The open-air Don's Mai Tai Bar makes the most of Royal Kona Resort's seaside site. // © 2015 Royal Kona Resort
Feature image (above): Royal Kona Resort features a choice location next to Kailua Bay. // © 2015 Royal Kona Resort
Royal Kona Resort general manager Jay Rubenstein knows exactly where his property stands among Hawaii Island hotels.
“We’re not a glass-and-marble resort,” he said. “We’re a solid three-star hotel with an unbeatable location.”
On a recent visit, I admired Royal Kona’s advantageous perch next to Kailua Bay. Built in 1968, the hotel flanks one end of busy Kailua-Kona, with shops, restaurants, activities and historic sites just an easy walk away. At the same time, Royal Kona offers a peaceful and quiet atmosphere. At its mellow, private beach cove — an unusual perk at any Hawaii hotel — guests can swim and wade among tropical fish and the occasional sea turtle.
“The whole ambiance of our hotel sings Hawaii,” Rubenstein said, as he gestured to the ocean view while we sat in Don’s Mai Tai Bar, an open-air hub next to Royal Kona’s lobby.
A casual, island-style mood flows through the resort’s public areas, in which guests might encounter a koi pond, a thatched umbrella or a tiki statue. My room was pleasantly low-key, with simple palm-tree prints on the walls and a nice use of wood decor.
One of Royal Kona’s major lures is its oceanfront luau, “Voyagers of the Pacific,” which is designed like a relaxed backyard party. The ticket price includes a Hawaiian buffet, a full bar and a musical show about the legends of Hawaii and the South Pacific. Guests are also treated to arts and crafts demonstrations and a group hula lesson.
Another popular draw is live music at Don’s Mai Tai Bar on Thursdays and on the weekends, when local favorites such as Henry Kapono and Cyril Pahinui perform.
Rubenstein called his hotel’s clientele “eclectic,” appealing equally to seniors, families and honeymooners. Most guests hail from the U.S. West Coast.
The hotel’s current Royal Experience package underscores its value-added appeal. Rates from $275 per night include an oceanfront room, daily breakfast buffet for two, a pair of luau tickets and a sunset dinner cruise for two. Commissionable at 10 percent, the offer is good through Dec. 18.
Rubenstein encourages travel agents to contact the resort ahead of time with special requests on behalf of their clients.
“We want to exceed the expectations of travel agents, as well as their clients,” he said.