Renting a Home on the Kohala Coast - Mauna Kea to Waimea
By John Di Rienzo
May 25, 2015
The Big Island of Hawaii – Kohala Coast Highlights
Flying into Kailua-Kona airport on the Big Island of Hawaii might be what it feels like to land on another planet. The rugged volcanic landscape looks primordial and it’s immediately clear that this is a land of extremes: extreme geology, extreme heights and extreme beauty.
Below an Alaska Airlines plane can be seen on the tarmac. Alaska is one of the airlines that offers nonstop service from the West Coast of the US to Kailua-Kona, meaning accessing the Kohala Coast is easier than ever.
Unlike the other Hawaiian Islands, the Big Island’s most visited coast seems a strange place for so many resorts and vacation homes. At first blush, it feels like there is none of the lushness for which Hawaii is famous. You can sense the heat and it’s hard to imagine that just up the road lies one of Hawaii’s best vacation destinations, coconut palms and all, while high up above you, exists another landscape entirely.
Gorgeous as it may be, it was not the natural sights that brought me to the Big Island. I came to tour properties and share insights with our guests; this is all part of the Exotic Estates’ Excellence Standard, which seeks to ensure high-quality accommodations.
Starting at the Beginning – Mauna Kea
The Kohala Coast, stretching north of Kona, is dotted with well-planned resort communities. The development of the Kohala Coast began back in the 60’s, with the Mauna Kea Resort – still a gem offering one of the best beaches in Hawaii. Interestingly, the hotel was founded by the Laurance S. Rockefeller company; we are told he scoured the Hawaiian Islands by helicopter until he found the perfect spot for his hotel, a fun visual.
The hotel has stood the test of time and maintains the now classic open-air design that allows breezes to blow freely through the structure. However, as nice as the hotel is, the amazing vacation homes that surround it are the real draw for our clients.
The first homes were built in the 70s, but they are all beautifully maintained and luckily we have some gorgeous ones on offer at Exotic Estates. Many people in the know have been renting Mauna Kea villas for years, but we can tell that the Big Island is taking off as a destination, as people look for new ways to experience Hawaii. However, for now, you can still rent first-class homes there at a lower price point than Maui and Oahu.
A standout home from my tour is the Muana Kea Mid-Century Villa. This home is unique in that it harks back to the classic design of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel itself. Lovingly restored, the home boasts luxurious details like Frette linens and a wonderful mid-century modern design ethos. The Muana Kea Mid-Century Villa has aptly been described as Palm Springs mid-century chic meets Hawaii.
The rear of the home essentially has glass walls with floor to ceiling shades, which, when open, incorporate the incredible views and patio vista into the home experience. The main villa encloses a long lanai that is strategically shaded and features a large outdoor dining area. The lanai leads out onto the backyard, which boasts unobstructed views out to the Pacific Ocean and a gorgeous saline lap pool and hot tub.
Another ideal feature of the home is the layout of the bedrooms. There are four in total, two in the main home and two in a separate bungalow. The two bedrooms in the main home are on either end of the villa, ensuring privacy; each offer en-suite bathrooms with showers. The bungalow bedrooms each have queen-size beds and share a bathroom in between. It is an ideal set-up for families traveling together, multi-generational groups, or families with older teens. Also, because there are no stairs on the property, it works well for those who need to accommodate mobility issues.
Access to the Mauna Kea Hotel
What is wonderful about staying in a vacation home on the Mauna Kea Resort, or its sister property, the Hapuna Resort, is that guests get access to the incredible, fully serviced beach at Mauna Kea Hotel, as well as the pool, for just $65 a day. This is a no-brainer considering the incredible facilities and amazing sandy beach, which is ideal for swimming due to its sandy bottom, a plus on the rugged and coral-heavy Kohala Coast. The beach is accessible to the public, but on busy days access is limited and having a resort pass will ensure you have a place in the sand!
Also, like many of the resort areas along the Kohala Coast, there are excellent golf courses to be enjoyed here, and many of the homes look out unto the greens and fairways.
Another great house that I visited on this trip is the Frank Lloyd Wright Big Island Villa, aka “The Frank Lloyd Wright House.” This home is located higher up on the slopes of above Mauna Kea, on the way to a historic country town called Waimea.
This home is the only house in Hawaii to receive official recognition from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which is noted on the plaque by the entrance. A wonderful experience for any Frank Lloyd Wright fan, the home boasts fabulous views of the surrounding volcano peaks and a lava-rock outdoor Jacuzzi.
Built into the hillside, the Frank Lloyd Wright Big Island Villa has a crescent moon shape with large floor-to-ceiling windows, which allow guests to experience the dramatic landscape when inside the home and cool mountain breezes to flow freely throughout its upper flowers, eleminating the need for AC.
The villa features all of the built-in, custom-designed furniture familiar to any Frank Lloyd Wright home. Also, the home is reasonably priced, because it’s not located in the resort areas, which are in higher demand. While you are not on the beach, you are surrounded by incredible scenery and get to enjoy a very special property. There are three bedrooms capabable of accommodating six guests.
Historic Waimea - Hawaiian Ranching Community with Farm Products
The other great thing about Mauna Kea and Hapuna is that they are close to Waimea. On the road to Waimea from the coast, you will climb some 2,600 ft. and notice a definitive change in the environment. While the landscape down along the lower elevations is definitely dry, up above, on the way to Mauna Kea, you will see wide stretches of green. Though it is only around 13 miles from the balmy Mauna Kea Resort area, it is a world away. As you climb higher, the green comes into focus and there is a distinctive country vibe, with antique farm houses landscaped with flowers and plants that feel somehow more Central Coast California than Hawaii.
This Hawaiian country town is oozing history and boasts a unique Americana all its own. Colonized for sugar plantations, the Big Island saw the arrival of many Portuguese families in the 1800s, who gave birth to the paniolo or Hawaiian cowboy culture. One farmstead, the Anna Ranch, which was founded in 1848 and is a grand example of the historic homes in the area, was settled in 1845 and is now open to visitors.
Historic Parker Ranch
Some may be surprised to learn Waimea and the Big Island are home one of the largest working ranches in the US. Historic, Parker Ranch was founded in 1847, earlier than many ranches in the US West, and covers some 250,000 acres. Ranching culture absolutely dominates the area and is visible in historic buildings and in new constructions, built to reflect town's cowboy pedigree. Those wishing to ride horses will find stables in Waimea.
However, for most vacation home renters on this part of the Big Island, Waimea is a wonderful place to stock up on farm-fresh products. There are many working farms here and there is a great farmers market on Saturdays where you can find locally produced crops like lettuce, ginger and tropical fruits. Of course if you prefer to eat out, there are also several charming restaurants in town serving locally produced fare, as well as shopping centers with banks, supermarkets and drug stores.
Also, lower down on the slopes, between Mauna Kea Resort and the Waikoloa Resort areas, you will find Waikoloa Village. This little town has a convenient shopping center with a supermarket offering all of the usual items along with some unique island favorites liked smoked ahi (tuna)!
When renting a vacation home on the Kohala Coast, be sure to explore Waimea and take advantage of the local products and the country life that is throwback to another era.
The next post will cover the areas of Mauna Lani and Waikoloa.