Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, North Kohala Coast, Big Island, Hawaii $$$$
Concierge.com's insider take:
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
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