by Lissa Poirot
Ranked as one of the top hotels in the world, Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows is a large hotel, located on Mauna Lani Resort and nestled among condos and homes along the Kohala Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. The more than 30-year-old resort takes pride in its Hawaiian culture, as evident in how it showcases the Hawaiian elements and wildlife at every turn — waterfalls and fish ponds in the lobby, an outrigger canoe built over the course of two years with guests helping to carve every inch of it, and even a dedicated culture and history guide to point out the caves, petroglyphs and lava formations on the property.
All-inclusive is not found in the Hawaiian islands, but Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows attempts to include as much as possible in a stay, offering free cultural activities, beach fun and sports. The resort even has its own sailboat to provide excursions right from the beach.
Guests of Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows can elect to stay in the hotel, where oversized rooms provide views of the ocean or the mountains, or in one of five bungalows offering two bedrooms, full kitchens, private pools and all of the amenities of home — and then some. At the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, luxury is at every turn, but families with all budgets can find a price point that suits them.
Our Editor Loves
- Villas and bungalows for larger families
- Free cultural programs and activities
- Free beach cabanas and gear
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Mauna Lani Bay opened in 1983 and received a second renovation that took the rooms from traditional Hawaiian decor with dark woods to more of a Coastal Living magazine look, with light, airy colors.
Guestrooms and Suites
Guestrooms and suites mainly feature king beds. For larger families, a suite with a sofa bed may be more suitable, and they provide sitting areas to have more room. There are a limited number of rooms offering two queen beds, and rollaway beds and cribs are available. Guestrooms feature wet bars, refrigerators, flat-screen TV's and private decks with views of the ocean or the mountain. All rooms receive Wi-Fi, included in the resort fee.
If expense is not an issue, choose to stay in one of five bungalows on the resort. These large, two-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom homes can accommodate large families with a dining room, living room, private pool and extra large patio with dining and lounging space and a grill. The bedrooms are outfitted with large bathrooms with tubs and inside and outside showers. The master features a king bed, while the secondary room features two queen beds, with a maximum eight-person occupancy. A full kitchen with a dishwasher, stove, refrigerator and all glassware, flatware and dinnerware can be helpful in cooking meals for the family. But if you don't feel like cooking, a chef will come and cook for you. The resort will also pre-stock the kitchen with groceries of your choice before your arrival.
Villas are also available through Mauna Lani Bay, which manages homes on the larger property for rentals. Guests will have full use of the resort while staying in one- to three-bedroom units.
We’ve gone to Mauna Lani for 12 years. Our kids have the fondest memories of this place. Just reviewed the post-remodel pricing for summer 2020. At $999/night per room ( the previously-named Ocean View rooms, it would seem ) I suspect they’ll lose the types of families that once loved this resort. It’s what we all feared, that the classic elements of this resort would be forever changed, as would the type of people who come here. I’m sure the remodel looks great and that all the updates are top-notch. But the corporate-hotelier-driven pricing will forever change this place. In truth I knew this was coming when I saw that Auberge had photographed professional models strolling the beach to add to their Instagram feed suggesting a new clientele is expected. A historic property got a great update but kind of sad that those who have spent many years coming here are likely priced out. Change happens, I suppose. Sad, though.
Three night stay in mid 2018.
The good: nice room, good view of beach / ocean. Air conditioning was very functional, and staff were helpful and pleasant on arrival. This is a 'nice' place, and the architecture and landscaping reflect it. The common areas outside of the lobby show some wear, but nothing too egregious.
We like to explore, and self parking was not an issue as it can be at some resorts.
Unfortunately there were many issues during our stay, and some really compromised our visit.
The beach is a disappointment. There is a LOT of coral / rocks, to the point where any swimming beyond a "wade in, wade out" is asking for trouble. Sadly, there has also been a massive bleaching event and the coral near the hotel is almost entirely dead. Given that one is paying 'beachfront' rates, it's hard to justify them with such limitations.
The other major disappointment was with hotel security. A family returned to the hotel one night, and began partying very loudly in the pool area at 9:30 p.m.; there was lots of yelling, and they seemed drunk. As the pool area is faced by most rooms, and the party extended well past the stated 10pm close of the area, many guests began to call the front desk and ask security to address the situation.
How would I know people were calling? Because you could hear them, as they all started to migrate onto their lanais and angrily demand that the family be quiet. The family responded with insults and the atmosphere was ugly. I actually thought one couple in a room a few lanais away was going to go down and get into it with them.
This should never have happened, and the Mauna Lani's 'security' staff seemed cowed and frightened by a bunch of drunk tourists. They were utterly ineffective; given the property's bearing and advertised level of excellence, it was inexcusable.
I would add that I found the interior of the hotel dreary, but some folks love to see sea turtles in a shopping mall environment, I guess.
My overall impression was that this is a property with a great location that has seen better days, and suffers from poor management.
*** I do wish to note that the rest of the development (e.g., the condos, beach at the south end, etc.) seems lovely, and the staff are super nice. Just cannot recommend this hotel.
Like any resort along the Kohala Coast, the ocean is the main draw and Mauna Lani's beachfront access extends the length of the resort (larger than other neighboring resorts that may have a small section of beach nestled between a rocky shoreline). Snorkeling equipment and beach cabanas are provided at no additional cost.
A lap pool overlooks the beach with adult and children's hot tubs -- the children's hot tub is kept at 98 degrees so it is safe for young children.
Through the cultural center, free programs that connect both adults and children to Hawaiian culture are offered on a daily basis, and include hula lessons, lei making classes, and bowl weaving classes. Join the center's leader on a historical tour of the resort, where you will learn about Hawaiian canoes, fishponds, and petroglyphs and lava caves. Educational fish and turtle feeding programs are also free, where kids will learn about local wildlife. The resort's sea turtle program is an island favorite, as staff members raise sea turtles from infancy until they are large enough to release into the ocean on the 4th of July -- Turtle Independence Day -- where hundreds of people from around the island come to witness and celebrate the release.
The resort also provides complimentary bicycles to explore the resort, complimentary tennis, volleyball and golf clinics.
The resort offer three onsite restaurants and is located near several shopping and restaurant options.
The resort's signature restaurant is the Canoehouse, where reservations are recommended. This farm-to-table restaurant is only open for dinner. The restaurant provides ocean views and an open-air lounge, as well as a Captain's Table on weekend evenings.
The Bay Terrace is an open-air restaurant providing a bountiful breakfast buffet daily, as well as an a la carte menu.
Ocean Bar & Grill
Ocean Bar & Grill is open for lunch and sunset cocktails.
Since Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows is located on Mauna Lani Resort, you're also within walking distance to several other eateries, include Huli Sue's, situated in a golf clubhouse. Coffee and pastries, as well as sandwiches and snacks are available at the Honu Bar.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Guests will be greeted with a welcome lei upon arrival, along with a tropical beverage.
A daily, per room fee covers parking and Wi-Fi during your stay.
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.
Kona International Airport is the closest airport to Mauna Lani Bay, about a 30-minute drive north on the Kohala Coast. Rental cars, shuttles, taxis and limos can be arranged through concierge.
A shuttle service is available to take guests throughout the resort.
For Mom and Dad
The Mauna Lani Spa, which resembles a Hawaiian village, is located a short walk from the hotel. Escape to the spa to enjoy a treatment, the natural lava sauna, meditation hale and Watsu pool. The spa also houses a full-service salon, and you might like the Mauna Lani Fitness Club as well. Here, you'll find a wide array of equipment, fitness classes, a lap pool and a team of personal trainers.