Travelers in search of a beachfront resort on the Big Island of Hawaii won't find one much nearer to the Pacific than the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows.
"There's no hotel that's closer to the ocean than what we have here," said Rodney Ito, general manager of the 30-acre property. "Guests can literally walk out of the building and right onto the sand."
The white-sand beach fronting the 341-room hotel is certainly a terrific spot for lounging in the Hawaiian sunshine, but it also fringes a beautiful bay, protected by an offshore reef that often keeps the ocean water calm, particularly in the mornings.
"People can snorkel and standup paddleboard and kayak in the bay right out front of the hotel without any waves or any kind of danger of that sort," Ito said, adding that folks interested in a beginner surf lesson won't need to travel far, either.
"Our beach hut staff is happy to organize a surf lesson and find a spot where the waves are breaking," he said. "Usually they can find some waves right nearby, [because] for a beginner, all you typically need is just a little bit of whitewater."
Guests staying at the property can actually take advantage of three gorgeous bays, including Makaiwa Bay, which is a five- to 10-minute walk south from the main hotel building and home to a healthy collection of colorful coral and underwater sea life.
"The snorkeling here really is world-class," Ito said.
According to Melissa Kramer, a Liberty Travel consultant based in Deptford, N.J., the Mauna Lani is also a fabulous place to unwind.
"I'm definitely going to recommend it to my clients," she said during her first visit to the resort in September. "It's just so peaceful, [and] there are all these little areas where you can just go sit and relax and stare at the water and the sunset and enjoy that feeling of 'I'm in paradise and don't have to worry about the outside world.'"
Kramer was also a fan of the hotel's two new suite products, added at the tail end of a $20 million property refresh that wrapped up mid-2014.
The new Makaiwa Suite was added to the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalow as part of a $20 million property refresh in mid-2014.
"They're very big, which is great," she said of the new Makaiwa and Pauoa suites, which start at $1,800 a night. "I think my favorite part was the bathrooms. I loved the walk-in shower and that deep tub."
Ito said two existing guestrooms were gutted and then combined to create the new suites, which offer 1,040-square-foot interiors, 200 square feet of outdoor lanai, wood floors, large living rooms, wet bars and five-fixture bathrooms.
"They've been very popular with presidents and CEOs of [incentive] groups staying at the hotel or for special occasions for couples and honeymooners," Ito said.
The recent refresh at the property also included replacing all the soft goods in each of the 341 guestrooms, which now feature striking interior designs by celebrated Hilo-based apparel maker Sig Zane, who creates some of Hawaii's most in-demand aloha wear.
Upgrades were also made at the property's main pool, where a sprawling 12-person hot tub was added and workers leveled an existing building that blocked views of the Pacific.
"It used to be when you sat at the pool you looked at the restaurant," Ito said. "Now when you're sitting at the pool, you're looking out at the ocean."
The property's luxurious oceanfront bungalow products start at $4,000 a night. The bungalows, which were overhauled a couple of years ago, have long attracted high-end travelers.
"A lot of celebrities will stay there because they're so secluded," Ito said, who mentioned Kevin Costner and Nike's Phil Knight as former guests. "The bungalows have their own private pool and hot tub. You can have barbecues out there. There is a small kitchen, [and] guests can drive their car right down the road and park in the cul-de-sac over there and really just get away from everyone and everything."