In 1966, the allure of Kona Village Resort on the Big Island captivated Hollywood elites, families, and intrepid explorers soon after Johnno and Helen Jackson inaugurated it. Despite its unassuming amenities—polyester sheets, absence of ACs, and no TVs—the oceanfront allure of Kahuwai Bay and private standalone hales made it a cherished escape for five decades. However, a devastating tsunami in 2011 forced its closure.
After extensive renovations, the iconic property was resurrected on July 1, courtesy of California real estate magnate Kennedy Wilson and Rosewood Hotels & Resorts. The rebirth, named Kona Village, a Rosewood Resort, not only invites “legacy guests” to relish fond memories but also weaves a profound tapestry with Hawaii’s rich history and culture. This, combined with Rosewood’s interpretation of laid-back opulence, justifies the $1,800 starting rate for a standard bungalow.
Spread across 81 acres of striking lava landscapes along a palm-fringed coastline, the resort boasts 150 bungalows, including five “heritage” hales with direct shore access from the original Kona Village. A network of winding paths, navigable by complimentary bikes, connects them, meandering through archaeological sites, lava fields, and lush native flora. Nicole Hollis and her San Francisco-based team, in a masterful display of design, maintain a delicate balance, honoring the locale while adorning it with chic, magazine-worthy furnishings.
Tacky hula-dancing dolls and artificial flower leis find no place here. Hollis, in collaboration with the cultural committee, pays homage to the resort’s surroundings and history using dark woods, natural materials, and locally crafted furnishings inspired by traditional Hawaiian tools. The art gracing public spaces and hales is a standout feature, with works commissioned from over three dozen native Hawaiian and Hawaii-residing artists, including Kappa prints and sculptures.
In-room amenities redefine luxury, featuring lava-hued soaking bathtubs, outdoor showers, and spacious private lanais. The pinnacle is the oceanfront Maheawalu Kauhale, a $40,000-per-night suite, tucked away on the north side of the resort. This gated compound comprises four standalone one-bedroom bungalows and a fifth one serving as a multipurpose living space, leading to a vast sundeck with an infinity pool, fire pit, hot tub, and an outdoor kitchen and dining area.
Rosewood’s Asaya Spa makes its U.S. debut at the resort, nestled into the lava flow with panoramic views of Hualālai volcano. Offering holistic treatments rooted in traditional Hawaiian wellness practices, the facility includes hot and cold plunge dips, a sauna, and a steam room.
The resort’s culinary landscape features the original Talk Story and Shipwreck Bars—the latter housed in the Jacksons’ refurbished sunken sailboat, now a beachfront bar ideal for sunset cocktails. Moana, led by Chef Chad Yamamoto, serves Pacific Rim flavors inspired by Kahuwai Bay’s history as a Polynesian navigator hub. The nearby Kahuwai Cookhouse and Market, overseen by Chef Victor Palma, offers a casual dining experience highlighting traditional Hawaiian techniques, with a touch of reinterpretation from Palma’s native Mexico.
Guests can bask in the sun by the waterfront pools, hone their tennis or paddleboard skills, or partake in classes at the newly constructed cultural center. The resort’s beach beckons with a plethora of water sports, including guided sunrise paddles for the early risers.