Refreshing the Coast

Resorts and hotels on the Kohala Coast keep things fresh

By: Marty Wentzel

Don’t ask what’s new along the Kohala Coast. Instead, a better way to sell the destination is to stay on top of what’s the same.

That’s the word from Sharon Sakai, spokesperson for Kohala Coast Resort Association (KCRA), the Big Island-based marketing organization whose membership encompasses the resorts of Hualalai, Waikoloa Beach, Mauna Lani and Mauna Kea. Accommodations include Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Kona Village Resort, Waikoloa Beach Marriott, Hilton Waikoloa Village, Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows, Fairmont Orchid, Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel and Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

“Our resorts and hotels are constantly refreshing themselves, making sure they offer guests a consistent level of amenities and accommodations,” said Sakai.

In the past year, clients have been noticing upgrades up and down the coast, including Mauna Lani Bay Hotel’s addition of 10,800-square-foot Hale Aloha (House of Friends), the flagship space for large meetings and events. Four Seasons Resort Hualalai opened an oceanview lounge, and it refreshed its guestrooms with new beds, fabrics, hand-knotted rugs and woven bed throws. Hilton Waikoloa Village revamped all indoor ballrooms and meeting facilities and refurbished its trams and canal boats. Fairmont Orchid Hawaii adopted an integrated approach to the environment, with housekeeping switching to botanical cleansers and landscaping transitioning to organic methods.

In the coming year, the Kohala Coast is welcoming two new commercial centers called the Shops at Mauna Lani and Queens’ Marketplace at Waikoloa.

“Each will offer guests a wider range of choices for shopping and dining,” said Sakai. “The Waikoloa facility will have the added attraction of a cultural garden and outdoor amphitheater.”

Agents should also be on the watch for the completion of renovations at Waikoloa Beach Marriott, which is redesigning all of its guestrooms, adding a spa and ballroom, incorporating an adult swimming pool and creating a freestanding restaurant at the edge of the property’s historic fish ponds.

According to Sakai, all of these improvements should appeal to travelers looking for a luxury resort experience.

She added that KCRA is always looking for emerging marketplaces of affluent travelers, targeting the cities from which domestic flights originate.

This spring, sales managers of KCRA hotels will head to Phoenix to support the inauguration of direct service to Kona by America West and US Air.

In June, KCRA visits Atlanta, the starting point for Delta’s service to Kona and then on to Denver.

“While we’re on the road, we try to meet with as many of our travel professionals as possible, hosting receptions, making sales calls and visiting reservation centers,” said Sakai.

Since its inception in 1984, KCRA has tried to create programs that improve business conditions along the stretch of coastline, from just above Kona International Airport in the south, to Mauna Kea Resort in the north. For instance, it has blazed trails with its airport greeter station.

“Each of the hotels has a desk to greet and assist its arriving guests, every day,” explained Sakai. “None of the other destinations in Hawaii provide this service at the airport.”

KCRA also participates in efforts to enhance the infrastructure of the island to meet the needs of visitors and residents.

As it enters its 22nd year, KCRA continues to promote the destination’s diversity.

“Our guests like the fact that they can be as relaxed or as busy as they choose,” said Sakai. “Our resorts are spread over a 20-mile stretch of coastline on the leeward side of the island, which means clients are almost guaranteed sunshine there’s less than 10 inches of rain a year while the Pacific Ocean laps at their toes. The landscape is uncluttered by high-rises or billboards. We have beautiful, sandy beaches and great watersports, as well as golf, spa and award-winning dining experiences.”

Most of the area’s visitors venture out to explore the diversity of the Big Island. Sakai suggests that travel agents pitch the Kohala Coast to discriminating, experienced travelers who appreciate quality accommodations and service, a wide range of amenities and genuine aloha spirit.


Kohala Coast Resort Association