When the new state of Hawaii wanted to decentralize tourism beyond Waikiki in 1960, it invited hotelier Laurance S. Rockefeller to tour the islands and choose an outlying site for a new luxury resort. Rockefeller fell in love with the Big Island’s Kohala Coast. On land covered in 5,000-year-old black lava adjoining a white-sand beach—statistically the sunniest spot in the islands—he built a hotel whose every aspect paid tribute to the ancient Hawaiian spirit.
Today’s guests find the same sense of Hawaiian time and place that for decades has made Mauna Kea Resort a favorite with elite travelers from all over the world. Although the hotel underwent a top-to-bottom refurbishment in 1995, guests still find Rockefeller’s museum-quality art collection as well as his open-air atrium replete with full-size coconut palms, running brooks, and pools of colorful koi.