Can be bustling and/or noisy during conventions and luaus
Over 44 years and under more than one name, this hotel holds a special place in Kona Coast history. Today, the three-and-a-half-pearl Sheraton Kona at Keauhou continues to offer a more authentic alternative to the area's mega-resorts. The 508 spacious rooms include flat-screen TVs and oversized balconies plus mountain or ocean views, though some furniture is worn. The pool was cleverly designed with a quieter adult area and a livelier oceanfront section for families, though there's no swimmable beach at the resort. Rays on the Bay offers fine al fresco dining with sunset views, and local touches include locally roasted Kona coffee, locally-designed fabrics, and manta ray encounters. One of this hotel's closest competitors is the fanciful Hilton Waikoloa Village, though the Sheraton feels more intimate and has lower rates.
Large oceanside resort with Hawaiian style and a more authentic vibe
Smaller than the sprawling mega-resorts of the Kohala Coast and with more personality than the numerous austere timeshares and budget condominiums nearby, this resort offers a Hawaiian experience that's more genuine and subtle than one may expect. Built on the site of a thriving ancient Hawaiian fishing village and temple, the resort is the steward to several historic sites on the property and is within walking distance to several more. Positioned atop a long stretch of black lava cliffs on the Pacific Ocean, that natural setting provides a stark contrast to the white mid-century modern architecture, the vibrant green landscaping, and the indigo blue ocean. The public areas and hallways are open to embrace the sun and the salt-scented ocean air at every turn.
The resort manages to integrate family friendliness with the needs of vacation-ready adults seamlessly and gracefully by offering several activities for kids and adults. The massive resort pool -- with two distinct personalities -- is a prime example. The outer pool is built for fun and family, while the inner pool is perfectly positioned in the sun for subdued relaxation and reading. Club Lealea has a movie room and kids activities, while glimpses of wintering whales and playful dolphins from spots like the oceanfront fitness club. Despite its still sizable proportions, the resort feels a bit more intimate than its competition. Still, it can get busy when conventions are taking place on-site, and the luaus can be lively.
Tucked away on quiet Keauhou Bay, a 20-minute drive to the heart of Kona Village
Just an easy 30-minute drive from the Kona International Airport at Keahole, this resort is within walking distance of historic sites like the birthplace of Kamehameha III -- a 19th century Hawaiian king. Still, most of the resort's neighbors are other resorts, and aside from quick five-minute walks to sport fishing and snorkeling outfitters down the road, there's not much within an easy walk. Golf is available just outside the resort's gates at the Kona Country Club. Despite this hotel's setting on the ocean, there is no swimmable beach here, and the closest is Kahaluu Beach, a five-minute drive from the property. White Sands Beach is a 10-minute drive away. There's a shopping plaza, cinema, and weekly farmer's market a five-minute drive away as well. It's a scenic 20-minute drive to the heart of Kona Village, which is home to the historic Hulihee Palace, Mokuaikaua Church, or Ahuena Heiau. Also within a 20 minute drive are local bars, restaurants, Wal-Mart, Macy’s and more. The Keauhou Trolley makes scheduled departures from the hotel lobby several times a day. Many of the larger tour companies and sightseeing outfits use the resort as a pick-up and return location for island tours. The dazzling beaches of the Kohala Coast and the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are both around two hours away by car.
Locally designed accents plus flat-screen TVs and balconies, though furniture is worn
The resorts 485 guest rooms and 23 suites are decorated in an eclectic mix of classic island plantation furnishings and bright accents. While the rattan and light wood veneer furniture is a bit dated, patterns and fabrics were created by the Big Island’s very own celebrated designer Sig Zane. The tropical prints are sparingly used in this case, creating a sharp overall effect rather than looking kitschy. Subtle floral art hangs on walls done in cream and white hues, and floors are carpeted in a handsome dark pattern. Unfortunately, we did spot significant wear and scratches on some furniture.
Rooms are cooled by noiseless central air-conditioning while sliding patio doors open to legendary Kona salty sea breezes for those who prefer to cool their rooms naturally. Each room has a private furnished balcony that is large enough to start the day with a cup of coffee from the in-room coffee maker, surf the internet with free in-room Wi-Fi. All rooms also include 37-inch flat-screen TVs and desks, as well Sheraton's excellent mattresses with down duvets. Bathrooms are spacious, with single vanities along with make-up mirrors and separate dressing and closet areas. The sink is outside of the main bathroom in most cases, and all bathrooms include shower/tub combos.
There are several views to choose from at the resort. The most spectacular are the jaw dropping Ocean Front Rooms, which have unobstructed ocean views -- expect to see breaching wintering whales or hear the sound of crashing surf. Ocean View Rooms are located away from the shoreline on upper floors and have ocean views from a distance. Other room categories offer mountain or garden views, but it may be worth avoiding the Ocean View Room directly behind the waterslide. Additionally those wanting quiet evenings will want to pass on rooms overlooking the luau grounds.
Massive pool, proper gym, spa with beauty salon, and plenty of activities
Given the size of this resort, it's no surprise that there is an extensive array of features on offer. Of course, it's disappointing that the hotel has no swimmable stretch of sand. There is a massive resort pool, though, divided into lively and quiet areas, including a waterslide that's popular with kids. The hotel has an exceptional gym with a large selection of modern cardio and weight-training equipment plus ocean views. Sports equipment like golf clubs and surfboards can be rented, and snorkeling is available just a few minutes' walk from the hotel. There's also a simple spa offering an array of treatments and a beauty salon.
One of the more natural highlights of a stay here are the manta rays. They are visible each evening from the oceanfront deck, and evening in-water manta ray encounters can be booked through the hotel's concierge. Otherwise, a lengthy list of perks and features are a part of the daily resort fee. Freebies include two-hour bike rentals and unlimited use of the Keauhou Trolley. Also included are lei making, hula and ukulele lessons, guided cultural and historical tours of Keauhou Bay, and a souvenir tote bag. The hotel has a game room with ping pong and billiards tables as well.
Wi-Fi is free throughout the hotel. Additionally, the concierge is available to provide tips and driving directions for a perfect day trip to several beautiful beaches along the Kohala Coast. There's a quaint chapel that can host weddings and other ceremonies. Meetings and banquets can also be hosted on-site, as the hotel has over 22,000 square feet (over 2,000 square meters) of event space, including outdoor areas.
Oceanside dining, weekly luaus, and locally roasted coffee
One of this resort's real gems is Rays on the Bay. The open-air restaurant is a favorite oceanfront spot sunset cocktails. This restaurant is popular with islanders as a special date night destination, and has a casual upscale dinner atmosphere. The menu features locally sourced fish, wild island boar along with creative combinations of Pacific Rim flavors. A popular dinner finale is Ray’s Banana’s Foster flambe with crispy banana bread and coconut ice cream. The best seats in the house are the fire-pit tables, which should be reserved in advance.
This resort does more than a standard latte at their coffee bar. Instead, it serves up genuine Kona coffee harvested and roasted from plantations just up the road. The weekly luau draws visitors from all over the Kona area for an evening of feasting and entertainment that honors the history of the Keauhou area. Otherwise, bites and drinks are available from the pool bar, and a breakfast only restaurant. The breakfast buffet can be pricey and most guests find that it's worth having it included in the room rate to save a bit of cash.
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