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Hello, Hawaiʻi: The Big Island Welcomes Back Beloved Kona Village

For a resort to have a storied history and loyal clientele harking back generations is a rarity – but Kona Village, A Rosewood Resort isn’t just any hotel.

An audible splash is reverberating across the Big Island with the reimagining of an iconic hideaway. After over a decade of being dormant in the wake of a tsunami that devastated Kona Village, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts was appointed to manage what turned into a seven-year restoration to reopen as Kona Village, A Rosewood Resort. The quintessential elements of the original Kona Village that long ago burrowed their way into the hearts of its loyal guests have not been lost, only enhanced. After re-entering the scene to overwhelmingly positive feedback, this iconic property continues to demonstrate a profound connection to and appreciation of its heritage, rooted in a one-of-a-kind location.

AN ANCIENT BAY, SWELLING WITH STORY

Centuries before playing home to beach lovers sipping on delectably fruity drinks (legend has it that Jim Morrison once set an island record by drinking twenty-one mai tais at Kona Village’s Shipwreck Bar) the sacred shores of Kahuwai Bay welcomed the very first Polynesian settlers to Hawaiʻi. In the intervening years, this ancient bay has seen a great deal of history unfold, including its development into a fishing and trading village before being abandoned by settlers, and ultimately, becoming a world-renowned resort. But let us back up a bit.

In 1965, intrepid explorer Johnno Jackson and his wife, Helen, arrived at the then-deserted shores of Kahuwai Bay after sailing the South Pacific on their schooner, New Moon. Enchanted by their lofty dream to create a special home on the island, they established the Kona Village Resort. In the following five decades, Kona Village established its own beating heart, welcoming families from around the world who would return year after year.

In 2011, an earthquake off the coast of Japan sent a tsunami across the Pacific Ocean, and tragically, Kona Village was swept away in the aftermath. In addition to the toll it took on islanders and the team who long stood behind Kona Village’s magic, loyal guests of the resort were left heartbroken and without the chance to say goodbye. The emotional ties its repeat clients had with the property were evident when a “Save Kona Village” Facebook page sprouted up and gained nearly ten thousand members.

 A ray of hope came when the land owners partnered with Kennedy Wilson who appointed Rosewood Hotels and Resorts to operate the resort.

But much to the dismay of its cult following, this special part of the Big Island sat in deep stillness for over a decade. A ray of hope came when the land owners partnered with Kennedy Wilson – developer and owner of the asset – who appointed Rosewood Hotels and Resorts to operate the resort. Together, they sought to bring its thatched hales set against salted sands and illuminated waters back to life. This investment brought with it a renewed chance to share the land’s restorative properties with both familiar faces and newcomers.

WHO’S IT FOR?

Kona Village, A Rosewood Resort was created with the concept of ‘ohana (ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind, in case you’re not a Lilo and Stitch fan) which is foundational to Hawaiian culture. From the flexibility and diversity in its accommodations to the many shared spaces and Kona Village’s Rosewood Explorers Keiki Club – the local interpretation of Rosewood’s forward-thinking kids’ club concept – the resort was remade for ‘ohana as guests gather and reconnect. Today, it also serves as a haven for couples or honeymooners as the ultimate oasis to have a romantic escape.

A SENSE OF PLACE

In keeping with Rosewood Hotels and Resorts’ philosophy built around A Sense of Place®, each property within the brand’s growing footprint of over thirty hotels around the world reflects its distinct location, history, culture, and sensibilities. Kona Village is no exception, taking inspiration from the habitat and heritage of its one-of-a-kind locale. When it comes to island resorts, particularly those in Hawaiʻi, design can err on the side of kitschy, and in turn, sometimes feel disingenuous. This trope couldn’t be further from what has played out with the reimagining of Kona Village, where the resort’s distinctive aesthetic was designed with consideration of the layered history of both Hawaiʻi Island and the Kona Coast specifically.

The architecture found across the property includes nods to the resort’s history, with thoughtful changes made to certain previously existing elements that are no longer aligned with the latest standards of sustainability

The resort’s meticulously thought-out design is the product of some of the greatest modern talents in architecture, design, art, and horticulture. Spearheaded by Hawaiʻi -raised architect, Greg Warner of Walker Warner Architects, and San Francisco-based interior design firm, NICOLEHOLLIS, there’s an inextricable link between past and present. The architecture found across the property includes nods to the resort’s history, with thoughtful changes made to certain previously existing elements that are no longer aligned with the latest standards of sustainability. For example, Kona Village’s thatched roofing was an element of the original resort. In its reimagining, new thatching was made from recycled materials rather than the traditional native leaves.

HAWAIIAN ART MEETS HALE

Across the one hundred and fifty hale and around the eighty-one acres of land on which the resort was constructed, a custom collection of art reflects Hawaiʻi’s layered identity. Over sixty multimedia artists – the majority of whom are native Hawaiians or residents today – visited the land during the property’s restoration for an extensive immersion into its rich spirit and story. The result is a truly one-of-a-kind exhibition of the arts wholly inspired by the landscape, featuring pieces by several of the island’s most celebrated creators including Marques Marzan, Roen Hufford, Kaili Chun, Abigail Romanchak, Jordan Souza, Suzanne Wang, and Pegge Hopper.

We love the signature suites, called kauhale, for oceanfront or beachfront vantage points often boasting secluded gardens.

In the rooms and suites, called hale, freestanding buildings are the ultimate key to privacy. To decide between the wide range of configurations across the multi-bedroom units ranging anywhere from one, two, and four bedrooms, work with your SmartFlyer advisor to discuss your specific needs. Aside from views – decide between the array of configurations including gardens, lagoons, mountains, or ocean vantage points – additional amenities like private pools, hot tubs, and personalized butler service vary per room category. We love the signature suites, called kauhale, for oceanfront or beachfront vantage points often boasting secluded gardens.

WELLNESS AS A WAY OF LIFE

Wellness enthusiasts on the hunt for a healing journey will find themselves at home at Asaya Spa. Built into the black lava flow with views toward the Hualālai volcano, Asaya Spa at Kona Village offers a unique interpretation of Rosewood’s integrative wellness concept designed to encourage restoration and rejuvenation. With enlightening spa treatments, wellness experiences, fitness opportunities, and a variety of outdoor and ocean activities, guests will experience an escape that awakens their souls. The intention is for guests to feel gently steered to a regenerative state of lōkahi – a concept from traditional Hawaiian healing that means harmony mentally, physically, and spiritually. Kona Village can also serve as a natural landscape for adventure seekers and explorers alike to feel a tapestry of formative experiences.

DID SOMEONE SAY COCONUT O’CLOCK?

Upholding Rosewood’s Partners in Provenance program, Kona Village has connected with the island’s most skillful culinary talents to elevate its offerings. Kona Village’s five restaurants and bars each offer a wide array of dishes rooted in fresh, local ingredients. Influenced by the people who have cultivated the land dating back centuries, Kahuwai Cookhouse serves up a variety of dishes throughout the day inspired by The Big Island’s paniolo culture. This includes menu items that utilize Kiawe (similar to mesquite) wood-fired cooking, the choice cooking style on a paniolo ranch. The property’s signature restaurant, Moana, extends an elevated, Pacific Rim-to-table dining experience taking inspiration from the many different cuisines introduced to the island via these trade routes spanning the region’s extensive history.

…in the sixties, they hauled it out of the Pacific, painted it, and started serving mai tais from the deck. Astonishingly, New Moon survived the tsunami and has retained a key part of the resort’s identity decades later.

And speaking of history, legacy guests have been reported to be eagerly reacquainting themselves with Kona Village’s two beloved bars, Shipwreck and Talk Story. Harking back to the resort’s founding, the boat on which Johno and Helen Jackson arrived on the island, New Moon, took on water and sank to the bottom of Kahuwai Bay. So in the sixties, they hauled it out of the Pacific, painted it, and started serving mai tais from the deck. Astonishingly, New Moon survived the tsunami and has retained a key part of the resort’s identity decades later. Today, it’s known to serve playful cocktails served by bartender Marlin Hunter who, believe it or not, was named for the massive marlin fish his father caught on the very beach the resort is anchored upon. And for those who love a refreshing coconut, keep an eye out for the daily three o’clock coconut wagon serving complimentary poolside refreshments.

FORGING A GREENER PATH AHEAD

Sustainability efforts vary in intensity and execution at hotels around the world, but just one brief peek into Kona Village’s back of house would leave even the most eco-conscious impressed. Through an innovative approach to sustainability, Kona Village seeks to take important lessons from the past to inform a brighter tomorrow. The resort’s cultural programming, environmental conservation, and ongoing community support fulfill a decade-long promise to not only breathe life back into a beloved resort but to also care for and protect the deeply rooted mana of the land, made so powerful by the delicate natural balance of this rich and layered ecosystem.

…commitment was evident during the rebuilding phase when lineal descendants of the original fishing village were brought in to guide teams on how to best preserve the cultural sites around the resort.

In partnership with all key stakeholders, Rosewood takes its role as co-stewards of this land seriously. This commitment was evident during the rebuilding phase when lineal descendants of the original fishing village were brought in to guide teams on how to best preserve the cultural sites around the resort. In turn, a thoughtful architectural approach honors the original Kona Village by keeping large petroglyph fields and anchialine pools that are home to rare, endemic plants and animals. New structures remain light on the land, with raised, thatched hales, complimenting the lush landscape. From exterior siding inspired by coconut tree husks to basalt rock furnishings, each element feels organic and rooted in the natural environment.

Guided by Rosewood Empowers & Rosewood Sustains, a commitment to positively impacting the communities and natural environments in which the property operates, everything is done with reverence and respect for Hawaiian culture rooted in the importance of maintaining indigenous systems. Guests are invited to join the hotel team by participating in programming led by its expert cultural and sustainability teams. For example, you can visit the resort’s apiary to learn about on-site harvesting followed by a culinary tasting featuring the harvested honey. Alternatively, they can fish for tilapia – an invasive species which the region is looking to eliminate – and your catch will be used to feed healing Hawaiian seals as they recover at the nearby Ke Kai Ola- Monk Seal Rehabilitation Center.

As one of the largest privately owned microgrids in the state, the resort is solely reliant on solar power with a zero-waste commitment, cementing Kona Village as a leader in green hospitality. Whether you’re stepping onto the sacred soils for the first time, or returning for another formative experience that you’ll eternally carry, Kona Village is alive again, brimming with bountiful energy, and ready for the next chapter in its prolific story.

GETTING THERE

Kona Village, A Rosewood Resort is located on the idyllic Kona Coast of The island of Hawaiʻi, often referred to as the Big Island, as it is the largest island in the Hawaiian chain. The resort is a 15-minute drive from Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport (KOA) or approximately a 2-hour drive from Hilo International Airport (ITO). There are daily direct flights into Kona International Airport with major air carriers from the U.S. West Coast — Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Seattle — plus Denver and Phoenix, and seasonally from Vancouver and Anchorage. There is also the option of flying into Honolulu International Airport (HNL) on Oʻahu first and then taking a short, 45-50 minute flight to the island of Hawaiʻi. All the major rental companies are found on the island of Hawaiʻi. Rental car companies are located just a short distance from both interisland terminals. Taxis and other ground transportation are available curbside. 

Ready to begin planning your restorative stay at Kona Village? Chat with a SmartFlyer advisor.

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