On a recent visit to the Big Island, I checked out King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, which had just completed a two-year, $35 million renovation.
Not more than 10 minutes into my visit, I overheard at least three people say, “Wow, they’ve really changed this place.”
The property, located on just about the only sandy beach in the village of Kailua, is an excellent option for visitors looking for accommodations in the heart of the small community’s vibrant collection of restaurants, small shops and galleries.
According to Jak Hu, general manager at the King Kamehameha, the recent renovation is the first major overhaul at the property since it was built in 1976.
“If you look at the rooms, everything is new,” he said. “New TVs, new beds, new furniture, new carpet, new air conditioning. The bathrooms were completely redone. The public areas, lobbies, banquet rooms, all of it’s new. … The only thing that’s the same is us. We’re all the same people.”
Thanks in no small part to the employees Hu mentioned, the property seems to have retained the homey, relaxed atmosphere that has long made it a favorite for Hawaii residents across all of the islands.
And it won’t take long for first-time guests to pick up on the hotel’s value as a gathering place for all sorts of events. Outrigger canoe practices and races are held regularly in front of the property at Kamakahonu Bay, while the hotel regularly hosts reunions, weddings and community meetings. The result is a property loaded with an authentic Hawaii feel and charm.
Redesign of the hotel’s interior was also done in an effort to emphasize the property’s Big Island heritage. Guests will find carpeting that resembles lava flows, upholstery patterned after coffee beans, Hawaiian tattoo motifs on the furniture and light fixtures inspired by macadamia nuts.
Just steps from Ahu’ena Heiau, a National Historic Landmark and King Kamehameha’s final personal residence, the hotel lobby is full of artifcacts, vibrant paintings by Hawaiian artist Herb Kane and historical exhibits aimed at educating visitors about the cultural importance of the location.
“I really wanted everything to be very close to Hawaii,” Hu said. “And that’s why Herb Kane is helping us, because he sees that we are trying to create something that will go from generation to generation.”