This Revamped Hawaii Resort Now Has a $60,000-a-Night Suite—Here’s a Look Inside
Not to mention a spa built into a lava field.
It wasn’t long after Johnno and Helen Jackson opened Kona Village Resort on the Big Island in 1966 that the remote property became a magnet for Hollywood A-listers, families, and adventurous travelers.
It wasn’t that the property was luxurious—it had polyester sheets, no ACs, and no TVs—but its oceanfront location along Kahuwai Bay and standalone hales, ensuring privacy was enough to make it the go-to vacation spot for generations of travelers for the next 50 years. Then in 2011, the resort suffered major damage from a tsunami and shut its doors for good.
But on July 1, after years of renovations, the legendary property was reborn thanks to California real estate developer Kennedy Wilson and Rosewood Hotels & Resorts. And while returning guests (or “legacy guests” as the resort’s staff refers to them) will find plenty to reminisce about, the new Kona Village, a Rosewood Resort, establishes a much deeper connection with Hawaii‘s history and culture while delivering the Rosewood version of barefoot luxury, making it worth the $2819 starting rate for a standard bungalow. The resort boasts 81 acres of dramatic lava landscapes along a slice of palm-fringed coastline, where 150 bungalows, including five “heritage” hales with direct shore access left from the original Kona Village, are spread across and connected via a network of winding paths (best navigated via complimentary bikes) meandering between archeological sites, lava fields, and lush native plants. Design powerhouse Nicole Hollis and her San Francisco–based team have put a master class on how to respectfully create a sense of place while pampering guests with some seriously chic and magazine-worthy furnishings.
“The most important part of the reimagining of Kona Village was to respect the land and the Hawaiian culture,” Hollis, herself a “legacy visitor,” told Robb Report. “Learning about the history of the site, even before the original Kona Village was there, and gaining a better understanding of the culture was paramount.”
You won’t find a trace of tacky hula-dancing dolls or fake flower leis. Instead, Hollis, in collaboration with the property’s cultural committee, paid tribute to the resort’s natural surroundings and long history by incorporating dark woods and plenty of natural materials, locally custom-made furnishings, rugs, and decorative items inspired by traditional Hawaiian tools. But the highlight is the art throughout the public spaces and hales. Hollis commissioned works from more than three dozen native Hawaiian and Hawaii-residing artists, including Kappa prints and sculptures.
Some standout in-room amenities include lava-hued soaking bathtubs, outdoor showers, and spacious private lanais. The resort’s crown jewel is the oceanfront Maheawalu Kauhale, which, at $62,5000 a night, is the top-priced suite in Hawaii. The gated compound is tucked away on the north side of the resort and comes with four standalone one-bedroom bungalows, plus a fifth one that acts as a living room/kitchen/dining room opening up to a large sundeck with an infinity pool flanked by two sitting areas, a fire pit, a hot tub, and an outdoor kitchen and dining space.
The resort also marks the debut of Rosewood’s Asaya Spa in U.S., and it just might have the most striking location in the entire property. Built directly into the lava flow with views of Hualālai volcano, the facility is a collection of buildings with dramatic views, where guests get pampered with a series of holistic treatments based on traditional Hawaiian wellness practices, hot and cold plunge dips, a sauna, and a steam room.
The food and beverage program of the resort includes the original Talk Story and Shipwreck Bars—the latter is the sunken sailboat of the Jacksons, which they fixed up and turned into a beachfront bar, perfect for sunset cocktails. Moana, the resort’s main restaurant helmed by Chef Chad Yamamoto, serves Pacific Rim flavors inspired by Kahuwai Bay’s history as a major port frequented by Polynesian navigators. The nearby Kahuwai Cookhouse and Market is a casual eatery that spotlights traditional Hawaiian cooking techniques. Its chef, Victor Palma, has also reinterpreted a few dishes from his native Mexico, such as Zarandeado grilled fish, a delicious coconut tres leches cake with mango lilikoi sauce, and arroz con leche.
Guests can spend their days soaking up the sun by the two waterfront pools, practicing their tennis or paddleboard skills, or taking a class in the newly built cultural center. A long list of water sports activities await travelers at the resort’s beach, where early risers can sign up for a guided sunrise paddle.
“Luxury travelers need to feel connected. And I think that [in Kona Village, a Rosewood Resort] they feel connected to the environment, to the community, and to a purpose,” said Sandra Estornell, the property’s general manager.
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