The Big Island might not be the first Hawaiian Island that springs to mind when it comes to romance, but you’d be mistaken to dismiss this multi-dimensional destination when planning a getaway for two. That’s because this island lives up to its name. Not only is it big on adventure, but as the home of some of Hawaii’s most indulgent resorts it’s also big on luxury. Better still, if your budget’s more limited, you can find sexy seclusion, too.
Check out our 10 picks for the most romantic hotels on the Big Island.
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
From the pathways that meander its lushly planted grounds and lead to a half mile of white-sand beach to the expansive spa with its Hawaii-centric apothecary, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai was designed with romance in mind. Yes, this 243-room Kona Coast resort also appeals to families, but there’s an adults-only pool (one of seven) and the Oceanview Rooms are a generous 635-square feet (those on the lower level have a private outdoor shower).
The salt-water King’s Pond is a relaxing spot to snorkel alongside thousands of tropical fish and honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) frequent the resort’s warm waters and serene beach. The Jack Nicklaus-designed Hualalai Golf Course offers a scenic one-on-one challenge to golf-loving couples, while the resort’s restaurants range from the barefoot casual vibe of Beach Tree to regional, seasonal, artisanal dining at ‘Ulu Ocean Grill. A favorite spot is the Beach Tree Bar and Lounge at sunset—it’s perfect for a couple’s selfie snapped during the magical twilight hour.
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
A great spot to start married life together—or celebrate a special anniversary—is a property that has stood the test of time: The Big Island’s first resort, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. The 252-room hotel, which dates to 1965 and was developed by conservationist Laurance S. Rockefeller, is located on Kauna’oa Bay and can rightfully boast about having one of the finest crescent beaches on the Kohala Coast. Mauna Kea is now part of the Autograph Collection, and recent renovations to its 252 spacious rooms and suites (many of which have stellar ocean views) have created a sleeker, more contemporary ambience.
The resort also houses Rockefeller’s art collection, comprised of hundreds of museum-caliber pieces, and offers challenging fairways and greens on its Mauna Kea Golf Course (also the island’s first). Other activities include tennis, watersports, snorkeling, yoga and even bocce ball. Couples can indulge in romantic private dining in tiki-torch-lit locales around the resort or get in the Hawaiian spirit during the on-property luau. Additional restaurants include Manta for Pacific Rim cuisine and the Copper Bar for creative tapas, locally sourced entrees and craft cocktails.
The aroma of freshly brewed Kona coffee isn’t the only thing that will set your hearts racing at the Holualoa Inn, a six-room bed & breakfast set on a 30-acre estate on the slopes Mt. Hualalai near Kona. At an elevation of 1,400 feet, the inn is surrounded by 4,100 coffee trees and tropical fruit trees and its mosaic-tiled pool and hot tub offer panoramic views of the rugged Kona coastline.
Its interiors feature original eucalyptus floors and décor that embraces the spirit of Old Hawaii. In the four rooms and two suites, couples are surrounded by local artwork, beautiful Hawaiian textiles and delicate orchids. A highlight each morning is breakfast, which features farm-to-table fruits and vegetables and estate-brewed coffee.
Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection
This luxury property, re-opening in late 2019 after a $100 million refurbishment by its new owners, Auberge Resorts, ticks all the boxes for romance. One of the Big Island's iconic properties (it opened in 1983), the new Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection — set on 30 acres of the sunny Kohala Coast and featuring three 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 and private pools. Interiors will be neutral and natural, featuring rich hardwoods and gorgeously patterned stone.
The property’s signature CanoeHouse restaurant, with its open-air setting and sublime sunset views, will remain, although with updated décor and menus. Three pools (one adults only), an Auberge Spa, tennis courts, the Mauna Lani Golf Club (with 36 holes on two courses) and historic royal fish ponds will make this one of the island’s most coveted romantic escapes.
The Fairmont Orchid
This is the place to connect with nature and allow stress to float off into the gentle Hawaiian breeze at the Spa Without Walls, where an al fresco (but totally private) couple’s massage with ingredients sourced on island is the romantic antidote for the harried pace of everyday life. Named for the one of Hawaii’s most beautiful botanicals and known for its elegant 32-acre grounds studded with black lava, The Fairmont Orchid also has plenty of appealing places to soak up the Kohala Coast sunshine: a serene stretch of sandy beach, a calm lagoon and a 10,000-square-foot oceanfront swimming pool.
Active couples can golf, play tennis, snorkel, or try outrigger canoeing and stand-up paddle boarding, while native Hawaiian specialties and seafood are specialties in the resort’s nine restaurants, from flavorful Hawaiian Regional Cuisine at award-winning Brown’s Beach House to the new modern Japanese menu at Binchotan Bar and Grill.
Mahana House Country Inn
With just four rooms, each offering a private lanai with an ocean view, the serene Mahana House Country Inn near Hilo offers a low-key escape for couples looking to experience the Big Island beyond the crowds and buffet lines of its large resorts. In fact, the inn is located on a 12-acre fruit farm and guests can enjoy freshly picked bananas, avocados, lychee and passion fruit in season.
The rooms benefit from ample tradewinds (there are ceiling fans but no air conditioning) and feature a king-sized bed, modern bathroom with walk-in shower and a kitchen area (there’s a pantry in the inn’s great room that’s stocked with fresh fruit, eggs and more), but no daily housekeeping. The property also offers easy access to the area’s many waterfalls (including nearby Akaka Falls) and to top sights such as Mauna Kea, Volcanoes National Park and Hilo Town.
Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay
Sometimes romance needs to stick to a budget. Couples who can’t splurge but want to enjoy the sights of the Big Island will find great value at this 508-room resort perched on the black-lava cliffs of Keauhou Bay. Yes, it does attract families (especially over school breaks and summer) and the most romantic things about it are its charming wedding chapel, lush green lawns and stellar views of clear aqua water where giant manta rays can be spotted gliding and feeding, but the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay makes an affordable base for couples looking to mix romance and adventure.
Enjoy the many watersports (diving, stand-up paddle boarding and more) and bars and dining in lively Kailua-Kona as well as the sights along the coast (including Kealakekua Bay, known for its great snorkeling) on the way to Volcanoes National Park. And sharing small plate specialties from the tasty Asian-fusion menu at Rays on the Bay—where dining is often accompanied by manta ray sightings—will provide lasting only-on-the-Big-Island memories.
Westin Hapuna Beach Resort
If your idea of romance is wading from soft sand into warm surf or sleeping in atop a bed so comfortable it’s called Heavenly, it’s hard to top the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort. Not only is Hapuna Beach itself postcard perfect, but the serene setting of the Kohala Coast is ideal for couples looking to relax, recharge or reconnect. The 249 rooms and 17 suites have been recently renovated and feature contemporary décor 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.
Inn at Kulaniapia Falls
The Big Island’s lush side—centered along the windward coast near Hilo—offers a dramatically different perspective of the natural forces that have shaped the island. The power and grace of fresh water is on full display at the Inn at Kulaniapia Falls, which is built on a cliff overlooking Hawaii’s largest privately accessible waterfall. Architecture is the inn’s four buildings is Asian-inspired and the vibe is rustic-sustainable (power is generated hydroelectrically—with one caveat: there’s no air conditioning).
While not luxury-level, a stay here allows adventure-seeking, eco-loving couples to fall asleep to the sound of cascading water (and several rooms in the Harmony House as well as the Pagoda Guest House offer direct waterfall views) while challenging themselves to activities such as waterfall rappelling, lava tube exploration and riding Icelandic horses.
Lava Lava Beach Club
For a cottage-on-the-beach experience—with delicious dining and lively ambience right next door—consider a stay at Lava Lava Beach Club. Located on 10 acres on Anaeho’omalu Bay near Waikoloa, the four cottages are 576 square feet and feature vibrant contemporary Hawaiian décor, offering the feeling of residential Big Island living with convenient access to dining and entertainment (note: there is live music nightly until 10pm at the restaurant, which accommodates several hundred people, and the entire property is non-smoking).
Hale Wa’a cottage is furthest from the restaurant and most private, but also the most requested so book well in advance. Lava Lava Beach Club makes a great base for independent-minded couples looking to learn stand-up paddle boarding, dine and enjoy the spas or golf courses of nearby Waikoloa resorts, or explore the rolling landscape of Waimea.