Cultural Traditions and a Laid-Back Luxe Aesthetic Shine at This Big Island Retreat
With its five volcanoes, black-sand Punaluʻu Beach and verdant Waipi’o Valley, the Big Island of Hawai’i is considered an adventure-lover’s paradise. Families adore it too, and Mauna Lani on the Kona-Kohala coast is a dreamy destination for summer travels. From educational activities with the HoloHolo Kids Crew and talking story at Hale’ ‘I’ike cultural hub to its sparkling swimming pools, plush beachside daybeds and local cuisine, the resort, whose name means “mountain reaching heaven,” is a special place to make new memories together.
Connect With Nature on Land and Sea
Back-to-nature experiences continue to top multigenerational vacation activity lists, and Mauna Lani is debuting a series of environmentally focused programs inspired by the land and sea this summer that allow the whole family to connect with nature. Meet pro watermen and women (plus sweet four-pawed host Mika) at the Surf Shack for guided outrigger sunrise canoe rides, snorkel trips, surf lessons, beachside yoga and underwater rock running with Kainalu Ocean Sports. Back on dry land, trendy pickleball is a resort highlight—improve technique with a clinic or join the Thursday-night league dedicated to America’s fastest-growing sport. Anyone age 4 and up can sign up for classes to hone their pickle skills at the award-winning Wellness Center & Tennis Club.
Get Into the Swing on a Championship Course
Touted as “one of the best golf courses to play in Hawaii” by Golfweek, Mauna Lani is home to two award-winning 18-hole fairways. Surrounded by mesquite forests and a natural lava amphitheater, goats keep grass on the North Course tightly cropped while the equally scenic South Course was rated No.1 in the U.S. by NBC GolfPass; its 7th and 15th holes are two of the most photographed in the world. Sign up for a morning lesson, then stop for lunch at The Clubhouse Bar before ending the day with a sunset golf tour. Families might prefer the nine-hole Wikiwiki course (wiki means “quick” in Hawaiian), which also enjoys spectacular Kohala Coast views.7/22
Cruise Mauna Lani’s Legendary Coastline
Anyone keen to learn about traditional navigation methods and the relationship between the ocean and native Hawaiian culture, a trip on Kalama Kai with Captain Ikaika Vivas—a Kaimū local who grew up sailing the Big Island’s coastline—is a must. Named for Queen Kalama Hakaleleponi Kapakuhaili and meaning “light of the sea,” the 42-foot powerboat can be chartered for bespoke snorkeling and offshore fishing trips. Set up the rods and cast for marlin and mahi-mahi or explore reef formations to spot moray eels, manta rays, colorful fish and green sea turtles while Captain Vivas shares tales of aloha and his sailing adventures. For larger marine life sightings, humpback whales and spinner dolphins migrate to Hawai’i during the winter months.
Talk Story with the Living Culture Team
Set on 32 acres of ancient oceanfront land that features the royal fishponds of Kalāhuipua’a and primordial lava fields, guests are inspired to take a deeper dive into the history, culture and heritage of Hawai’i at Mauna Lani with experiences led by the Living Culture team. Look for rock carvings made by native Hawaiians on a guided hike through the Puakō Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve, learn the ‘ukulele or string a tuberose lei during one of the resort’s cultural workshops at Hale’ ‘I’ike or the “House of Knowledge.” Every full moon, the Eva Parker Woods Cottage sets the stage for Twilight at Kalāhuipua’a music and talk story sessions.
Support Native Species With the Mālama Honu Program
A keystone species that helps to maintain healthy seagrass beds, the Green sea turtle (or honu) is also closely entwined with Hawaiian culture and mythology as a symbol of good luck and mana (spiritual energy). It’s said they represent the link between man, land and sea. Since 1989, Mauna Lani has helped raise hundreds of Green sea turtles in partnership with Sea Life Park. The O’ahu-based marine wildlife center sends captive-reared hatchlings to spend up to three years in the resort’s Honu Lagoon, where guests can learn about honu through the Turtle Talk program with resident expert Pi’i La’eha. Hatchlings deemed appropriate for release are returned home to the ocean every July 4, which is celebrated as “Turtle Independence Day.”
Taste Regional Cuisine From Across Hawai’i
With five individual dining concepts, including specialty coffee shop and deli The Market and all-day spot the Surf Shack, choices for eating out at Mauna Lani are wonderfully varied. Local ingredients shine in farm-to-table and Japanese-influenced dishes at CanoeHouse—order à la carte items like the Kahuku Corn “Ribs” or try the seasonal six-course “MY” Menu, curated by Executive Chef Mark Libunao and General Manager Yuka Raso. While HāLani serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, breezy poolside Hā Bar is where to head for cocktails and light bites. Having collaborated with big-name purveyors and restaurants on culinary adventures, this Labor Day, the resort will host its inaugural food festival, the Mauna Lani Culinary Classic.
Keri Bridgwater is a freelance writer covering travel and lifestyle. Her work has been featured in Fodor’s Travel, Marie Claire, Matador Network and InsideHook, among other outlets and publications.