BIG ISLAND, Hawaii- Looking for a birthday gift that keeps on giving, a treat destined to appeal to snow birds tired of winter weather? A little something that will never be forgotten? Take advantage of the affordable aloha room rates for couples and families at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, on the Big Island’s Kohala Coast, in Hawaii.
Celebrating Hawaii’s 50 years of statehood, the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel is saying farewell to 2010 to welcome the New Year with the most affordable lodging rates and packages seen in recent years. Standard rooms for two on select dates over the next couple of months are going for $278 per night, nearly 20% off high-season prices. If you’re feeling flush, consider a deluxe room, also at discounted rates. Availability is limited, however, so keep checking the hotel’s website (at www.maunalani.com/).
What about hidden charges, those daily resort fees and sports rental charges? Happily there are none. Unlike its competitors, the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel includes nearly everything in the room rate, from a host of in-hotel amenities to the use of sports facilities and equipment. No matter what takes your fancy, from the Fitness Club, swimming pool, towels, beach cabanas, kayaks and stand-on paddle boards, (the latest craze) to snorkel gear, tennis court and recreational bicycles, all are provided at no extra fee.
The biggies – for me, at least – are the free self-service laundry and no-fee internet and wifi access. When you’re traveling with a family, it takes a washing machine to keep the troops in order. But the fruit drink and a fresh lei at check-in adds a warm fuzzy welcome, and so do the in-room coffee maker, coffee and tea service in the atrium, the daily bottled water, morning newspaper, electronic safe, self-parking, the free resort shuttle and the twice-daily maid service. Tell me you can match this at home!
A classic property built in 1983, the 343-room Mauna Lani Bay Hotel defines most of the features that still give Hawaiian hotels their Polynesian feel. The terraced front facade, an innovation back in the day, looks dated. But the airy high-ceilings, open-air lobby, lush gardens and tropical flowers are still de rigueur, as is the inviting figure-eight pool and rambling pool deck.
What other hotels can’t brag on, however, is the Mauna Lani’s open atrium and its terraced tropical fish pools, continuously refreshed by a gentle waterfall. A salt-water ecosystem of jewel-like fish dart hither and yon in pools so artfully contrived that watching the fish close up is almost as good – but not nearly so easy – as donning diving gear to explore the nearest reef. A tip: Start your day with breakfast served at a Terrace table.
Renovated in 2004-2005, the Mauna Lani's rooms were upgraded again, with new linens, bedding and draperies added in January 2010. In October, the furniture in the lobby and the Bay Terrace Restaurant was replaced, and the Ocean Grill got a new lattice-design roof made of native ohia poles. At the Canoe House, on the beach, a new chef, Sandy Tuason, brings his own new and creative energy to an already sumptuous menu.
But ask one of the regulars, and they'll say that the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel’s 20-acre grounds are its chief asset. One of the earliest hotels built on the Kohala Coast, the Mauna Lani occupies one of the few sites with a protected cove and a curving sweep of natural sand beach.
Its neighbor to the south, also on private Mauna Lani Resort property, isn’t a hotel, but a 1,800-acre historic preserve named Kalahuipua'a with ancient fish ponds, fresh-water springs, historic trails and an unspoiled shoreline. Northward is the Puako Petroglyph Field, the largest in the state of Hawaii. It’s hard to imagine any other place, even in Hawaii, so scenic and secluded.
FAST FACTS: The Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows is on Mauna Lani Drive on the Big Island's Kohala Coast, 23 miles north of Kona International Airport. Standard double rooms for two start at $278 on selected dates; most high season or weekend rates start at $345 per night. Call (800)367-2323 or visit www.maunalani.com.
(c) The Syndicator, by Anne Z. Cooke. Photos by Steve Haggerty (c) ColorWorld. A photojournalist team, Cooke & Haggerty hail from Venice, California.