved over the years that our goal was to bring an infusion of energy and modernize the facility in every way.”
To that end, every guest room was com-pletely renovated and refurbished to reflect a contemporary residential feel, new dining outlets were introduced, a 4,000-square-foot spa was constructed, the pool area was redesigned to include an adult pool and a keiki (kids’) pool with a sand bottom, and a new surf shack was built to service all beach needs. The lobby was reconfigured so that now guests enjoy a broad ocean view upon check-in, with a grand staircase that leads down to the pool level.
For those who fondly remember CanoeHouse restaurant, rest assured, the CanoeHouse will be back, sporting a new look, a new Nobu-trained chef, and new menu, but the unbeatable oceanfront setting remains.
Another aspect of Mauna Lani that remains good as gold are the two premier golf courses on the property, Mauna Lani North and South. Both are among the most scenic and manicured in the state. From most vantage points, it’s possible to see the five surrounding mountains: Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Hualalai, the Kohala Mountains, and Haleakala across the water on neighboring Maui.
“Troon and Auberge Resorts Collection have the same goal of highly personalized service and the very best standards of maintenance,” said Chris Noda, Mauna Lani Golf’s director of golf. “This is just a great match all the way around.”
The South Course features wide fairways bordered by smooth black and brown lava, with broad views of the island’s interior mountains before emerging at the ocean. The experience is fun from the start, but when you get to No. 7 — a medium-length par-3 (163 from the white/109 from the forward tees) that plays slightly downhill with the ocean crashing against the rocks just to the left of the hole — your day gets even better.
The course is perhaps best known for its memorable par-3 15th, where a thrilling tee shot over an ocean inlet leads to a large green. Get your cameras ready here. From the 196-yard championship tees it’s quite a challenge given the crossing winds, but we suggest you take your selfies back here and then go play from the 131-yard white or 117-yard forward tees. It’s an amazing hole wherever you tee it up.
The North Course plays through stands of kiawe trees, with several oceanfront holes on the front nine. Fairways are wide enough that you can hit away with driver all round, yet accuracy is prized. No. 17 is the postcard hole on the North. A par-3, it plays from an elevated tee box to a green situated in a lava bowl with giant lava boulders and sand surrounding.
With the addition of the new Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection to the mix, both of these exquisite courses are sure to garner even greater national attention … and maybe even enough votes to become the “best golf resort in the state.”