Main Attraction

Waikoloa Resort is West Hawaii’s new-and-improved ‘energy center’

By: Marty Wentzel

In 1988, when Thos Rohr took the job of Waikoloa Land Co. president, 1,350-acre Waikoloa Resort didn’t attract many visitors. Now, each day, 12,000 cars drive along its main road of Waikoloa Beach Drive, and Rohr aims to satisfy that critical mass by improving the resort’s shopping, dining and lodging offerings.

“An amazing 95 percent of all West Hawaii visitors come to Waikoloa at least once, and we believe that we owe them more,” said Rohr. “So, we’re enhancing the entire Waikoloa experience.”

Home to 50 percent of the Kohala Coast’s visitor accommodations, Waikoloa Resort is what Rohr calls an energy center.

“Our family orientation is what distinguishes us from the other resorts north of Kona,” he said. “For instance, we have the largest junior golf program in the state, and our hotels present enough children’s programs to keep youngsters busy their entire vacation.”

When entering the resort, clients will notice the construction of Queens’ MarketPlace and Waikoloa Cultural Gardens, a 135,000-square-foot open-air shopping and entertainment center opening in early June 2007. It’s a natural extension of the destination’s 75,000-square-foot Kings’ Shops, Rohr said.

“When Kings’ Shops opened in 1991, occupancy at our two hotels went up 12 percent in the first year,” he said. “Queens’ MarketPlace’s retail and dining options will complement those at Kings’ Shops while providing new experiences.” The facility’s gardens will host festivals with music and entertainment from around the world. Its walking trail will wind around a performance meadow, with displays on Big Island crops, flora and fauna.

Meanwhile, Waikoloa’s two hotels have plenty of changes in the works. The Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa is in the midst of a $40 million transformation, with a signature Mandara Spa open since July, guestroom renovations done by the end of October and the refurbished Hawaii Calls restaurant debuting in November. The upgraded porte cochere, main lobby, front desk area and swimming pool come on line in early 2007, followed by a 12,000-square-foot grand ballroom in the first quarter of next year.

The Hilton Waikoloa Village will finish its ongoing $61 million enhancement project at the end of 2007. Upgrades to the 62-acre hotel include renovations to the guestrooms, sports club and spa, tennis gardens, restaurants, pools, meeting facilities and lower lobby. The refurbished bar at the Boat Landing Pavilion now sports a flat-screen TV. The resort is upgrading its high-speed Internet access service, and it’s installing an interactive children’s fountain with computerized water effects. In 2007, a new Dolphin Quest Village will be finished as well.

Looking ahead, Rohr anticipates more good things for Waikoloa Resort.

“There are another couple of sites that can be developed, and Hilton has broken ground on its Grand Vacations project,” he said. “We will continue to promote Waikoloa as the Kohala Coast’s gathering place, for visitors and residents alike.”


Waikoloa Beach Resort, located on the Kohala Coast, lays claim to two hotels and eight condominiums. An 802-unit Hilton Grand Vacations Club is under construction.

The resort’s Kings’ Shops feature 14 apparel boutiques, five jewelers, 10 restaurants and eight specialty stores, plus tours, cultural demonstrations, Hawaiian entertainment and outdoor movies.

The new Queens’ MarketPlace has signed 28 tenants to date, with stores opening in May 2007, and continuing into next summer.

Waikoloa Cultural Gardens, debuting next year, will display native plant species. Its performance meadow will hold up to 4,000 people. 808-886-8811; www.waikoloa

Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa remains open during its $40 million renovation, which wraps up in 2007. 800-228-9290;

Hilton Waikoloa Village is entering the third and final phase of its $61 million resort enhancement, ending next year.