Submitted on 11-26-2017
A bubbling school of Koi fish welcome you to the resort in the pond that encompasses the runway entrance to the hotel. Once you pass through the front doors, the entire lobby area is open air, and atrium style, which is beautiful. Personally I prefer an air-conditioned lobby, but the trade winds seem to keep the lobby temperate, despite the outdoor heat. Overall, the Mauna Lani is a premier hotel, beautiful grounds, clean modern wood themed renovated rooms, located on the same northwestern shore...
A bubbling school of Koi fish welcome you to the resort in the pond that encompasses the runway entrance to the hotel. Once you pass through the front doors, the entire lobby area is open air, and atrium style, which is beautiful. Personally I prefer an air-conditioned lobby, but the trade winds seem to keep the lobby temperate, despite the outdoor heat. Overall, the Mauna Lani is a premier hotel, beautiful grounds, clean modern wood themed renovated rooms, located on the same northwestern shore of the Big Island, near the higher end Hualalai and Mauna Kea resorts, but at a much better price point, similar to the Prince hotel.
There is a $30 per day resort fee, but it includes wifi internet, self or valet parking, use of towels, lounge chairs and beach cabanas, snorkeling gear, and various other convenient things, so it is a necessary evil.
The first thing we usually do upon arriving to any hotel is head to the concierge to set up our activities for the week. We arranged a Dolphin swim, evening Manta Ray swim, and full day Volcano tour. For 2 people that set us back a quick $1k. Everything is expensive in Hawaii, there is no escaping that. She also helped us plan an itinerary of our own for seeing some other sites on the island. We took a day trip to Oahu, and a few days for tanning, and just driving around the island on our own.
The Mauna Lani pool may be pretty large in size and area, with a nice bar /restaurant, but it does not have nearly enough umbrella covered lounge chairs, not by a long shot. Not sure why that is, maybe it's the layout, maybe the shape and size of the umbrellas, something is just not right. It feels like there should be twice as many chairs out there. In any case, unless you go out really early and reserve them, you will be shut out by mid morning. The early bird gets the worm for sure. On the plus side, if you do get a place, the pool isn't that crowded. Fortunately at the beach there were always enough beach chair/cabanas no matter what time we went out there. The beach was pretty windy and the water was pretty choppy everyday, this was mid-late August, so I wouldn't classify this as a "beautiful" beach. I have heard that the Mauna Kea Beach right next door was the best beach on the island, so maybe it is sheltered somehow from the winds that hit the Mauna Lani beach. The drink service at the Mauna Lani Beach is actually very good, the waitstaff makes frequent rounds, which is great. Lastly, there are a lot of kids at this resort. So if you are looking for a quiet, romantic holiday, this might not be the best choice for you.
The Big Island is big like its name, so it is a long drive to get anywhere and you need a rental car to get around. We rented a convertible, which wasn't that much more expensive than regular cars, and was really nice on early morning or late afternoon drives when the sun wasn't so hot.
You can't really walk to any restaurants outside the hotel. But within the Mauna Lani Resort proper, however, there is a small shopping mall at the entrance to the resort, which you can reach via shuttle bus or even the rental bikes. The mini mall has a bunch of shops, and restaurants like Monstera sushi, an English pub, a Ruth's Chris steak, and Tommy Bahama, which are all very good. It also has a small grocery store, where you can stock up on food and booze to fill your in-room fridge, that's a big money saver. I preferred the much larger Island Gourmet store at the Waikoloa Beach mall a short drive away for grocery shopping, but this store was much closer.
The breakfast buffet at any large resort is our favorite meal, and tells me a lot about food quality at any large resort. Regretfully I was not so impressed by Mauna Lani's breakfast spread. The presentation was not creative and cared for as it should be. The omelet station was good, they could have given a slightly larger portion of eggs, but most of the other traditional buffet dishes, scrambled eggs, eggs Benedict, bacon, etc. were presented blandly in standard catering trays, no Hawaiian flair. I would avoid the red potato home fries (smelled bad), and waffles (overcooked and hard). The Japanese breakfast station was delicious, soup and rice, excellent.
The seating procedure at the front desk seems disorganized and inefficient; there should be at least 1 more person helping out. Invariably, there were numerous tables visibly available for seating, and always several groups of people waiting at the front reception, which shouldn't happen. You had to wait for the person at the front desk to return before she could seat the next party.
There are a number of ponds on the premises stocked with tons of fish and turtles, along with the huge Kois in the front, and even sharks in the pond outside, kids will love it. So your strolls around the hotel grounds are always entertaining. One just feels bad for them, cooped up in a pond, when the ocean is just a few feet away. You see all the exact same fish swimming in and around the lava reef off the beach when you go snorkeling. The hotel beach is a turtle sanctuary, so nearly every day you see these huge turtles hanging out right on the shore, it's pretty amazing.
If you are leaving the hotel early enough in the morning on an excursion or whatnot, you can grab a hand towel and get a fresh cold glass of water from the dispensers at the front entrance valet. Once it passes mid morning or so, the towels and water are gone. In all the other resorts we have stayed at on the islands and in the Caribbean, there are always cold drinks and towels available for guests at all times of the day. This was kind of disappointing.
Overall, after a long day of sightseeing, returning to the lobby of the Mauna Lani is a welcoming pleasure, with its open air atrium, tons of lush trees and vegetation, fish and turtle stocked ponds, it's therapeutic just walking to your room. The rooms themselves were clean and modern, decorated in rich wood, clean lines and comfortable. Overall I would recommend the hotel to anyone staying on the island. It's luxury at a reasonable price, which is always welcome these days.