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Tour Guide: The Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows

Whether you want to race through the lava fields or relax in paradise, experience the best of the Big Island at the luxurious (and triathlete-friendly) Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows.

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Whether you want to race through the lava fields or relax in paradise, experience the best of the Big Island at the luxurious (and triathlete-friendly) Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows.

Click here to view our coverage of the Triathlete magazine swimsuit shoot from the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows.

Photo: Kurt Hoy

As you turn off the Queen K Highway and enter the grounds of The Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, miles of black lava fields transform into a lush golf course shaded by palm trees—a beacon of sorts, beckoning you to the luxurious lifestyle you’re about to experience.

As you pull up to the hotel, the smiling staff swiftly unloads your bags and places a floral lei around your neck. Before you know it, you’re whisked past beautiful koi ponds into a chair in the open-air lobby, sipping a tropical drink and cleansing your hands and face on a cold towel. The relaxing has officially begun.

Situated on the Kohala Coast, 40 minutes north of the airport, the Mauna Lani has been lauded as one of Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best Hotels” for 2011 and is also on Condé Nast Traveler’s 2011 “Gold List.”

The resort is also establishing itself as a triathlete-friendly destination. Earlier this year, the Mauna Lani hosted the Trek/K-Swiss Triathlon Camp; last October it was the hideaway for pros after finishing the Ford Ironman World Championship; and it hosted Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s Fit Nation camp in April. Also, last year the resort created Team Mauna Lani, which consists of a group of pro triathletes who call the Mauna Lani their Hawaii home and training base while on the Big Island for training or racing. The all-star partnership includes names like Mirinda Carfrae, Tim DeBoom, Belinda Granger, Samantha McGlone, Bree Wee and Luke Bell.

Among the Mauna Lani’s triathlete-friendly amenities are a 25-meter, three-lane lap pool, a fitness center and, of course, beach access just steps outside the hotel. Miles of trails, including the property’s 3 miles of coastline, make it easy to go for a scenic off-road run. The hotel offers complimentary beach cruisers for exploring the 3,200-acre property and snorkel gear for exploring the pristine water (and catching a glimpse of a sea turtle). Catch a beachside yoga class, and in the winter months, you might spot humpback whales breeching on the horizon.

The land under which the hotel sits is called Kalahuipua‘a and has long been considered a sacred place among the Hawaiian people. Hawaiian elders named the location Mauna Lani, meaning “mountain reaching heaven.” All over the property are archaeological sites, aboriginal trails, royal fishponds and prehistoric lava formations. It was on this land that King Kamehameha the Great kept his royal fishponds, 15 acres of which, containing mullet and milkfish, still remain as one of the best examples of working Hawaiian fishponds.

The Mauna Lani is very eco-conscious—you’ll notice recycling bins in your guest room, and the resort uses solar energy, generating the most solar electric power of any luxury resort in the world. In one of the saltwater ponds just outside the atrium of the hotel you’ll find about a dozen adolescent honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles), which were received from Oahu’s Sea Life Park and raised in the resort’s saltwater ponds. Every July 4, the hotel hosts a “Turtle Independence Day Celebration,” when the 2- or 3-year-old honu are released into the ocean. So far, the resort has released 213 turtles.

The resort also emphasizes learning about Hawaii’s culture. In any given week’s resort schedule are “how to husk a coconut,” ukulele and lei-making lessons, hula dancing lessons, as well as educational fish and turtle feeding tours. Also, every evening, you can witness a ceremonial torch lighting.

If you’re looking to spend some quality time in the room during your trip to the Mauna Lani, you won’t be disappointed. The rooms are modern and classy, decorated with subtle Hawaiian touches. For those paying for an ocean view, rest assured, it will be stunning, but the view of the mountains is also quite majestic.

You can even have great ocean views while dining at some of the hotel’s restaurants. The most casual is Ocean Bar & Grill, which is located between the pool and beach and has some great outdoor dining—drinks, burgers, sandwiches and salads.

For breakfast, mosey over to the Bay Terrace Restaurant, located just downstairs from the front desk. Its first-class breakfast buffet features fresh waffles (try them with coconut syrup and strawberries), omelets made to order, pastries, several types of juice, fresh fruit, oatmeal, the usual eggs, sausage, bacon and hashbrowns, plus bagels and lox.

The finest of the property’s restaurants is the CanoeHouse, which features oceanfront dining and a menu that includes plenty of fresh fish, steak and local island ingredients.
If you’re looking to branch outside the hotel’s restaurants a free shuttle will take you to The Shops at Mauna Lani, where you’ll find Ruth’s Chris, Tommy Bahama’s, a Japanese restaurant, a coffee shop and a grocery store, in addition to some swim/surf shops and art galleries.

You can also break up your swim/bike/run routine with a round of golf on the Mauna Lani’s two championship golf courses—Mauna Lani North and South. The South course was constructed on rugged lava and has panoramic mountain and ocean views (and an over-the-water hole at No. 15). The North course was built on a lava bed and features rolling terrain, mesquite forests and the occasional herd of goats.

Between hard workouts (or post-race), the Mauna Lani Spa provides a welcome chance to relax using one of multiple traditional Hawaiian therapies, baths or massage therapies. Ranked one of the “World’s Best Spas” by Travel + Leisure magazine, the elegant day spa looks like a Hawaiian village (multiple huts with thatched roofs), plus lava saunas and a “watsu” pool. Lava watsu, a unique “aquatic body work” experience, takes place in the watsu saltwater pool built among ancient lava tubes. The lomi lomi massage is one of the most popular Hawaiian massage techniques—try the lomi lomi hula, which has the massage strokes choreographed to Hawaiian music.

Whether you come to the Big Island to train, race, relax or see the sights, you’ll be welcomed by the natural beauty and Hawaiian culture, by the luxury of the Mauna Lani and by the exceptionally friendly staff—with a floral lei in hand.

Mauna Lani Spotlight

If you want …

An ocean adventure
Grab some complimentary snorkel gear or rent stand-up paddleboards or surfboards from the Hulakai beach shack.

The iconic piña colada or lava flow
Order one at the Ocean Beach Bar & Grill—and then take it to a pool chair or a hammock on the beach to enjoy.

Some new beach wear
Take the shuttle from the valet stand to The Shops at Mauna Lani.

A race through the lava fields
Well, it’s Kona. But you can also try some early-season races, such as Ironman 70.3 Hawaii (formerly known as Honu. Part of the course passes through the Mauna Lani. in early June or Lavaman in the spring (

See also – New Pre-Kona Tradition: The Pau Hana Sunset 10K