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Last month, I had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii as a “+1” on my husband’s business trip. His company put us up at Mauna Lani Resort on the big island of Hawaii. Its website doesn’t do it justice. We’ve stayed at four resorts in Hawaii, and this resort was by far our favorite. Even better than Aulani. Yep, I said it.
Mauna Lani is about 30 minutes from the Kona airport. The lava rock between the airport and the hotel made it appear as though we were on Mars. But then, we entered the lush grounds of the resort.
The hotel building itself is nothing to look at. Its style is similar to other established hotels in Hawaii. But, the location and grounds are spectacular.
The hotel lobby is open air, as is almost everything in the resort. We quickly got checked in. Our bags made it to our room before we did.
Throughout the lobby, there were many cute and relaxing places to sit. I think our blood pressure went down as soon as we arrived.
The hotel went through a $200 million renovation in early 2020 and joined the Auberge Resorts group.
Somehow, we lucked out and got upgraded to a corner suite. Don’t ask me how. It was large and lovely, with two full bathrooms.
The master bathroom had a bath tub. Both bathrooms had large walk-in showers with rainshower settings.
We had a balcony with a beautiful view.
Our room had a mini fridge stocked with various drinks. The room also had complimentary wine and local Hawaiian snacks.
Mauna Lani has two infinity edge pools and a few jacuzzis. The resort also has a kiddie pool with a sandy beach edge. To be honest, we never went in the pools. While they looked lovely, the beach was our priority.
We loved the beach. It was gorgeous and interesting.
The water has some lava rocks in certain places, so we had to be careful. But the water was very calm and clear.
The best part about the beach is that there were sea turtles swimming in it and feeding off the algae on the lava rocks. It was amazing to swim with the turtles!
The beach had plenty of chairs. My husband and I preferred the extra-cushy loungers on the grass that faced the beach.
The main restaurant, CanoeHouse, is open-air and right on the beach. We ate breakfast here every morning. When the clouds disappeared, we could see Maui in the distance.
CanoeHouse was also lovely at dinner. Although, it cost about $100 per person, not including alcohol.
We also enjoyed eating lunch at HaLani, another open-air restaurant by the pools.
Inside the hotel, the Market store had some quick-serve and grab-and go items. Drinks and food service were also available at the pools and beach. We ordered room service one day. There are plenty of food options on property.
The service we received from every employee we encountered was excellent. Amazing, actually. Everyone was so attentive and friendly.
Overall, the vibe of the hotel was relaxed and laid-back.
Things to Do
Besides the obvious pool/beach, Mauna Lani offers other activities. Of course, it has an on-site spa and nearby golf course and tennis courts. The resort also has a kids’ club for ages 5-12, but since I didn’t have my kids with me I didn’t check it out.
The resort has different cultural activities including a story teller, lei making, ukulele lessons and coconut frond weaving. Also on the property are several historic fishponds. We saw many colorful fish as well as some creepy eels in these ponds.
The resort also has petroglyphs and lava tube caves within walking distance, although we didn’t have the time to see those.
Here’s the bad news: Mauna Lani is expensive. Rooms run at least $1000 a night for all the dates I researched. Dang, right? And unfortunately, there is no way to just sign up for a credit card to get two free nights at this hotel. The resort does seem to run a “5th night free” promo, but still. (Last year, Jeffsetter Travel reported seeing rates in the $500 range).
Mauna Lani is part of the Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts program for Amex Platinum card holders. Benefits include free breakfast, a $100 resort credit and late checkout.
Of course, you can use flexible points like Capital One miles or Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book Mauna Lani. But I won’t sugar coat it. A stay at Mauna Lani would take a ton of points.
Mauna Lani is a beautiful resort with excellent service and amenities. I loved the relaxing atmosphere. The only resort I’ve stayed at that matches its beauty and service is Andaz Papagayo in Costa Rica.
Due to the price, we likely won’t return here with our kids. However, I would absolutely recommend this resort for a special honeymoon or anniversary trip. I hope that if my husband and I ever return to the Big Island, we can splurge for just a few nights at Mauna Lani again.
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.