Review: Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows

Update: This resort closed in 2018 for a multi-million dollar renovation. It is due to reopen as and Auberge Resort in January 2020.

Beach cabanas at Mauna Lani
Mauna Lani beach cabanas under a canopy of palms

We’ve stayed at Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows twice – on our first Big Island trip in 2004 and on our recent visit in November. Both stays were excellent.

I’m going to veer away from our typical review format to list what makes the Mauna Lani great.

1. Yippee! No resort fees! Update: Things have changed

The Mauna Lani offers so many amenities that are included in the nightly rate – amenities like free use of beach cabanas, Hawaiian culture lessons, fresh floral lei greeting, bicycles, snorkeling equipment, in-room coffee making facilities, and bottled water restocked daily in the guest rooms. Those are only some highlights. The amenities list goes on. Update: Mauna Lani began charging guests $25 per day resort fee. I hate resort fees with a passion, but this one actually includes a lot more amenities than most resorts offer with a similar fee. Beach cabana at Mauna Lani

2. Hawaiian Culture Cherished & Celebrated

Mauna Lani resort sits beside Hawaiian fishponds that were built hundreds of years ago. A path with petroglyphs is also nearby. This may sound wacky, but this historical spot seems to have some sort of special energy that captures your attention. You can almost feel its significance from ancient times.

If there was a hall of fame for Hawaiian history and culture experts, I’m pretty sure Mr. Daniel Akaka, Jr.’s name  would be listed. Mr. Akaka is the Director of Cultural Affairs at Mauna Lani Resort. You can meet him at the resort’s very own cultural center located on the ground floor. (It should be noted that it’s unusual for a Hawaii resort to have a dedicated culture center and full-time director.) We popped in to meet him on our recent visit. After hearing so many wonderful things about him, I actually felt a bit nervous — like I was meeting a rock star. We talked story for quite a while and would have loved to have talked longer if we didn’t have a dinner meeting. Mr. Akaka has a passion for sharing Hawaiian history and culture and is a true asset to the resort.

Mr. Daniel Akaka, Jr. - Director of Cultural Affairs at Mauna Lani Resort
Mr. Daniel Akaka, Jr. – Director of Cultural Affairs at Mauna Lani Resort

Mr. Akaka organizes the Twilight at Kalahuipua’a evenings near the hotel grounds by the historical Eva Parker Woods cottage. These evenings of storytelling and Hawaiian entertainment are typically scheduled on the Saturday evening nearest the full moon.  Call the Mauna Lani Concierge at  808­-881­-7911 to confirm upcoming dates. I hear that these evenings are definitely worth planning into your vacation.  We vowed to schedule a future Big Island visit around one of these evenings. It’s free to attend.

3. On a Beautiful, Sunny Beach

If you know Hawaii’s weather patterns, winter months tend to bring more rain. The Kohala Coast is one of the best places to stay in Hawaii to avoid rain.  There’s no guarantee that you can avoid rain altogether, but it’s a relatively safe bet.

The palms on the beach fronting the Mauna Lani are exceptionally picturesque. The beach here is very tranquil. Even honu (Hawaiian sea turtles) come to the area to feed and then relax. We enjoyed watching what seemed like a half a dozen different turtles in near the shore while we relaxed in the comfort of a cabana.

The resort grounds are romantic and tranquil. I find that it’s easy to relax here. In fact, here’s a rare photo of yours truly performing a highly scientific hammock test.

Hammock testing :)
Hammock testing! This one passed my rigorous examination.

4. Luxurious Rooms

The spacious Mauna Lani rooms have recently been renovated with what I’d describe as natural beach colors of blue, green and sand.

Room at Mauna Lani
Mauna Lani Bay Hotel Room

The marble baths have his and her sinks. The generously-sized toiletries are a notch above the norm.

Now for a word about toilet seats. Yes, that’s right. I said toilet seats. They have these fancy schmancy bidet seats that are heated and do some, ahem, cleaning. We’ve never stayed in a hotel with a bidet seat, so this was quite a novelty for us. And, that’s all I’m saying about that.

5. A Dedication to Ocean Life

Mauna Lani Bay Hotel
The Mauna Lani Bay Hotel atrium is surrounded by saltwater ponds.

The main resort structure hovers above salt water ponds with over 75 different breeds of fish – including sharks. We took part in the free fish feeding tour where we got to learn about these fish.

Mauna Lani also has a honu (turtle) pond where they raise juvenile honu until they are big enough to be released into the ocean. Just seeing those little guys swimming around makes me smile. How can a creature with a hard shell be so darn cute and cuddly looking? Each July 4th, the resort hosts a honu independence day celebration to release the honu into the ocean.

Guided fish feeding at one of the many Mauna Lani salt water ponds.

To get a better idea of what it’s like to stay at Mauna Lani, check out our photo collection and our video tour.

(Email subscribers: click here to watch our Mauna Lani Bay Hotel video tour.)

Have you stayed at Mauni Lani Bay Hotel? How was your stay?

  1. We stayed at Mauna Lani at the end of our trip to Hawaii last year. It was wonderful.
    The rooms feel spacious and luxurious and we had a beautiful view of mountains, ocean, and Maui! I loved the shark ponds and having a private beach was wonderful. We saw honu and my husband snorkeled. We spent most of our time just relaxing by the pool with tropical drinks and snacks. It was so relaxing and wonderful. I would love to stay there again! (maybe after we’ve been to the other islands)

  2. Thanks for the review…we have been loving Mauna Lani for over 20 years and it never gets boring coming there! We never quite do all we have on the list and we never have seen all the gorgeous reef out front. In our hearts, we live there.

  3. I have stayed at the Mauna Lani several times in the last five years..but I don’t think I will stay here again..they have an incredibly loud fan that operates 12 hours a day from the canoe house restaurant the necessitates having to keep the doors to the outside closed all the time..even at night (it runs until 1 am) I’ve complained several times to the management and they don’t care..they could easily build something around the vent to muffle the sound..but have no interest.

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