Hawaii's Island Oasis

The Kohala Coast continues to attract visitors to its shores

By: By Marty Wentzel

Only Online

Scroll down to view events on the Kohala Coast.

Where to Stay

Fairmont Orchid Hawaii

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel

Hilton Waikoloa Village

Kona Village

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows

Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa

For more information:
Kohala Coast Resort Association


Events on the Kohala Coast

From culture and cuisine to sports and Santa, the Kohala Coast spices its calendar of special events with a little something for everyone. Clients might want to time their visit to the west side of Hawaii’s Big Island with one of these upcoming events.

Aug. 15-16: Establishment Day Hawaiian Festival. This annual cultural celebration features a royal court procession and hula performance early Saturday morning, with arts, crafts and exhibits throughout the weekend. It takes place at Puukohola Heiau National Historical Site, about one mile south of Kawaihae. 808-882-7218 www.nps.gov.puhe

Sept. 4-5: Annual Run for Hope. For 13 years, this fun-filled event at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai has benefitted cancer research in Hawaii. Festivities begin on Friday night with the Taste of Hawaii Island, showcasing some of the island’s best chefs and restaurants. Saturday brings the 5K and 10K run/walk, a golf scramble and tennis tournament. 808-325-8052 www.fourseasons.com/hualalai

Sept. 4-6: Hawaii Island Festival. Here’s a chance to catch some of the Big Island’s most engaging and popular cultural competitions, hosted by the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa. Highlights include the Ms. Aloha Nui Pageant, showcasing super-sized beauties; the Great Waikoloa Poke (marinated raw fish) Contest; and the Clyde “Kindy” Sproat Falsetto and Storytelling Contest. 808-886-8822, www.waikoloabeachresort.com

Sept. 18: A Taste of the Hawaiian Range. Set at the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort, this festival provides a venue for educating the public on local agricultural products. More than 30 island celebrity, resort and restaurant chefs prepare grass-fed beef, pork and lamb dishes along with island-grown vegetables and fruits. 808-885-5580 www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/taste

Oct. 10: Ford Ironman Triathlon World Championship. The top 1,800 triathletes from 50 countries and 50 states converge on the Kohala Coast for this Super Bowl of triathlon events, featuring a 2.4-mile ocean swim, 12-mile bike course and 26.2-mile run. Crowds cheer for the finishers in Kona. 808-329-0063 www.ironmanlive.com

Nov. 5-8: Moku O Keawe International Hula Festival. A relative newcomer on the hula scene, this festival features dance troupes from around the globe who compete in senior, ancient and modern divisions. Master instructors teach workshops and cultural classes throughout the event, which takes place at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort. 808-345-9364 www.mokuokeawe.org

Dec. 5: Passport to International Cultures. A journey of food and fun, this Waikoloa Beach Resort signature event presents a taste of international cultures as hotel chefs demonstrate their cooking styles and share samples with guests. Enhancing the Queen’s MarketPlace celebration is live entertainment. 808-886-8811 www.waikoloabeachresort.com

Dec. 10: Christmas Tree Lighting Festivities. Clients can join the Fairmont Orchid Hawaii as it lights a 40-foot-tall Norfolk pine in the Courtyard Lanai beneath the lobby. Hawaiian music and dance and light refreshments round out the fun. 808-887-7368 www.fairmont.com/orchid

Dec. 12: Breakfast With Santa. This family event for the holiday season provides breakfast with Santa and the chance to get a picture taken with Old St. Nick. Families gather at Queens’ MarketPlace for face painting, listening to music, savoring great food and creating happy memories. 808-886-8811 www.waikoloabeachresort.com

The first time I landed in Kona, I couldn’t believe my eyes. We were surrounded by a vast field of glimmering black lava that seemed to stretch into infinity. Surely, I thought, nothing could sprout from this wild, barren landscape.

But for the past quarter century, the Kohala Coast Resort Association (KCRA) has tended the west side of Hawaii’s Big Island, turning it into an alluring visitor destination where good things keep growing. As KCRA oversees the effort, individual properties are doing their own part to keep the product thriving.


Kohala Coast resorts were strategically placed to maximize privacy. // © 2009 Hualalai Resort

Over the past four decades, the island’s sheer size has made it possible to develop four master-planned resorts along a 20-mile stretch of shoreline.

“Thanks to the Kohala Coast’s wide-open spaces, there’s no crowding,” said Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa general manager Rodney Ito, also KCRA’s marketing committee chairman. “Each resort offers its own oasis, and each hotel is fairly secluded and not visible to its neighbors. This feeling of privacy sets us apart from other resort destinations that often feature a line of hotels along a strip of beach.”

The coast’s first resort hotels — Kona Village and Mauna Kea Beach Hotel — opened in 1965. Between 1981 and 1997, six more hotels were built in the resorts of Mauna Kea, Mauna Lani, Waikoloa and Hualalai. Developers did their homework, strategically placing accommodations, golf courses, shopping centers and residential neighborhoods while preserving the area’s history, culture and shoreline.

KCRA’s goal is to help travelers understand the destination, said Ito.

“We want to convey the distinctive qualities of our resorts and hotels and how our destination fits into the island’s overall picture,” he said. “It’s all part of building meaningful long-term relationships with guests.”

To achieve that goal, KCRA members team up to meet customers in the major markets.

“We are keeping all lines of communication open with our industry partners around the globe so that the Kohala Coast remains top of mind with them,” Ito said. “Lately we have also been exploring how to utilize social networking to educate travel enthusiasts about our destination.”

Through the end of 2009, the coast’s various hotel properties are offering value-added deals, promotions and programs to entice travelers their way.

At the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa, for instance, clients who stay for five consecutive nights get a free day pass for two to the Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, located in Hilo.

Kona Village has developed a comprehensive program called Alakai Nalu (ambassadors of the waves), where clients take part in water activities — such as outrigger canoeing, underwater scootering, standup paddleboarding and scuba diving — while developing a deeper respect for the ocean.

At the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, a 15-month-long, $40 million enhancement resulted in 20 new suites, an expanded oceanfront pool deck and additional retail shops. The spa grew from 13,000 to 28,000 square feet, and there’s a new open-air beachside bar, lounge and restaurant.

The Fairmont Orchid Hawaii recently added a 20- by 20-foot gazebo to its list of romantic offerings. Set on a grassy knoll overlooking the ocean, it provides a picturesque setting for weddings as well as intimate sunset dinners.

The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel’s new Manta and Pavilion Wine Bar has launched a series of creative dinners pairing wines with local farm-to-table cuisine. The next dates are Aug. 19 and Oct. 9. Meanwhile, the Mauna Kea is currently pitching a fifth night free deal, while its sister property next door — the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel — has a fourth- night-free deal under way.

Three new high-tech trams have taken to the rails at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, replacing the original trams that were part of the resort since it opened in 1988. An advanced audio system shares cultural stories about the legends of Waikoloa as guests journey through the resort.

These and other innovations add increasing visitor appeal to the Kohala Coast, where new life springs out of its ancient lava flows.