Each of the Hawaiian Islands offers visitors landscapes and experiences that are quite different from each other, and the Big Island’s calling card is its untamed nature. So, of course, its resorts and hotels are set amid some pretty wild and unpredictable terrain, most scattered along scenic black-lava-fringed bays on the Kona and Kohala coastlines.
They offer low-key relaxation with access to the adrenaline-fueled adventure activities for which Hawaii’s largest and youngest island is known. Here are the 10 best beach resorts on Hawaii’s Big Island.
The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort
If enjoying soft sand and warm surf is your top priority, it’s hard to top the postcard perfection of Hapuna Beach. Here, in the serene setting of the Kohala Coast, you can check in to the 249-room, 17-suite The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort to enjoy newly renovated guestrooms with contemporary décor, The Westin’s signature Heavenly Beds and partial or full ocean views.
The property (formerly the Hapuna Prince and celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2019) also features the Arnold Palmer-designed Hapuna Golf Course, two pools (one an adults-only infinity pool and the other a 6,800-square-foot freeform pool designed for families), four restaurants featuring Mediterranean and Hawaii-inspired cuisine, and a Mandara Spa. It’s also one of the best hotels on Hawaii’s Big Island for couples.
Hilton Waikoloa Village
There’s plenty to keep every member of the family—from toddlers who love to splash to grandparents looking to hit the links—happy at this expansive and affordable 62-acre complex on the Kohala Coast. In fact, it’s two parts resort, one part aquatic park and one part shopping mall. The 1,172 rooms and suites at one of the best hotels on Hawaii’s Big Island, Hilton Waikoloa Village, are located in three low-rise towers connected by canals that are serviced by mahogany boats.
The Makai at Lagoon Tower, located near the Kona Pool (which has a 175-foot water slide), is the most upscale and offers guests special amenities (such as complimentary spa access and priority reservations at restaurants). The Palace Tower has the most contemporary décor (plus fast Wi-Fi) and features rooms with mountain and bay views, and the Ocean Tower is located near the adults-only pool and the kid-friendly Kohala River Pool featuring junior waterslides. Guests also enjoy 14 restaurants, a saltwater snorkeling lagoon set on a white-sand beach, a Dolphin Quest program and two golf courses.
Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay
If you don’t take the term “beach resort” literally, you’ll discover great value at this 508-room resort perched on the black-lava cliffs of Keauhou Bay. Overlooking clear aqua water where giant manta rays can be spotted gliding and feeding, the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay is optimally located for enjoying the many watersports (diving, stand-up paddle boarding and more), bars and dining in lively Kailua-Kona. When its time to explore other things to do on the Big Island, the resort’s location is also prime for seeing sights along the coast (including Kealakekua Bay, known for its great snorkeling) on the way to Volcanoes National Park.
That said, the property’s large freeform pool, set in an ocean-facing courtyard, can be quite boisterous. But there’s lots to love about the lush green lawns and gardens that house a charming wedding chapel and the Asian-fusion menu at Rays on the Bay—where dining is often accompanied by manta ray sightings.
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
White sand and black lava create a striking visual against the lushness of this 243-room resort located on the Big Island’s legendary Kona Coast. Golden sunsets, challenging greens on the Jack Nicklaus-designed Hualalai Golf Course and bursts of tropical florals from the lobby to the guestrooms paint the Four Season Resort Hualalai in a palette that inspires renewal.
Accommodations range from 635-square-foot Oceanview Rooms to villas sized from 2,600 to 5,518 square feet. The resort is set on a ½ mile of beach and features seven pools, including one that’s adults only, plus there’s a unique salt-water King’s Pond for family-friendly snorkeling alongside thousands of tropical fish. Honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) also swim right offshore and often scramble onto the sand.
Dining is equally memorable, from the barefoot casual vibe of Beach Tree to the regional, seasonal, artisanal menu at ‘Ulu Ocean Grill. And the view at sunset from the Beach Tree Bar and Lounge will make you wish you could be there every night.
Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
Easy on the budget and well located for exploring the island’s scenic interior, this recently redesigned resort sprawls along the coast overlooking Anaeho’omalu Bay and has a long stretch of golden-sand beach lapped by calm waters. The Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa features a large open-air lobby leading to an expansive central pool area with a kid-friendly waterslide that’s flanked by hotel wings housing 295 rooms offering a range of pool and ocean views.
The contemporary décor is ocean-and-beach-inspired—airy white, soft sandy beige and soothing blue—and the most luxurious are the Na Hale Oceanfront category. The property, one of the best beach resorts on Hawaii’s Big Island, is also known for its two championship golf courses and historic Hawaiian fishponds, while dining is centered in the Hawaii Calls restaurant, serving a blend of American and Pacific Rim cuisine, and the spa is managed by Mandara.
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Only one resort can claim to be the Big Island’s first and that title belongs to Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on Kauna’oa Bay. It dates to 1965 and was developed by conservationist/hotelier Laurance S. Rockefeller. Now part of the Autograph Collection, this 252-room property features one of the finest crescent beaches on the Kohala Coast, the equally lauded Mauna Kea Golf Course (also the island’s first) and Rockefeller’s art collection comprised of hundreds of museum-caliber pieces.
Recent renovations have added a sleeker, more contemporary edge to décor in spacious rooms and suites. Better still, many accommodations have ocean views. Activities include golf, tennis, watersports, snorkeling, yoga and even bocce ball. Manta is the property’s signature restaurant, serving Pacific Rim cuisine, and the Copper Bar offers a timeless setting for creative tapas, locally sourced entrees and craft cocktails. There’s also an on-property luau and romantic private dining in several tiki-torch-lit locales.
Grand Naniloa Resort, A Doubletree by Hilton
Again, it’s lava, beautiful lava at this 320-room waterfront property set on a peninsula in lush, green Hilo and offering access to waterfalls, zip-lines and water activities such as stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking and snorkeling. The Grand Naniloa Resort, A Doubletree by Hilton features clean, contemporary décor, along with a collection of Kim Taylor Reece fine art photos of hula dancers, and offers fantastic views of Hilo Bay from its lobby and from many rooms and suites (all updated in 2016).
For relaxation, there’s a small oceanfront pool surrounded by green lawns and golfers can play Hilo’s only 9-hole course, located adjacent to the hotel; two rounds per guest daily are included in the nightly resort fee, as is basic Wi-Fi, snorkel rentals and complimentary Big Island Breeze cocktails in the lobby bar.
Royal Sea Cliff Kona by Outrigger
There’s no white-sand beach here, but travelers who love the ease of a condo rental can opt to book a spacious studio, one-bedroom or two-bedroom unit with a full kitchen and washer/dryer at the oceanfront Royal Sea Cliff Kona by Outrigger.
Conveniently located just five minutes’ drive from Kailua-Kona—where there are bars, restaurants and outfitters for snorkeling, diving and adventure tours—this property sits atop black-lava cliffs and features two pools, a whirlpool, tennis courts and a barbecue area. If relaxing on your private lanai listening to the sound of surf crashing against the rugged shoreline while nibbling and sipping fresh treats from your fridge isn’t Big Island nirvana, what is?
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Orchids are one of Hawaii’s most beautiful botanicals and this 540-room resort, known for its elegant setting on 32 garden-like acres of Kohala Coast shoreline and its Hawaiian-centric spa, lives up to its name. While its grounds are studded with black-lava outcroppings, the Fairmont Orchid boasts plenty of appealing places to soak up the sun: a serene stretch of sandy beach, a calm lagoon and a 10,000-square-foot oceanfront swimming pool.
Activities include golf, tennis, snorkeling, outrigger canoeing and stand-up paddle boarding. Relaxation is the specialty at the Spa Without Walls, where guests can opt for an al fresco (but totally private) treatment with ingredients sourced on island. Nine restaurants and bars also focus on native Hawaiian specialties and seafood, from flavorful Hawaiian Regional Cuisine at award-winning Brown’s Beach House to the new modern Japanese menu at Binchotan Bar and Grill.
Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection
Re-opening in January 2020 after a $200 million refurbishment by its new owners, Auberge Resorts, this iconic Big Island property (it opened in 1983) occupies 30 acres on the sunny Kohala Coast. The new Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection—set on 3 miles of coastline with two stellar white-sand beaches—will offer 333 guestrooms, 38 luxury suites and five villas with 5,000-square-feet of indoor and outdoor space as well as private pools.
Interiors will feature a neutral palette of natural materials such as rich hardwoods and gorgeously patterned stone. The property’s signature CanoeHouse restaurant, know for its open-air setting and sublime sunset views, will remain, although with updated décor and menus. Three pools (one adults-only and a redesigned Family Pool), an Auberge Spa, tennis courts, the Mauna Lani Golf Club (offering 36 manicured holes on two courses) and historic royal fish ponds will make this one of the island’s most coveted escapes.