Top hotels on the Big Island, Hawaii, for your next vacation
Hawaii Island — or the Big Island, as it’s commonly known — is perhaps the most misunderstood island in the Hawaii archipelago. Many people believe it’s named “Big” because it’s giant, busy and packed with tourists, but only the first of those things is true.
Extending for more than 4,000 square miles, Hawaii is almost double the size of the rest of the islands put together. With a population hovering around 200,000, it's also one of the quietest and least developed. For comparison, it's about the size of Connecticut, which has a population of 3.6 million.
Hawaii’s landscape is far and away the most diverse in the archipelago. It's home to many of the best Hawaii beaches as well as savanna, jungle, snowcapped mountains and undulating black lava fields. Interisland travel from Hawaii to popular islands like Maui and Oahu is very easy, making it a great base for island hopping.
Here are 10 of TPG's favorite places to stay on Hawaii.
The best thing about the 334-key Mauna Lani is that it literally couldn’t exist anywhere else in the world, or even in Hawaii for that matter. There is nothing generic about this beach resort, set on 32 acres of singular oceanfront.
Stories told by the property’s longtime historian and cultural ambassador, Uncle Danny Akaka, for example, are specific to this very land, and the activities for both adults and keiki (children) draw off its energy and lore.
Sumptuously designed rooms and suites — completely transformed in 2020 and each one with a balcony — marry contemporary styling with a true sense of place, providing guests with meaningful connections to the landscape and Hawaiian culture at every turn.
Amenities include luxurious poolside cabanas, a massive oceanfront swimming pool (there's also a peaceful adults-only pool) and decks from which to watch for whales or perhaps practice yoga or meditation.
Related: 7 things I loved about the reopened Mauna Lani in Hawaii
Excellent programming centers on the talented Kainalu Ocean Sports team, which guides guests of all ages on adventures ranging from sunrise outrigger canoe trips and underwater rock running to beginner surfing and incredible snorkeling offshore among turtles, eels and colorful reef fish.
For foodies, the culinary scene is a major draw. The resort often hosts special pop-ups or collaborations with acclaimed chefs and restaurants from other parts of the world but also boasts its own impeccable cuisine, whether it's bowls of ceviche and poke or elegant fine dining at CanoeHouse, where island-grown-and-caught Japanese fusion fare is served under the glowing sunset.
Rates at Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection currently start at $857 per night.
Families adore this sprawling stunner of a resort on the Kohala Coast of Hawaii, where in winter and early spring humpback whales often make themselves known beyond the water’s edge.
Curious and active types will love the many ways to get wet, from snorkeling or canoeing with the resort's Alakai Nalu Ocean Ambassadors to swimming laps in the 25-meter pool (just one of eight).
This resort excels at curating exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, including learning to free dive and forging a knife. Guests can also interact with the hotel's five marine biologists at the Marine Activity Center or at the 1.8-million-gallon swimmable aquarium, home to almost 100 species within lava rock walls.
Extensive renovations across all accommodations — including a handful of brand-new rooms and a private pool suite — have elevated already luxurious digs to supersumptuous status. When it comes to traveling with little ones, the resort provides almost every amenity imaginable.
Some guests may spend their time golfing while others retreat to the divine spa, but meals bring everyone together. The resort has four restaurants plus a sushi lounge, bars and poolside service, as well as a small market for takeaway treats and coffees.
Rates at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai currently start at $1,210 per night.
With a stunning setting overlooking black lava and jewel-toned water, this 32-acre property on the Kohala Coast is a great place for mindful immersion in Hawaiian culture.
Friday night luaus are exuberant introductions to hula, and the spa takes inspiration from the landscape and its produce; treatments incorporate ingredients such as Kona coffee and lava rocks.
The 540 rooms and suites — including an exclusive Fairmont Gold concierge floor — feature elegant furnishings and sea-themed touches (sophisticated seashell lamps, anyone?), plus marble-clad bathrooms and private lanais.
The resort's restaurants manage to be both family-friendly and also romantic. There’s Brown’s Beach House for nightly live music and seafood, Hale Kai for ultrafresh Hawaiian cuisine, Orchid Court for giant breakfasts, and the Japanese grill Binchotan. Bars and lounges provide plenty of chances to sip on tropical cocktails, too.
Rates at Fairmont Orchid currently start at $609 per night.
The island’s very first resort is rich in history and natural beauty. Opened by Laurance S. Rockefeller in 1965, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel — the most expensive hotel ever built in its day — has lured generations of travelers and honeymooners to one of the most picturesque bays in Hawaii, not to mention a place with striking midcentury architecture and a prized art collection (the latter is best enjoyed on weekly guided tours).
From the moment you walk into the open-air lobby perched over a garden, tropical vibes hold sway. The 252 rooms and suites, each with a private lanai, radiate natural beauty, too, with sunset-toned accents atop the Frette linen-dressed beds.
When not ensconced in the plush rooms, there is plenty to do and eat. The 1,839-acre development features two 18-hole golf courses and 11 tennis courts, and then there’s the long, wide beach lapped by turquoise water.
The Beach Club at Mauna Kea equips guests for all sorts of adventures with beach equipment rentals and outrigger canoe paddling. Sign up for one of the moonlight manta snorkel tours, where you can float serenely among the giant manta rays that regularly hang out in Kaunaoa Bay.
Restaurants and bars make the most of the island's spectacular sunsets. Manta pairs island-sourced cuisine, such as macadamia-crusted mahi mahi, with world-class wine and heavenly views. And there are several other places to dine, as well as drink, under the stars.
Rates at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Autograph Collection currently start at $854 or 73,000 points per night.
When you want that warm Hawaiian spirit without going too far, this resort is close to the airport and within walking distance of some of the island’s best shopping and dining destinations. More evidence the location can’t be beaten? It sits on 15 acres with a swimmable, sandy beach, and boasts views of beautiful Anaehoomalu Bay.
The resort’s 297 rooms and suites come with a variety of views, but every one has a private lanai and a Netflix-equipped TV. (Not that you’ll need it with Hawaii outside!) Treat yourself to an accommodation in the Na Hale Wing, the building closest to the Pacific Ocean and perfect for a honeymoon or special occasion. Mandara Spa, with both Eastern and Western treatments, is another worthy splurge.
A heated infinity pool surrounded by sun-drenched loungers feels like a true vacation, and there are two kids pools, including one with a sandy bottom. The waterslide is a hit with little ones while the hot tubs are popular with everyone. Out on the beach, paddleboards and snorkeling equipment are available to rent.
An impressive 95% of the food served at Hawaii Calls Restaurant, dreamed up by executive chef (and local) Jayson Kanekoa, is locally sourced. There is also Akaula Lanai coffee house for grab-and-go during the day and cocktails by night, and a biweekly luau combines live music, Polynesian dance and heaps of Hawaiian cuisine.
Rates at Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa currently start at $475 or 44,000 points per night.
Everyone knows staff and service can make or break a hotel stay, and this property’s team is made up of true gems. The sister resort to Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, it's laid out beautifully beside one of the island’s most gorgeous beaches, where boogie boards, kayaks and other gear can be rented.
A big draw for golfers is the 18-hole course designed by Arnold Palmer, and there is also a CrossFit studio, 24-hour workout center and hiking trails nearby. For more fun in the sun, there are two swimming pools — servers deliver refreshing cocktails to the adults-only infinity pool while kids go wild in the 6,800-square-foot family pool.
The 249 guest rooms with private lanais have an ocean-inspired palette and walls graced with vibrant artwork. At Hapuna Spa by Mandara, guests can indulge in Hawaiian and Balinese massages that ensure they’ll rest well in their Westin Heavenly Beds each night.
Four dining outlets provide varied options for each meal, though Ikena Landing’s bounteous breakfast buffets shouldn’t be missed. Mediterranean-inspired Meridia showcases the island’s incredible ingredients alongside the property’s own herbs and produce from the half-acre on-site garden.
Rates at The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort currently start at $599 or 65,000 points per night.
In Hawaii, views are everything, and this resort just a few miles from Hilo International Airport has them in spades. The craggy coastline it sits on may not have a sandy beach, but it’s spectacular to look at all the same, with lava flows that drop off into turquoise saltwater.
Word to the wise: Be specific with your booking, because not all rooms have an ocean view and not all ocean-view rooms have a balcony, but it’s possible to get the best of both worlds in rooms with colorful motifs, wooden headboards, floor-to-ceiling windows and, potentially, views of Mauna Kea volcano.
There are perks aplenty, including complimentary coffee and tea in the mornings, local papers and freshly baked cookies, as well as snorkeling equipment rentals on the house. There are beaches and gardens — not to mention restaurants — within a short walk, making its location ideal. But staying on property works, too: Hula Hulus Restaurant is a three-meal-a-day spot that places a heavy emphasis on sourcing locally and has occasional live music, too.
Rates at Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo — A DoubleTree by Hilton currently start at $182 or 50,000 points per night.
When a luxurious home-away-from-home vibe — in paradise, that is — is what you’re after, this 29-acre oceanfront resort is an excellent option.
The low-rise, sprawling property, nestled between the sparkling sapphire ocean and Waikoloa Beach's golf course, is home to 192 spacious one-, two- and three-bedroom villas and townhomes that make many guests want to move in permanently.
And some do, since it’s an approachable, laid-back condo resort where the landscapes are a bold blend of lava rock, azure water and lush flora. The comforts of home are built into the cozy, colorfully decorated units with full kitchens, washers and dryers, beach gear and enough room for families to spread out and actually feel like they’re on vacation.
Amenity-wise, this quiet property features well-kept walking trails, a basketball and tennis court, fitness cabana and picnic area, plus the private Ocean Club, where pristine pools come with prime views of the waves beyond. By night it’s a chilled-out place to watch the sunset while savoring dinner and listening to live music.
Rates at Halii Kai at Waikoloa Resort currently start at $297 per night.
Hawaii is not just about beaches, and few places make the island’s rainforest setting more appealing than this magical bed-and-breakfast just outside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It’s a hot reservation — if you can get it.
The property has just five stunning timber retreats, each completely unique and, naturally, named for one of the island’s volcanoes. What they have in common is lots of floor-to-ceiling windows allowing guests to feel embraced by the bamboo, fern trees and ohia trees, plus decks, fireplaces, kitchenettes, organic linens and plush robes and slippers.
The lodge’s coffee is, of course, an exclusive blend from Kona, and the ever-changing hot breakfast is homemade — macadamia nut and banana pancakes on some days, pineapple sausage quiche on others — and always customizable to dietary restrictions.
Breakfast might leave you wanting more deliciousness, and in those cases the property offers packed lunches in insulated bags with Hawaiian snacks and beverages as well as charcuterie boards, chocolate-covered pineapple and wine for the retreats. They can also arrange private lei-making and hula classes with a local artist or, after a long day of trekking through the national park, an in-room massage.
Rates at Volcano Village Lodge currently start at $341 per night.
In sunny Waikoloa, Aqua-Aston’s condominium resort is the picture of peace and island serenity. Quiet and refined, the gated community on the west coast of Hawaii is a haven for those who love the golfing lifestyle and vacationers seeking a convenient jumping-off point for exploring the island.
Character-rich units are decorated individually and have outdoor space via private lanais (plus in-condo washers and dryers). From some, there are not only views of the links but dramatic lava fields and possibly Mauna Kea.
Guests gain access to outdoor barbecues plus tennis courts, a fitness center and two swimming pools with a jetted hot tub. The best privilege, however, is the preferential resort and tee times at either Waikoloa’s Kings' Course or Beach Course, which surround Shores.
Farther afield there are shops, restaurants and marine sanctuaries for amazing snorkeling.
Rates at Shores at Waikoloa currently start at $277 per night.
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