by Lissa Poirot
This popular and luxurious resort, located on the Big Island’s Kohala Coast, at the base of Mauna Kea and stretching along the ocean with views of Maui, has been a family favorite for more than 20 years. What began as a Ritz-Carlton property — still evident by marble bathrooms and grand chandeliers — morphed into a Fairmont, providing more accessibility and family flair. The property consists of more than 540 rooms, six restaurants and a relaxing pool/beachside location to get away from it all and reconnect with the family.
Our Editor Loves
- Volcano and ocean views
- Sea turtles that swim beside you and lay on the rocks
- Calm bay for safe, wave-free swimming for little ones
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The Fairmont's rooms, 540 of them, are spacious in size, with extra-large bathrooms featuring dual sinks, a bathtub with a showerhead, a separate shower and a separate water closet. Rooms feature either two queen beds or a king bed with a small sitting area. All rooms provide walkout balconies with views of the ocean or the volcano, as well as free Wi-Fi. Rooms are equipped with flat-screen TV's, small refrigerators, bathrobes and desks with power stations for re-charging. Cribs and rollaway beds are available upon request.
The spacious guestrooms, with a king or two queen beds, feature a resort or ocean view from the balcony.
Suites that face the ocean are offered, and provide two room configurations in which the bedroom features two queen beds or a king bed, and the living room features a sleeper sofa, accommodating up to six guests altogether. Suites also have a dining area, sitting area and two bathrooms.
The Fairmont Gold rooms were the last rooms to receive the renovations in 2014. Fairmont Gold room guests receive a private floor, accessible only by key-card, with private check-in and concierge, and two computers with Internet service in the lounge. Breakfast, afternoon tea, evening hors d'ouevres and unlimited, non-alcoholic beverages are included in the stay, and perfect for families with kids who always seem to be snacking. Valet parking is also included with Gold room stays.
I stayed here for a week with my extended family in late August 2019. Booked a Suite Escape package directly with the hotel, and another room through Costco Travel. Contacted the hotel (concierge) in advance about a couple of matters, and at that time requested that a note be made in the reservations for both rooms that we be assigned rooms relatively close to each other. As I did not receive a reply about this request from the concierge, I had to call the hotel to confirm directly. My request had been followed through with, but it would have been nice to receive a reply.
Our flight from Japan arrived around 10:15am. We took a taxi directly to the hotel and arrived before Noon. We were happy to know that our room was ready, and grateful that we could immediately check in. Our suite was on the 5th floor of the Kohala (North) Tower facing the pool and with a beautiful view of the ocean from both balconies. I think we were either given one of the best rooms in our category or were upgraded to a better view. We did, however, have an issue with the cleanliness of the bathroom, and met with a delay in having it resolved, although it was eventually resolved to our satisfaction. The housekeeping staff are friendly, but in need of better training. Many times they forgot to replace the used glasses and mug cups left in plain view in front of the TV in the living room. As others have noted, the rooms are showing their wear.
The breakfast buffet was sufficient both in terms of variety and quality. We ate at the beachside Hale Kai restaurant for lunch many times, as well as the Orchid Court Grill and Brown’s Beach House for dinner. Brown’s was delicious, although the dessert quality was not good and could be skipped. Tip to parents of children under 5: Ask for the menu applicable for children over 5. There is a better selection of healthier food like grilled fish, and you only pay half the price if the child is under 5.
The grounds of the hotel and other public areas are well maintained and are indeed very beautiful. The service, however, is spotty and four star at best. And that goes for the restaurants, the pool staff and the beach staff. It would not be unreasonable to expect more in light of the hotel’s rates and the mandatory daily resort fee of $35. We enjoyed seeing may I dare say the hardest workers at the property – the honeybees! I wish we could have tasted the fruits of their labor, but no place on the property had it available. (The honey sold at Brown’s Deli is a blend of different locations on the Island, and not exclusively that produced at the Orchid.)
In conclusion, we stayed at the end of August beginning of September and obtained what I believe were reasonable packages. I might stay here again for the same or similar rates. However, I would not pay any higher rates for this hotel, for example, during the winter high season. Moreover, to those considering paying more for their Gold Level, although we did not stay on that level, I seriously doubt that the quality of the service and rooms could be enough to justify paying any more for this property. If the Orchid is capable of better service it should be implemented across the entire hotel.
ALOHA--I hope you are reading this because you are considering Fairmont Orchid for your Big Island resort--first the obvious is what an amazing and beautiful location to the north of the airport tucked away near Mauna Lani-- you will not be disappointed. The grounds of the resort are simply wonderful, the waterfalls are lovely and the pool area is huge and there are always more than enough chaise lounges, umbrellas and no shortage of staff ready to assist in anyway.
There is amazing coffee at the ready for your early morning sunrise as well as a great deli for those mornings when a latte and Hawaiian malasadas are just what you need to get the day going. The Fairmont Orchid staff from the valets, to the front desk to the lounge or beach are all very much the spirit of ALOHA—this was our first time on the Big Island and at this Fairmont—will certainly not be our last. We had a partial ocean view room that was spacious and from the lanai we had a beautiful ocean view. The ocean front path when we were there (Aug 28-Sep1) had at least 3 honu (Hawaiian green turtles) resting awaiting the morning sun so be sure and take your camera down for the early morning walk—there is a barrier there so be careful to respect the protection of these amazing creatures but you will still get great pictures. The beach front area is absolutely awesome—there are fish every day and especially in the calm mornings you can snorkel or paddleboard out past the reef and its breathtaking also there is are at least 2-4 turtles just hanging out all along the beach area. The beach is great for families with kids of all ages, we saw couples with small infants that just had the best time as well as toddlers, teens and even us big kids –great beach area—great service out there as well. MAHALO to all.
We had a couples massage literally steps away from the ocean and would very much recommend to anyone considering massage.
I wish we had more time but we will be back as soon as possible.
MAHALO to you all Fairmont Orchid—MAHALO for making our short visit one we are still talking about today.
Me ke aloha pumehana
Joe and Julie H
Pool and Beach
The Fairmont's lagoon pool seems a bit small for a resort of this size, but provides a splash-happy zone for kids and a relaxing area for cooling off for adults. Most families congregate in Pauoa Bay, a beachfront bay with calm, clear waters that are safe for children and easy to enjoy without rocks under feet. The Beach Shack provides snorkel gear (you may spot the sea turtles swimming in the bay), Boogie boards, surfboards, floats, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. A Fun & Sun Activity Pass can be purchased to provide equipment throughout your stay for an additional fee. Cabanas and shaded chairs are available poolside and beachside by reservation for an additional fee. (That's a bit of an ouch, considering there isn't much shade.)
Tennis is readily available with 10 courts, ensuring your family will have a chance to play.
Kids can enjoy a variety of programs for various ages. A Fairmont Fit for Kids program, for ages 5 to 12, improves athletic skills and keeps kids active while on vacation. Hawaiian Arts and Crafts are also available, and include basket weaving. Daily hikes are offered with a Hui Holokai Ambassador to explore the area's fishponds, shelter caves and petroglyph fields.
Gathering of the Kings is a special luau held every Saturday evening at the Plantation Estate, near the resort's tennis courts. The award-winning production celebrates the Polynesian beauty through song and dance.
Kids ages 5 to 12 dine half price in all restaurants, and children under 5 eat free. A children's menu is available at all of the restaurants.
The Orchid Court
Breakfast at the Fairmont Orchid occurs at the Orchid Court, with traditional offerings like pancakes, waffles, French toast and omelets, made to order with a Hawaiian flair. Selections include Banana Fosters Waffles with Kaloa Rum Banana Sauce, candied Macadamia nuts and island cinnamon sugar, Hilo vanilla sugar and a sweet cream cheese. A breakfast buffet is also offered, celebrating the 11 different climate zones of the island.
Luana Lounge is a comfortable evening lounge that overlooks the resort and the ocean -- perfect for watching the sun set. The lounge provides finger foods to accompany its wine and drink menu, with items like satays, sushi rolls, cheese plates and sliders.
Brown's Beach House Restaurant
Brown's Beach House is the resort's signature restaurant. Named for the Hawaiian statesman and referred to by locals as the "last Ali'I," Brown's menu contains locally sourced, organic or sustainable items wherever possible. A special chef's tasting menu is offered nightly, and diners can select dishes Mai Ke Kai (from the sea) or Mai Ka Aina (from the land). Kid's menus are also available.
Hale Kai Restaurant
Hale Kai Restaurant is the resort's toes-in-the-sand casual dining spot, and popular for families grabbing a bite near the pool and the beaches. Small and large plates are available, as well as vegan, gluten-free, heart-healthy and organic-only menus. Kids will like the children's menu, but will mostly enjoy watching the sea turtles that come to sun on the rocks nearby.
Noiro's Japanese Steahhouse & Sushi Bar
Noiro's Japanese Steahhouse & Sushi Bar is located inside the main resort, with a 14-seat sushi bar, 18-seat private dining area and 60-seat restaurant. Norio's provides a large array of sushi and items from the grill, soups and salads and seafood starters. A chef's menu is also available.
Housemate sandwiches, pizzas, salads and Kona coffee can be found at Brown's Deli.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The resort features a retail courtyard with sundries and Fairmont-branded merchandise.
Guest rooms are equipped with power stations for charging equipment and hooking computers into the room's flat-screen TV's. DVD players and PlayStations are available, as well as a DVD library.
The daily resort fee includes Wi-Fi.
Babysitting services can be arranged by the staff for an additional cost.
Pets are welcome to stay here for an additional, per night, cost.
The Art of Smart Timing
The Kohala Coast features warm climates and little rain throughout the year, making it perfect for year-round travel. Holidays are the resort's busiest season, and prices will be higher during these periods.
Hona International Airport is a quick and easy drive from the Fairmont Orchid, about 25 minutes away. If renting a car and driving, self parking at the hotel is included in the resort fee. Valet parking is included if staying on the Gold floor.
Shuttle services are also available, linking guests to other Kohala Coast resort properties and shopping.
For Mom and Dad
The Fairmont's Spa Without Walls is an extension of the resort's indoor spa, and just as the name implies, it's outdoors and without walls. Guests can receive spa treatments in one of eight private bungalows, set amidst tropical landscaping and waterfalls, or six oceanfront huts, for a true pampering experience. Indoors, the spa features three more treatment rooms.
A fitness center and fitness courses are provided at the resort, with special programs like seaside yoga, floating yoga (performed on a paddle board) and Core Fusion, a blend of Pilates with yoga, dance and stretching.