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Keeping It Fresh on The Big Island

February 18, 2008 By: Mark Rogers Travel Agent

Hawaii stays dynamic with resort renovations and new amenities

THE BIG ISLAND CONTINUES TO RIDE A WAVE OF REFURBISHMENT and re-tuning of its tourism product, with major renovations of resorts and the addition of specialized activities and facilities designed to enhance your clients' vacations.  Keauhou Beach Resort's charming beach cottage has period furnishings dating from 1874 to1891

The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel ( closed in December 2006 due to structural damage resulting from earthquakes, and Prince Resorts Hawaii is spending $150 million on repairs and renovations. The project focuses on guest rooms, lobby, restaurants and common areas.?The hotel will reopen in December 2008, featuring new retail shops, a spa and a fitness center. The Mauna Kea Golf Course has also begun refurbishment and will reopen in November.

Kona Village Resort ( has something new for clients who like to spend vacation time on or under the water: a Ribcraft (Rigid Inflatable Boat) used for trips to nearly two dozen nearby dive sites, offshore snorkeling excursions, sunset cruising and seasonal humpback-whale watching (December through April). The 27-foot custom-made vessel features seating for more than 20 people, onboard freshwater showers and in-hull lights for nighttime manta snorkeling and dives in Kahuwai Bay. The Fairmont Orchid offers outdoor oceanfront services at its Spa Without Walls

Always a Favorite

When travel agents discuss their favorite resorts to book on the Big Island, the Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii ( invariably comes up. The 540-room property sits on 32 oceanfront acres on the Kohala Coast, within the Mauna Lani resort community. It just welcomed executive chef Collin Thornton, who's overseeing culinary operations at the Fairmont Orchid after stints in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and chillier Canadian resorts. (Prior to his move to Hawaii, Thornton served as executive chef at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ontario.) Look for Thornton to combine European techniques and Hawaiian cooking with local ingredients. Keauhou Beach double rooms have views of the ocean, Hualalai mountain or Kahaluu Bay

Seizing on the popularity of culinary tourism—and the arrival of chef Thornton—the Fairmont Orchid is introducing biweekly complimentary cooking demonstrations and tastings called "Learn From the Pros." Each session will highlight one of the resort's five full-service restaurants: Brown's Beach House, Norio's Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar, the Grill, the Ocean Bar Restaurant and the Orchid Court.

Norio's and Brown's are popular with both locals and tourists. If your clients are dining at Brown's, suggest they try the Crispy Kona Kampachi; at Norio's, they shouldn't miss Norio's Manilla Clams.?Agents can make restaurant reservations for their clients by calling the concierge at 808-887-7368, or by going online at

Guests at the Fairmont Orchid have a choice of ocean views, golf course views to the north and interior resort views to the south. Rooms in the Deluxe Ocean View category and higher have the best vistas.

The Fairmont Orchid's Gold Floor functions as an exclusive hotel within a hotel, with controlled key access to the sixth (top) floor in the resort's North Tower. Its Gold Floor lounge resembles a well-appointed living room in a Hawaiian residence, with koa wood accents, native artifacts and island?photography.?There are 45 rooms on the Gold Floor, including a Fairmont Gold Executive Suite and a Fairmont Gold Presidential Suite, each with a lanai with ocean views.

This family-friendly resort has keiki (children's) menus in its restaurants, including a keiki-sized breakfast buffet. The resort also has a year-round Keiki Aloha Program (

General manager of the Fairmont Orchid is Ian Pullan (808-887-7338, [email protected]. Agents with special requests or questions can reach out to Krista Bentley, director of leisure sales (based in Seattle), at 425-286-6116, [email protected]), or Kami Tainatongo, onsite leisure sales coordinator, at 808-887-7165 or [email protected].

The resort's Spa Without Walls has 10 outdoor treatment rooms, five oceanfront massage hales (traditional huts) and three indoor treatment rooms. The outdoor treatment rooms are set amid waterfalls and rock-strewn streams. Several of the treatment rooms are cantilevered over the water, so clients can look at moving water and colorful koi when they lie face down on the massage table. The most popular treatment is Awa Earth & Fire, a detoxifying Hawaiian treatment that involves lomi lomi massage, pure coconut oil and medicinal herbs applied to the body using a warm lava stone.

Book treatments ahead of time by contacting Candy Lucas, spa director (808-887-7514, [email protected]). Score points with your clients by requesting Suzanne West, the spa's principal massage therapist. She's especially skilled and popular.

The Fairmont Orchid is a popular venue for weddings and vow renewals. Contact Jaisy Jardine, romance specialist (a.k.a. weddings and special events manager), at 808-887-7285, [email protected].

Nikki Reeves is the Fairmont's head concierge (808-887-7368, [email protected]). The concierge staff is up for any challenge—for example, it recently worked with an outside vendor with star-gazing expertise to put together a private star-gazing session for a guest and his extended family, which took place on the resort's tennis court.

Agents should book a minimum of 60 days in advance during the resort's busiest times, which are the holiday season (December 21-January 4) and July and August, peak time for family travel. Rates for 2008 begin at $679 double per night.

South of Kohala and the Fairmont along the Big Island's western shore, the 309-room Keauhou Beach Resort ( is an oceanfront property on the Kona Coast. It's perched over the edge of a point, giving guests in the deluxe oceanfront rooms—which include three suites—a bird's-eye view of tide pools. All of the resort's other oceanfront rooms have spectacular views overlooking the tidal pond and facing sunsets.

Room 404 has the best views of all: Guests can see honu (turtles) in the tidal ponds, the majestic Hualalai mountain, Kahaluu Bay and Kona town. Suite 704 is considered the best suite in the resort.

By March 15, all guest rooms at Keauhou Beach will be completely refreshed. The resort also is conducting a careful restoration of the sacred sites on property, and its new NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) programs will feature lectures and other activities for guests, with a special focus on the International Year of the Reef, a 2008 campaign to raise awareness about the need to protect coral reefs.

A replica of King David Kalakaua's beach cottage is a charming feature at Keauhou Beach Resort. The original, destroyed by a fire in 1950, was rebuilt by Outrigger Resorts in 1980. It contains period furnishings dating from the king's reign of 1874-1891. The cottage is open for visitors but not overnight guests.

Keauhou Beach Resort's full-service Kalona Salon Spa offers massage and aromatic skin care and body treatments. Sharon Dewey Fields is the spa owner and creator of its Kalona spa products. The most popular product is the Vanilla Ginger Body Lotion. Reservations can be made in advance of clients' arrival (808-322-9373, [email protected]).

All this year, Keauhou Beach Resort has a "Stay Four, Pay for Three" special on minimum four-night stays. For all bookings, agents can contact the resort's sales manager, Annabelle Smith, at 808-324-2509, [email protected].

At another oceanfront Kona resort, the Royal Kona (, amenities include special half-day and full-day meetings packages. Half-day plans cover meeting room setup, choice of a flip chart or a podium with microphone and freshly brewed Kona coffee and cookies, from $38.50 per person. Full-day packages include all of the above plus lunch, and start at $58.50 per person. Prices are based on a 10-person minimum and do not include tax. Additional amenities are available on request. Call 800-919-8333, ext. 6236 for more information and reservations.

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