KAILUA-KONA, HAWAII, January 21, 2014 – The Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay dominates a rocky point of land with an expansive soaring structure at one of the most historic locations on the Big Island. Completely renovated one year ago, this legacy property is a surprisingly affordable wonderland perfectly located in the heart of the Kona Coast.
An impeccable location right at the mouth of Keauhou Bay, on beautifully manicured grounds, the Sheraton Kona is a luxury resort experience with a true sense of Hawaiian history embedded in its soul.
Keauhou is a wonderful lush part of Kona just south enough from the middle of town that it feels removed and just north of coffee country and the quaint towns of Kealekekua and Captain Cook, and the wonders of magical Honaunau. The Sheraton Kona is just below the hills above Keauhou and the winding road that leads to the tiny art colony of Holualoa. One of the Sheraton Kona’s distinctive charms is how it is close to everything without being isolated like some of the very upscale resorts further up the Kona Coast.
Keauhou Bay was sacred grounds of the Hawaiian royalty, and King Kamehameha III, Hawaii’s longest reigning monarch, was born in a spring mere yards from the hotel. The area where the hotel now stands was once one of the oldest communities and fishing villages in Hawaii. Many structures and features of traditional Hawaiian life, including an ancient canoe house and cooking compounds, still adorn the grounds of the hotel along the bay.
Ocean swells pound against the rocky shoreline along two sweeping wings of the hotel. Manta rays gather in groups at night in the shallow water just off the famous and aptly named restaurant, Rays on the Bay, in a spectacular nightly display.
The Maritime festivities are punctuated by diving boats and intrepid tourists swimming with the mantas in an orchestrated and fascinating ritual.
The Sheraton Kona features 524 stylish rooms decorated, like the rest of the hotel, by acclaimed local designer Sig Zane. The several wings overlooking the ocean are highly recommended, all of which have large balconies with rapturous views. The rooms are richly appointed with sumptuous beddings, a warm and comfortable spaciousness, and floor to ceiling windows.
A swimming pool for the ages meanders through the center of the hotel, whose open air atrium between buildings provides a multidimensional architectural feel that is both modern and tropical.
Waterfalls and an aqueous passageway give way to the main pool near the cliffs above the ocean and a large, highly enjoyable waterslide. A treat for the senses, the pool at the Sheraton Kona is one of the few in memory that cries out to be indulged with an abandon that never grows old.
Dinner at Rays on the Bay is casual fine dining at its best, with exceptional fresh fish specials and a bar well stocked with locals and tourists.
Sit alongside the ocean and watch the mantas in the bay and dine under the stars as a live band plays in the background. Ray’s at the Bay is a celebratory experience with excellent food and a casual ambiance that remains lively well into the evening.
One of the great events held at the Sheraton Kona is their Haleo Luau under the stars, less touristy and more traditional than luaus at other hotels, and a culinary delight taken seriously. The placing of the pig in the traditional imu or underground oven is an early morning gastronomic ceremony and unique cultural experience well attended by hotel guests.
That evening the luau is a wonderful affair served outside alongside the bay on a portion of the great lawn in an intricate meal whose traditions resonate with its setting in this hallowed place.
The Sheraton Kona Resort features the full service Hoola Spa that offers a range of treatments and massages. Very popular for weddings, it has a truly lovely chapel on the grounds, near where yoga classes are conducted each morning on the open lawn for hotel guests.
Breakfast is served at Ainakai, a generous restaurant buffet, or at a casual open air coffee shop, and a well-equipped gym, full convention facilities, and a truly attentive staff round out the amenities.
Nearby, in the Keauhou Shopping Center, Sam Choy’s beautifully located restaurant provides a panoramic view of the hotel and Keauhou Bay below, and a delicious take on a variety of Hawaiian cuisine. For a taste of true local cooking a stop at nearby Teshima’s Restaurant in Kealekekua is a must, a journey into a Japanese tradition in Hawaii unchanged in 50 years.
Even more local and not on the tourist guidebook is the Manago Hotel restaurant in Captain Cook, a slice of life that is an earthy culinary experience as true as the islands themselves.
Take a charter excursion boat from Keauhou Bay to pristine Kealekekua Bay and the spot where Captain Cook was killed over 200 years ago. Drive south into Honaunau and wander through the ancient City of Refuge, or take Alii drive north into old Kona and marvel at Hulihee Place or the compound where Kamehameha the Great ruled the islands for a decade. At the center of it all is the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay, a combination of history, luxury, and affordability in the heart of the most beautiful part of Kona. Rooms start at around $175 a night.
Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles.