Great Getaways: Mauna Kea Beach Hotel


If you’re like me, this early winter has you plotting your next getaway, trying to prolong summer as much as possible. For me, that means the ocean, sand and a warm-weather cocktail in hand. There’s no better place to extend summer than Hawaii’s Big Island for a week at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

For those of us who live in Jackson Hole, it should be no surprise the draw to the Mauna Kea. As the story goes, American conservationist and venture capitalist Laurance S. Rockefeller famously decided to build the island’s first resort after swimming in the turquoise waters of Kauna‘oa Bay. Surrounded by a landscape of lava rock and ranchlands, with clear views of the Mauna Kea peak, his inspiration to capture the spirit of this place and ensure the hotel conformed to the natural surroundings is the same ethos that drove his preservation of Jackson Hole. If you, too, are in trip-planning mode, here are five reasons to make the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel your next vacation.

Kauna‘oa Bay
The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel sits on one of the few white-sand beaches on the Kohala Coast – Kauna’oa Bay. Unlike most beaches on the island, which are formed from coral or lava, the sand here is silica. The shape and terrain of the bay make it a mellow place for relaxing, swimming and paddling. On many days, this place is as calm as a pool.

The Luau
Every Tuesday and Friday evening the resort plays hosts to an authentic luau. Created in the 1960s The Mauna Kea Hawaiian Luau offers taste of the local culture through music and food. Tables are laden with imu-roasted kalua pig, island fish, laulau, lomi salmon, sashimi and piles of fruit. Steel guitars are set against the sound of surf in the background. Learn to dance the hula or be wowed by the fire dance.

 The Food
Good food is as much of a draw as is getting some good sun. The resort offers six dining outlets, which means if you don’t want to leave the property you don’t have to. At Copper Bar, find a full menu of tapas and entrees crafted with local ingredients, and cocktails handmade by mixologists, all perfectly paired with panoramic views. Indulge in an authentic poke bowl and sip on a Mauna Kea mule.

The Drinks
Speaking of drinks, I heard about The Frederico before I even hopped on the plane. This drink is so famous, it even has its own website. Of course, there are plenty of great cocktails, but you can’t go to the Mauna Kea without having one of these. Apparently, the concoction was whipped up in the summer of 1988. A guest, tired of syrupy Mai Tais, wanted a drink that wasn’t too sweet so that it could be consumed in large quantities. The Fredrico is a blend of tropical juices, light rum and Jack Daniels. The drink was called Fredrico after the bartender’s nickname. (I found a recipe for it online at the bottom of the story, but it may not be authentic. The hotel doesn’t give this one out.).

Fredrico Signature Cocktail

The Great Outdoors
I love laying on a beach, but I want to extend the hiking season as long as I can. Thankfully,  the resort is home to one leg of the Ala Kahakai Trail. This 1.5 mile portion of the trail connects the Mauna Kea to its sister property, the Hapuna Beach Prince. The walk itself is part of the Ala Kahakai pathway, a 175-mile U.S. National Historic Trail. This means you can hike longer, if you want, in either direction from the property.

The Frederico


  • 1 1/4 ounces Bacardi light rum
  • 1 1/4 ounces Jack Daniels
  • 2-3 ounces each of pineapple, passion fruit, guava and orange juices
  • Splash grenadine


  • Blend all ingredients with ice. Garnish with a cherry, pineapple wedge and fresh orchid.

About Author

Also originally from the South, Cara Rank discovered cooking was a creative outlet that helped her relax after long days writing magazine and newspaper articles during the past eight years in Jackson. Really, she just missed Southern food. A lot. During a 12-year career as a journalist, Cara has won numerous awards for her work and has written about everything from rodeo queens to Dolly Parton tomatoes. She spends her weekends making jars of pickles and jam and amazing dinners for friends. She loves shishito peppers, Chicago-style hot dogs and elderflower-spiked cocktails.

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