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Big Island Hotels

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Fairmont Orchid
1 N. Kaniku Drive
Kohala Coast , Hawaii
96743
Tel: 800 845 9905 (toll-free)
Tel: 808 885 2000
orchid@fairmont.com
www.fairmont.com/orchid

From the moment you enter, this 32-acre 540-room property is a compound of serenity. Palm trees sway, birds chirp, waves lap at the sand, and green sea turtles appear every afternoon. Once a Ritz-Carlton (you'll see it in the formal architecture), Fairmont took over in 2002 and overhauled the property from top to bottom. The renovation included warming up the guest-room decor with tropical touches, redesigning the popular Norio's Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar, and adding a Fairmont Gold floor (we recommend the upgrade—the money you'll save by feasting on three daily buffets offsets the extra expense). Views from the guest rooms vary quite a bit—ask for at least a partial ocean view. Dramatic ocean views are also to be had on the green fairways bordering black lava fields of the resort's adjacent 36-hole Francis H. I'i Brown Golf Courses (North and South), and the outdoor Spa Without Walls is one of the most unique facilities on the island. (Get a rubdown in a thatched hut with a stream of water running beneath.) In 2006, Fairmont added a hip outdoor dinner luau called "The Gathering of the Kings," during which performers in nontraditional costumes entertain with modern dance to a foot-tapping contemporary soundtrack.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
The Falls at Reed's Island
82 Halaulani Place
Hilo , Hawaii
96720
Tel: 808 935 7920
Fax: 740 931 7920
www.reedsisland.com

Until upscale hotels are built in Hilo (a picturesque locals' town that's just 30 minutes by car from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park), the Shipman House B&B and this lushly landscaped private rental home are the area's best bets. Compared to double-room rates on the other side of the island (one night at the Fairmont Orchid can top $800), this three-bedroom house on a small strip of Reed's Island in the Wailuku River Valley is a steal, especially considering the waterfall views and sexy indoor hot tub. It's best to focus on the lush scenery, as the interiors are generically functional. Even though the Falls feels as if it's on a distant private island, downtown Hilo's restaurants and shops are just about a mile away. Since tropical gardens are often rainy and buggy, come prepared.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Four Seasons Hualalai
72–100 Kaupulehu Drive
Kailua-Kona , Hawaii
96740
Tel: 888 340 5662 (toll-free)
Tel: 808 325 8000
Hualalai.reservations@fourseasons.com
www.fourseasons.com/hualalai

If you think all Four Seasons resorts fit the same mold, Hualalai may surprise you. There's no mammoth cement tower here. Instead, the bungalow-style guest quarters are housed in two-story buildings spread out on 800 acres. The 243 near-identical rooms have Hawaii-inspired decor, walk-in closets, slate bathrooms, and furnished lanais. Twenty one- and two-bedroom suites with 180-degree ocean views are perfect for the growing number of return guests who honeymooned here and now have kids. A trio of restaurants includes the Hualalai Grille (no longer under the direction of Alan Wong, but the market-based Pacific Rim cuisine is still excellent), seafood-centric Pahui'a, and the revamped Beach Tree, serving Italian-influenced California cuisine. While the beach isn't stellar, there are plenty of aquatic options, including a family pool, a small adults-only pool, a quiet pool (where cell phones are not allowed and people speak in dulcet tones), a lap pool, and, for snorkeling, a natural lava pond stocked with photogenic fish. Aside from a lunchtime grace period, if you leave your beach or pool lounger, you'll lose it. If that happens, retreat to the gardens of the top-rated Hualalai Spa to select local ingredients (perhaps volcanic ash or macadamia nuts) for your customized treatment.—Cathay Che

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Holualoa Inn
75-5932 Mamalahoa Highway
Holualoa , Hawaii
96725
Tel: 888 392 1812 (toll-free)
Tel: 808 324 1121
www.holualoainn.com

This six-room hillside retreat 1,400 feet above sea level in the Kona Coffee belt is a serene and romantic adults-only B&B. All the rooms are comfy and unique, with modern plantation-style decor, lots of natural wood, cooling cross breezes from the windows, and original artwork—but the best is the Hibiscus Suite, which has panoramic views out to the coast and a private balcony. While you are not on the beach (that's about a half-hour drive down the hill), there's a small pool with sweeping views of the Kohala coast. Holualoa town, a small settlement of artists and craftspeople, has a few restaurants and boutiques, but each room has a dining area in case you want to whip up your own food at the inn's communal kitchen and eat in (there's also a lovely shared roof deck, too). If you are an ardent coffee lover, you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about Kona Coffee and how it's grown at the coffee farm on the premises. And of course, you'll be served the award-winning Holualoa Inn brew every morning with a gratis breakfast of fresh fruit, farm-to-table baked goods, and hot entrées.—Cathay Che

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Jacaranda Inn
65–1444 Kawaihae Road
Waimea , Hawaii
96743
Tel: 808 885 8813
tji@ilhawaii.net
www.jacarandainn.com

This luxurious inn enables guests to stay in the former bunkhouses on the Parker Ranch (one of the oldest ranches in the United States, and at 150,000 acres, the largest one still privately held by a single owner). Located on a 12-acre estate in Waimea, the main house was built in 1897 for the ranch manager and now serves as a public space for lounging with views of Mauna Kea. Each of the eight rooms is named for a flower that doesn't necessarily correspond with its design. For instance, Begonia is lofty, with lace curtains and green wicker furniture on the lanai, and White Lily has an Asian-inflected bedroom and blue-and-white tiles in the clapboard bathroom. Still, all are intimate, secluded, and romantic, and set in rolling hills 2,500 feet above sea level.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Kilauea Lodge
19–3948 Old Volcano Road
Volcano Village , Hawaii
96785
Tel: 808 967 7366
stay@kilauealodge.com
www.kilauealodge.com

Located inside the chilly volcano rain forest, the lodge promotes its "International Fireplace of Friendship"—hokey, but it was established when the building was a YMCA in the '30s. It's a good place to warm up after exploring the hot and cold lava of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park a mile away. Owner and chef Albert Jeyte, who was an Emmy-winning makeup artist for Magnum, P.I. in another life, has also established a surprisingly good restaurant. Who knew you could get a German sausage plate in Hawaii? More cozy than luxurious, the 14 unique rooms and stand-alone cottages are, nonetheless, completely charming. Some accommodations have a fireplace, and all have access to a hot tub. Golf aficionados should book the two-bedroom Pii Mauna, located on the sixth fairway of the Volcano Golf Course (a short distance from the main grounds).

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
62–100 Mauna Kea Beach Drive
(Near Kawaihae)
North Kohala Coast , Hawaii
96743
Tel: 808 882 7222
reservations@princehawaii.com
www.maunakeabeachhotel.com

Fans of the Big Island's Mauna Kea Beach Hotel had quite a scare when an October 2006 earthquake damaged and closed Laurance S. Rockefeller's illustrious hotel. Since the original resort cost $15 million to build (the most expensive in its day), it seems a bit obscene that it took $150 million to bring it back and make it look much like it did before. The size, scale, and exterior of the property hasn't changed at all, thankfully, but the interiors are completely updated. (Before the renovation, even loyalists agreed that the Brady Bunch–era rooms were more kitsch than luxe.) The 258 rooms all have private lanais, hidden flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi, and closets practically big enough to sleep in. Rooms at the Plumeria Beach Club have direct access to the rolling green lawn that fronts the resort's beach (the best one on the island) and are ideal for families. However, the very best are now the honeymoon-friendly Deluxe Ocean View rooms in the tower, which have two lanais—one off the bedroom, the other off an enormous bathroom equipped with a soaking tub for two and an open shower. The three restaurants on property have also been upgraded, and executive chef George Gomes is committed to showcasing local produce. The Hau Tree, by the pool, is still the spot for a barefoot lunch, but Number 3, at the golf club, has the tasty kalua pig quesadilla. Manta & Pavilion Wine Bar has been glammed up with Enomatic wine dispensers (you purchase wines by the ounce), and the menu includes local delicacies such as Big Island–raised, grass-fed Wagyu beef. All in all, it's the same Mauna Kea Beach Hotel you knew and loved, but no longer just resting on its laurels.—Cathay Che

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows
68–1400 Mauna Lani Drive
Kohala Coast , Hawaii
96743
Tel: 800 367 2323 (toll-free)
Tel: 808 885 6622
reservations@maunalani.com
www.maunalani.com

The oceanfront hammocks strung between coconut trees on the grounds of the Mauna Lani fulfill an image of Hawaii that's no longer easy to find. This tranquil, independent resort—nothing cookie-cutter about it—stands on a historic site of Hawaiian petroglyphs and ancient fishponds. One pond teems with sharks; look for a dorsal fin stalking the surface. A 2005 renovation gave the 343 small but well-laid-out rooms a contemporary edge with clean-lined koa wood and wicker furnishings; there are also five heavenly freestanding bungalows with private pools that are popular with visiting celebrities. The spa is the most beautiful on the island with a natural open-air lava-rock sauna in a landscaped "La'au" healing garden, and an outdoor lava-tube water-therapy pool (for something different, try the Watsu water massage). The Canoe House restaurant specializes in Hawaii regional cuisine: Well-seasoned and perfectly presented fresh local fish, salads, steaks, and homemade Kona coffee ice cream are served in a relaxed, open-air pavilion that's lit by tiki torches at night.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Shipman House Bed & Breakfast
131 Kaiulani Street
Hilo , Hawaii
96720
Tel: 800 627 8447 (toll-free)
Tel: 808 934 8002
innkeeper@hilo-hawaii.com
www.hilo-hawaii.com

Proprietress Mary Shipman entertained Liliuokalani (the last queen of Hawaii) and writer Jack London in this historic Victorian mansion built in 1899. Now her great-granddaughter Barbara extends a taste of old Hawaii and family-style hospitality to guests. Filled with heirlooms from the early 1900s, this is the most elegant accommodation you'll find in Hilo, and it maintains some Victorian standards: no smoking, no pets, children under the age of 10 are discouraged, and no gentlemen callers (OK, that last one is a lie). The five rooms are unique, with some named after aunties (don't say spinsters). Book Auntie Clara's Shell Room for the claw-foot tub and splendid view of Hilo Bay.

Closed December 20 through January 2.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Waianuhea
45–3503 Kahana Drive
Honokaa , Hawaii
96727
Tel: 888 775 2577 (toll-free)
Tel: 808 775 1118
info@waianuhea.com
www.waianuhea.com

Located in the rolling green hills above Honokaa, on the Hamakua Coast, Waianuhea has just five luxurious rooms and feels like a stylish artists' retreat. Finding this solar-powered hideaway can be a challenge; it's best to arrive in daylight, and even then, there are no real landmarks to help you along except that you will turn and drive up toward the mountain when you see Tex Drive In. But once you're here, the extensive grounds and modern ranch-style building decorated with contemporary art, Philippe Starck chairs, and Thai daybeds are incredibly seductive. The rooms vary in size—the Kaulana Akea suite is the largest, with a private courtyard and a separate living/dining room—but all have wood-burning stoves (it gets chilly at night), Wi-Fi, and satellite TV. While breakfast and a sunset wine tasting are included in the room rate, there's no restaurant on the premises, so you have to make the 20-minute drive to Honokaa town for lunch and dinner. (Frozen Amy's organic dinners and a microwave are on hand as a backup.) Aside from that one drawback, this is an excellent home base if you plan to spend a full day, or more, exploring the Waipio Valley.—Cathay Che

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.