Sign Up for Our Monthly Hawaii Newsletter
Kamehameha the Great peacefully governed the Hawaiian Islands from 1812 until his death in 1819 from his residential compound Kamakahonu and temple called Ahuena Heiau. This significant cultural site, now listed on the Register of National Historic Landmarks, has been part of the 13-acre King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel since the resort’s 1976 opening.
So, when owner/manager Pacifica Hotel Company plotted a much-deserved $35 million revitalization to the 452-room fixture on Alii Drive, it faced the delicate task of honoring the spiritual setting while modernizing the hotel. During a recent stay, my impression was that it achieved that balance in fine form.
Aside from back-of-the-house safety and energy-efficiency updates, more visible improvements vary from the subtle to the bold. The lobby/reception area has a contemporary tone that still manages to revere treasured Hawaiian artwork and artifacts that have been a part of its decor for decades.
With green, orange, gold and red accents contrasting a lava rock wall, the area incorporates pleasant seating for talking story, drinking Kona coffee or tapping into complimentary wireless Internet service that is available in the guestrooms, as well.
The focal point, however, is an original Herb Kawainui Kane oil painting depicting Kamehameha I, his family and advisors at Kamakahonu. The Hawaii-based historian/artist actually retouched the mural himself during the renovation.
The hotel also acquired a collection of 40 signed, limited-edition pieces by Kane that sequence through Hawaiian lifestyles and legends. Displayed prominently in the breezeway linking the lobby with the west tower where I stayed, these visual histories grabbed my full attention more than once — as did Mahoe, a retired 40-foot koa outrigger canoe.
“This is such a significant place in Hawaiian history,” said Alana Yamamoto, the hotel’s sales manager. “We knew we had to update the property while keeping culture as the focus.”
Designers were on target to bring Big Island-inspired color schemes and themes of into the newly outfitted guestrooms and suites. Bedspreads, chair upholsteries and carpeting in burnt red and rich brown are accented by pillow shams, dusters and wall coverings in rainforest hues. Contrasting light and dark wood furnishings are chiseled in Polynesian tattoo motifs. My favorite touch was the lava-flow pattern weaved into carpeting in the guestrooms and the hallways.
Appointments include a flat-screen television, a microwave, complimentary coffee and maker and Bath & Body Works amenities. The mini-refrigerator is a bonus, especially since there is no room service. There’s also an expanded ABC Store off the lobby where guests can stock up around the clock.
Enhancements also cover the Kona Beach Restaurant, which serves up a splendid view of Alii Drive, the bay and the heiau (temple) from nearly every table. While the large dining room is fresh and bright, it will definitely have a warmer feel once plants are in place.
Encourage your clients visiting on Friday and Saturday evenings to dive into the prime rib and seafood buffet. It draws local residents as well as visitors, thanks to an abundance of sashimi, sushi, crab legs and shrimp.
The new infinity-edge pool and lava-rock whirlpool area with the Billfish Bar seems somewhat small for a hotel of this capacity. But it’s adequate since Kona’s only white-sand beach fringes the hotel.
What’s critical to share with your clients is how this is a completely different experience from the mega-resorts stringing up the Kohala Coast to the north, and condominium accommodations sprinkled along the Kailua-Kona waterfront and coast to the south. It’s especially geared to those preferring to be in the heart of the lively harbor town’s activity rather than removed from it.
“Kailua-Kona is home to three of our island’s largest events,” said Yamamoto. “We have the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament in August, Queen Liliuokalani Canoe Races in September and Ironman Triathlon in October, which starts and finishes adjacent to the property. You can look out and play in the bay where these world-class athletes compete. It’s remarkable.”