In 1966, Holiday magazine writer Caskie Stinnett declared that “For a long time now I have stubbornly held to the view that anything Laurance Rockefeller can do, God can do as well. But my first glance from a plane window at Mauna Kea, the resort that Rockefeller created amid the lava rock and desert waste of Hawaii’s west coast, caused me a moment’s hesitation. If nothing else, one had certainly picked up where the other had left off.” Today, a half-century later, it’s almost impossible to argue with Stinnett’s observation.
In the 1960s, visionary conservationist, art collector and venture capitalist Laurance Rockefeller set out to find the world’s finest beaches on which to build resorts. On Hawaii’s Big Island, still largely undiscovered at the time, he found a spectacular piece of land. There were two magnificent white sand beaches divided by a dramatic lava outcrop. Unlike most of the Kohala Coast, the land had character, rising quickly toward snow-capped Mauna Kea, the tallest peak in the islands. Rockefeller had a keen eye.
He engaged Robert Trent Jones Sr. to design a golf course and the architectural firm Owens, Skidmore, and Merrill to design Mauna Kea Beach Hotel to seamlessly blend into the bluff that overlooked the beach. Famed interior designer Davis Allen was brought in to assemble a 1,000-plus piece collection of Asian, Oceanic, and local craft art, among them, a pink granite Buddha from a 12th-century Indian temple at the top of a staircase that beckons you to explore the gardens beyond.
In 1994, new resort owners saw Rockefeller’s dream of a second hotel come to fruition with the opening of Hapuna Beach Hotel and its attendant golf course. Comfortably set in the bluffs, and with Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Kohala Mountains as a backdrop, it overlooks the beach that many consider the best in all of Hawaii.
Today, Rockefeller’s legacy is more vibrant than ever — a testament to the vision that created a place where timeless grace and luxury, like the tides and tradewinds, abide.
Through the Years
Laurance S. Rockefeller visits Hawaii at the invitation of Governor William F. Quinn looking for sites on which to develop resort hotels; falls in love with Kauna’oa Bay.
Laurance S. Rockefeller takes 99-year lease on Parker Ranch lands that include site for Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.
Under the direction of designer Robert Trent Jones Sr., construction begins on the golf course.
Grand Opening of the golf course with the “Big 3,” Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus.
The Grand Opening of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. At a cost of $15 million, it is the most expensive hotel ever built, setting a new standard for luxury travel.
Esquire lists Mauna Kea Beach Hotel as one of the three greatest hotels in the world; Fortune names it one of “10 best buildings of 1966.”
The “Great Buddha” arrives and is installed above the grand staircase.
Completion of Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway from the Kona International Airport to Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and the Kawaihae area.
Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel opens, offering a more contemporary take on island hospitality, and the perfect completion to the Mauna Kea Resort experience.
Kauna’oa Bay announced as “America’s No. 1 Beach” and “No. 5 Beach in the World” by the Travel Channel.
Major renovation of Mauna Kea Golf Course by Rees Jones, youngest son of original course designer Robert Trent Jones.
The exciting debut of MaunaKeaLiving.com, Hapuna Beach Residences, Hapuna Estates and Hapuna Beach Villa.
We invite you to schedule your visit and learn more about all that is to come at Mauna Kea Resort, including the first release of Hapuna Beach Residences, the Hapuna Beach Villa and Hapuna Estates.