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“Historic luxury resort exceeded expectations”

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Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows
Ranked #3 of 4 Hotels in Puako
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed April 29, 2014

We have previously stayed at the Fairmont Orchid and the Hilton Waikoloa, but we enjoyed Mauna Lani more. The property felt more compact and intimate with less of the sprawl of the larger resorts, yet the same features.

While the snorkel lagoon at the Hilton was nicer, and the Fairmont had classic five-star service, the Mauna Lani hit the right note of friendly-yet-attentive service with top notch accommodations and a more relaxed, personal feel. Mauna Lani also has the unique benefit of having the pre-historic landmarks (fish farming ponds and petroglyphs) on property. For a nice coral reef, the adjacent beach at the Mauna Lani timeshares is a 10-minute walk through the historic fish ponds. The Mauna Lani also tries to have a more Hawaiian feel than the chain resorts, with various ukelele duets and sometimes hula dancers in the atrium around sunset every evening, plus resort activities that tie into the historic nature of the property. The landscaping and open-air atrium with fish ponds are picture perfect.

As with all the properties in the area, renting a car is a good idea so you can explore some of the local off-resort areas and restaurants. The resorts are all fairly isolated and self-contained in this area, and the nightlife is fairly limited, so keep that in mind if you are looking for a party scene, none of these resorts in this area is a good choice. Valet parking was the same price as self-parking, included in the resort fee, and the valet staff were uniformly helpful, fast, and friendly.

We were upgraded from a standard room to an ocean view deluxe room, and during peak season, it would probably be well-advised to pay the small premium for the large room with a sitting area and a balcony overlooking the bay. During slow seasons when upgrades are possible/likely, I do recommend trying to book through a loyalty program that offers an upgrade. I think Mauna Lani participates in Expedia VIP, Preferred Hotels, and possibly other programs for independent luxury resorts.

The room decor and amenities were definitely as nice or nicer than the Hilton and the Fairmont (where we also received upgrades from our status in the loyalty programs). The decor was stone and teak finishes with a light modern feel, despite all the dark wood. Our room had a huge balcony with full sliding glass doors, screen doors, and slatted teak privacy panels, so you could go to sleep with the glass doors open to the sounds of the waves and wake up to birdsong, while the teak sliding doors gave you privacy and the screens kept out any potential insects. That was by far my favorite feature of the room. The empty mini-refrigerator and optional 'call to custom-stock your minibar/fridge' was a huge improvement over the normal arrangement of a pre-stocked minibar, a practice more properties should adopt.

The only thing I can nitpick is to say that I wish they provided liners for the ice bucket in the room. Also, if you need pitch-black darkness to sleep past sunrise, consider that the teak screens only filter out 90% of the light.

The free breakfast provided in the room rate was a standard assortment for a luxury four or five star property, with an omelet station; asian (miso/congee/fish) station; a 'european' station with salad, charcuterie and cheeses; fresh fruit, pastries, cereal, waffles; and the standard American hash browns, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, etc. My husband loved the different type of eggs Benedict every morning, but I thought the Hollandaise tasted like vinegar instead of lemon. As a nice touch, the gratuity was included, a much classier system than other properties that may give you a free breakfast, but make it clear tip is not included, and then you are left with the weird quandary of what to tip on a nominal $60 meal where all the server did was pour drinks and point to a buffet.

The hotel has recently added a $25 per night resort fee. While I disagree with the principle of not including a mandatory fee in the base rate, the fee does cover a nice variety of services that appear to have been previously nickel and dimed: parking, Internet, bottled water, and some resort activities (although they still charge a fee for yoga and other fitness classes). So probably a decent package value for the normal assortment of fees you would end up paying anyways.

The only thing that could really be improved at the hotel is a nice map or orientation at checkin. The concierge was a little puzzled when I wanted a map/explanation of the resort facilities on our first morning. But we did arrive very late on our first night, so it may be that we simply missed the normal welcome procedure.

Overall a lovely stay, highly recommended.

  • Stayed: April 2014
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10  Thank Janet_D_1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed April 22, 2014

Spent four days for a family wedding. Had to get over my initial shock at the bleak lava landscape getting to the resort but once there, it was a small piece of paradise. This part of the coast is isolated so if you love shopping and dining out and clubbing, this isn't a great place. Loved the beach access. Complementary snorkel gear, paddle boards and kayaks a nice touch. Turtles come right up to shore and the chaises have great shade. Didn't feel the staff did much to orient us--the wedding party had a block of rooms booked and while our room overlooked (undesirable) the valet entrance, others had ocean views with no apparent additional cost. Room was very large and nicely appointed, although housekeeping was sloppy--didn't refill the coffee one day and never brought ice to the room as offered. Grounds and atrium are beautiful. There are two nearby hikes (petroglyphs and fish ponds) that are interesting without leaving the extensive property. The best market is in the vicinity too.

  • Stayed: April 2014, traveled with family
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3  Thank tourgoddess
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
A TripAdvisor Member
Baltimore, Maryland
Reviewed April 19, 2014 via mobile

The Mauna Lani Bay was beautiful and had amazing beach access. The cabanas and snorkeling were perfect. The views were priceless, and the breakfast buffet was unparalleled.

Pros: beach access, pools, views, snorkeling

Cons: some parts of the hotel aren't aging well, the resort package up charge felt like a rip-off, the amenities and options weren't clearly explained

Stayed: April 2014, traveled as a couple
2  Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 19, 2014

We checked into the Mauna Lani for a week of R&R. Our flight was the last one for the day and by the time we checked-in it was about 11:30 PM but were greeted with as much pomp and attention as prime time. The valet, bell clerk and the reception staff were exceptional. The room was cozy for a family of 4 but we knew that coming in and frankly it did not bother us very much. The room was an Ocean View category and due to the late hour could not quite get a good view outside. The next day we asked to be be upgraded or moved to another room and they made that happen within minutes; to a higher floor with exceptional view of the ocean. The manager, Eric spent 30-40 min giving us a private tour of the property and very valuable suggestions about how to optimize our sightseeing time given this was out first trip to the Big Island. Their concierge service was truly remarkable, they suggested a very good tour of the Waipio Valley and couple of restaurants (Lava Lava & Tommy Bahamas) that were completely in alignment with our choice of ambience and surroundings. Every member of their staff had a smile on their face and appeared ready to jump in to support us in any way shape or form. Couple of areas where the hotel might pay attention - pool service bar staff and menu (limited choice, staff always not available) and the bird activity in the restaurant which frankly really is part of the ambience of the island. Overall a trip to remember and cherish for a long time.

Room Tip: Ocean view rooms on the 6th floor at the back offer exceptional view of the ocean. Choose room 676.
  • Stayed: April 2014, traveled with family
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1  Thank Arindam0130
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 17, 2014

Dear Mauna Lani,

We love you. Really, we do. My wife used to visit the hotel every year with her family. Then we got married here ten years ago, and we’ve come back at least once a year since then. Some years we come twice. We know the staff. Edwin is like family. We got hugged by virtually all of the restaurant staff when we went to the Bay Terrace for the first time this week.

But (and here’s the tough love part) you’re not family-friendly anymore. Not even a little bit. Which is funny because a LOT of your guests have children. We’ve made requests over the years to different managers that were never acted on. I know other guests have as well, because we talk to them by the pool. So in the interest of continuing our love affair with you and maybe, just maybe, improving the relationship, here are eleven suggestions. Most cost a little money. Some cost a little more. But when we go on vacation, if the kids aren’t happy, we aren’t happy. It’s time for you to invest a little bit in the kids staying at your hotel.

Suggestion 1: New toys at the pool and beach. Have you ever bought beach toys? The kids love the play area by the beach cabanas. But all of the toys seem to be from guests who have left them behind, and many are cracking, creating a potential hazard. Could you run to Costco or the ABC Store and pick up some fun new sand toys? And the noodles at the pool are practically disintegrating. We were excited to see a basketball hoop on the side of the pool when we arrived, and the kids played with it for over an hour…up until the owner came to retrieve it.

Suggestion 2: Bring back the toy wagon. At check-in for many years you would let kids pick out a toy. They were always stuffed dolphins or beach balls or other appropriate thematic toys, and the kids loved it.

Suggestion 3: Bring back the in-room sand pails and snacks. Every year for maybe four years, when we arrived there would be a Mauna Lani pail in the room for each kid filled with snacks. We have them at home in all the baths. We take them to the beach in California. The kids always had fun getting the pails and snacks. But then they disappeared.

Suggestion 4: Bring back anything at check-in. For a couple of years after we got married there would be a note and a bottle of Champagne waiting in the room for us. Then it changed to a note and a fruit plate. Then we had kids and it was a note, the sand pails/snacks, and a fruit plate. The kids always ate the fruit immediately – a perfect snack coming off a 5-hour flight. This time, for the first time, there was…nothing. Not a note. Not a fruit plate. Not anything for the kids. And we had even let you know that we were coming back for our ten-year anniversary.

Suggestion 5: Implement a family rate – a real family rate. For years you had an Ohana rate, whereby a second room would be half off - a nice idea, since in our case having one extra kid doubles our room costs. The problem was that the Ohana rate never made sense, since it was based on your most expensive rack rates and didn’t apply to any specials. Every year we would be told that the Ohana rate would work out to, for example, $500 + $250 = $750 for two rooms, where a special rate including breakfast would be $320 + $320 = $640 for two rooms. Could you bring back the Ohana rate, but make it an actual deal? It doesn’t have to be 50%. Maybe let someone book any package and then give them the second room for 20% less than that. Would make it a much better feeling to book every year, given that we’re always going to need that second room.

Suggestion 6: Open up the gym earlier. It’s nice for one of us to work out early, especially slightly let-lagged, before the kids are awake and wanting to head to breakfast. A 5:30 opening time worked perfectly, and my wife especially always took advantage of it. The new 6:00 time doesn't work as well. And on the workout theme, could you reduce the minimum amount of rental time for the stand-up paddle boards and kayaks? It's fun for young kids to try something new, but they usually don't want to do it for an hour. A half-hour option would be welcome.

Suggestion 7: A kids’ club open to kids anytime without paying $80/day. We’re not interested in using a kids’ club for an entire day. But during the hottest part of the day, it’s great to be able to duck in and let the kids do crafts for half an hour. At least that’s what we’ve done often at other hotels. It’s unfortunately never been an option at the Mauna Lani.

Suggestion 8: A playground. There’s a great grassy area on the way to the condos, past the Bay Terrace, that’s perfect for a playground. Again, it would be a place for kids to go after spending a morning at the pool and beach, to get out of the sun for a little while. It’s largely a one-time expense that would quickly become a kids’ hub. Put in a few milo trees and additional coconut palms for natural shade and you’re set. This would especially come in handy this week when it’s so windy that no one wants to be at the beach, getting sand-blasted.

Suggestion 9: Put in a little more shade at the pool. Do you ever notice in the afternoons that the chairs under the umbrellas or shaded by palms are all occupied? This continues the theme above: please give us more options to get out of the sun with the kids, short of heading up to the room early. We didn’t come to Hawaii to sit in the room.

Suggestion 10: Bring back the kids’ activities. We’re happy that you still do the fish-feeding, but we loved the s’more fire pit in the evenings, and we were looking forward to the scavenger hunts when the kids got a little older. Then those both disappeared.

Suggestion 11: Bring back the nightly torch lighting. Continuing on the theme in suggestion 10, we've noticed a lot of things disappear over the years. Some things aren’t a big deal – we never used the shoe horns or the in-room ice anyway, and we didn’t need evening turn-down every night. Some we definitely miss: the free morning coffee; the Honu Bar sushi, drinks and pupus when watching the hula/music in the evenings; the Ocean Bar restaurant; free parking; free internet; all of the kid things previously mentioned. But one of the kids’ favorite things is to run along with the torch lighter every night at 6:00 as he goes around the hotel. We took it for granted that that was one tradition that wouldn't disappear...until this time. According to the weekly schedule, he’s now down to four nights a week. No! Bring him back every night. Please!

So that’s it – a lot of little things and a big thing (a playground) that would make us fall in love with you all over again and make the kids (and us) truly excited to return every year. Now is a great time to reverse your cutback trend, and do it by starting with the kids. Remember, they’re the ones who are going to be excited to return with their own kids someday – if you make it fun for them again.


Eric aka Travel Babbo

  • Stayed: April 2014, traveled with family
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22  Thank TravelBabbo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 16, 2014 via mobile

We stayed at the Mauna Lani, for the first time, last spring. We loved the resort and the staff so much, we chose to return again this spring. Before staying last year, we thought we would go to a different island each year. Now, I think we're Mauna Lani "Lifers". Thanks Mauna Lani!

  • Stayed: March 2014
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1  Thank Christie H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 16, 2014

The Mauna Lani is amazing. The inside of the hotel is an island paradise with beautiful gardens, palm trees, ponds etc. And the outside areas are amazingly well landscaped, right along the ocean. For a $25 resort fee you get-- free parking, free use of bicycles, free use of amazing spa (with steam rooms, hot tub, pools etc.), all kinds of classes and workshops like yoga, surfing, snorkeling, and much more. I enjoyed biking around, jogging, the use of the spa, and snorkeling. The snorkeling was awesome, with literally thousands of brightly colored tropical fish. Also, the hotel is very much supportive of the Native Hawaiian culture, and has a lot of Hawaiian live music events. On the Friday evening that I was there, they had a big band with Hawaiian singers out on the beach, a Hawaiian singing group inside the courtyard, a slack key guitar player in the cafe, and a guitarist/singer in the restaurant. I loved the cafe, featuring island-grown coffee, which by the way, was excellent. Can't say enough good things about the Mauna Lani-- I had an amazing health and wellness uplift here. The food was excellent also.

Room Tip: I had an ordinary room for $260/night, and I considered that to be an amazing value for all that you...
  • Stayed: April 2014, traveled solo
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1  Thank Brooke B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows

Address: 68-1400 Mauna Lani Drive, Puako, Island of Hawaii, HI 96743-9726
Phone Number:
Location: United States > Hawaii > Island of Hawaii > Kohala Coast > Puako
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#1 Family Hotel in Puako
#1 Romantic Hotel in Puako
#3 Luxury Hotel in Puako
#3 On the Beach Hotel in Puako
#3 Spa Hotel in Puako
Price Range: $334 - $530 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:4.5 star — Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows 4.5*
Number of rooms: 341
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Also Known As:
Mauna Lani Bay Hotel And Bungalows
Mauna Lani Bay Resort
Mauna Lani Resort

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