Steeped in centuries of preserved tradition and the warmth of ‘ohana, the revived retreat reopens its doors and welcomes guests to rediscover the magic of the Kona Coast
Along the pristine shores of Kahuwai Bay on Hawaiʻi’s Kona Coast awaits a captivating destination sought after by voyagers for centuries. First discovered by Polynesians around the year 1000 AD and built into a thriving fishing village, these shores have continued to evolve during its long and layered history. Officially open to guests as of July 1, Kona Village, A Rosewood Resort is privileged to call this sacred land of Kaʻūpūlehu home. An inspired reimagination of the original Kona Village Resort, which first emerged on the site in the 1960s and subsequently shuttered in 2011, a familiar silhouette has returned to the island’s horizon. Kennedy Wilson, the innovative global real estate investment company renowned for its commitment to responsible and sustainable development in Hawaiʻi, has partnered with Rosewood Hotels & Resorts® to develop a property experience that honors the elements that made the island hideaway so beloved, while deepening the resort’s connection to its powerful cultural legacy and its embodiment of long-etched, key values – particularly the Hawaiian tradition of hoʻokipa: hospitality of complete giving.
Spanning 81 acres of stunning geologic landscape, Kona Village is guided by Rosewood’s A Sense of Place®philosophy, drawing inspiration Kaʻūpūlehu’s heritage, culture, and natural surroundings. In keeping with this ethos, and directly supporting Kennedy Wilson’s efforts to preserve and restore the local environment, the reimagined resort is designed to uphold and honor the centuries-long legacy of stewardship of the land. Critical to this mission was the collaboration between Kennedy Wilson, landowner Kamehameha Schools, and cultural community members of Kaʻūpūlehu which helped to guide plans for the resort’s renovation. Together, all partners came together to deliver a destination that will allow access to the history and moʻolelo (stories) of the Native Hawaiians who have so powerfully influenced the land. From relaying the many learnings of nature through organic teachings to embracing the profound warmth and spirituality of Hawaiian culture through shared conversation at the original Talk Story Bar, the new Kona Village weaves the past and present together seamlessly – while simultaneously looking toward the future with sustainability and positive impact seamlessly woven into the guest experience.
Respect for the Mana of the Land
Kaʻūpūlehu harbors mana – or special energy of power and strength – that both commands respect and embraces those who visit. As such, many who have touched the site have felt compelled to nurture it, creating a tapestry of stories of past stewards who have felt so compelled to care for this unique environment. Over seven years of development, the resort has proudly honored this duty. In close collaboration with the local community, certain elements of the resort experience have been designed to respect, celebrate, and perpetuate the rich natural environmental and cultural significance of the Big Island. Key to the team’s efforts was the assembly of a cultural leadership committee comprised of direct lineal descendants of the land and other Hawaiʻi Island kūpuna who have guided the project from its earliest days. From illuminating historical narratives to naming the dining outlets, these individuals have ensured that the land maintains its mana. They have also helped train all those involved with the project to continue to honor and protect this special energy.
The property’s construction was informed by Kennedy Wilson’s guiding mission to be as light on the land as possible. This included installing underground infrastructure in a way that kept the majority of the lava ground intact and employing enhanced protection amongst the many onsite archaeological preservation sites. The extra care employed around these important preservation sites is just one of many demonstrations of the team’s commitment to sustaining the land and its legacy. In addition to the highest-density Hawaiian petroglyph field in the world, the land is also home to 22 anchialine pools, which house some of Hawaiʻi’s rarest endemic species.
A dedicated cultural center pays tribute to Kona Village’s sacred archeological sites and anchialine pools and provides valuable insights on how best to preserve and support them, along with the rest of Hawaiʻi’s precious resources. Within the center, culturally important items collected over hundreds of years old are respectfully displayed to help tell these stories. Coupled with immersive programming and activities such as guided archeological tours, wildlife walks, coral reef restoration projects, beach and pond clean ups, and more, the center launches guests on meaningful journeys through the destination’s past, present, and future. Mindful programming is extended through Kona Village’s Rosewood Explorers Keiki Club, the local interpretation of Rosewood’s forward-thinking kids’ club concept. Designed to foster cultural appreciation and social responsibility in younger guests, the club’s activities stimulate the next generation of conscious travelers. Experiences are curated with the support of a dedicated cultural leader who has been appointed to continue the invaluable work of the cultural committee, with its ongoing guidance, as guests arrive and operations evolve.
Forging a More Sustainable Path Forward
At Kona Village, A Rosewood Resort, securing the future takes on equal importance as honoring the past. Guided by Rosewood Impacts, the brand’s mission to inspire, enrich and positively impact both people and planet, the resort has prioritized sustainability and social good. Several of the key buildings on property were designed according to LEED Gold Certification standards and the resort is also pursuing TRUE and SITES certifications. If achieved, Kona Village will be the first resort in the world with all three distinctions. During construction, efforts in support of these accolades include Kennedy Wilson’s work with Re-Use Hawaiʻi, a non-profit organisation that recycles and repurposes old building materials. The team also relied on sustainably sourced timber and engineered wood, as well as low-emitting paints, coatings, adhesives, and sealants. The resort will be powered 100% by solar energy, greatly lessening the impact on the environment and community resources. This is a first for Hawaiʻi and will set a new standard for development on the islands. Responsible power consumption informed the physical property plan from the beginning of its development, with the traditional winds in mind to offset the need for air conditioning and advanced energy-efficient appliances, equipment, and technologies integrated across the resort.
Given the significance of water to Kaʻūpūlehu, the property operates its own reverse osmosis and wastewater treatment plants to have minimal effects on the destination’s supply. Together these plants produce enough water for 100% of the irrigation needs on property. Potable water is provided by the local purveyor, which similarly treats water through reverse osmosis filtration and UV sterilisation. Kona Village has also committed to a zero-waste program, with the goal of ensuring that the ecological footprint can be reduced by diverting and recovering as much waste as possible from the island’s only landfill. The resort brings visitors into the fold as well; many guest experiences have been designed in harmony with nature, to inspire them to embrace the local ecosystem as their own and assume a personal responsibility to protect Hawaiʻi’s natural beauty.
Architecture & Design Rooted in Local Culture
The resort’s distinctive aesthetic is the product of some of the greatest talents in architecture, design, art, and horticulture. Spearheaded by Hawaiʻi -raised architect, Greg Warner of Walker Warner Architects, and San Francisco-based interior design firm, NICOLEHOLLIS, the property has been designed with consideration of the layered history of bothHawaiʻi Island and the Kona Coast specifically. The current architecture includes nods to the past, with thoughtful changes made to certain previously existing elements that are no longer aligned with the latest standards of sustainability. For example, Kona Village’s thatched roofing was a beloved element of the past resort. Today, new thatching is used, made from recycled materials rather than the traditional native leaves. This decision was made not only to keep elements of the resort’s past alive but also to better secure the buildings from rain and other natural elements while simultaneously maintaining plant life and keeping unnecessary waste from landfills. The duty of defending native plant and animal life was further supported by VITA Planning & Landscape Architecture, who championed the preservation of existing trees plants, and naturally existing lava features. The team’s incorporation of vibrant flora and indigenous greenery across the lush grounds was achieved celebrating the natural order of the Kona Coast’s diverse landscape.
In addition to embodying Hawaiʻi’s cultural heritage through craftsmanship, the concept of ‘ohana is channeled through the resort’s layout, which centres the accommodations around the many shared spaces. These dining, wellness, and recreational facilities are positioned directly against the glistening waters of Kahuwai Bay. The result is a convivial hub of activity that brings guests together and draws their focus to the rhythms of the land and ocean, similar to how life existed in the village’s past. Just beyond to the north, south, and east, 150 guest hale spread across several village-like crescents. These traditional Hawaiian structures offer the private comfort of a refined beach bungalow and are yet another nod to the former days of Kona Village when families built affinities with their favourite rite hale and returned to their chosen abode time after time. Within the rooms, which span from one to four bedrooms, muted tones ensure the eye is drawn directly to views of the ocean or lagoon, on display through a soaring window wall. Many of the accommodations feature a private lanai remarkably large in size to further encourage guests to enjoy as much time as possible in the open air. Custom architectural details, furnishings, fixtures, and décor are made of natural materials – wood, stone, fibres– and showcase a rich sampling of textures. In keeping with the property’s commitment to sustainability, all pieces were responsibly sourced.
In the hale, and around the entire resort, a custom collection of art reflects Hawaiʻi’s layered identity. Commissioned by NICOLEHOLLIS, over 60 multimedia artists – the majority of whom are native Hawaiians or residents today – visited the land during the property’s reimagination for an extensive immersion into its rich spirit and story. These contemporary pieces are juxtaposed with original works curated by NICOLEHOLLIS. The result is a truly one-of-a-kind exhibition of the arts wholly inspired by the landscape, featuring pieces by several of the island’s most celebrated creators including Marques Marzan, Roen Hufford, Kaili Chun, Abigail Romanchak, Jordan Souza, Suzanne Wang, and Pegge Hopper.
A Thoughtful Approach to Hawaiian Cuisine and Cocktails
Rooted in a focus on fresh, local ingredients, international influences, and indigenous practices, Kona Village’s array of restaurants and bars serves to both elucidate and enhance Hawaiʻi’s unique culinary landscape. From Moana, the resort’s signature restaurant featuring an elevated, Pacific Rim-to-table experience; to Kahuwai Cookhouse and Market, where traditional Hawaiian cooking techniques are on display, the dining program has been crafted as an extension of the destination experience – one that proves that high-quality food can be unifying, emotive, and sustainable. The beverage outposts provide a delicious and lighthearted way to connect with the past, and legacy guests will recognize the iconic Shipwreck and Talk Story bars. Once the schooner of the resort’s original owner Johnno Jackson, Shipwreck Bar has been lovingly restored to usher in a new era of hospitality, now offering elevated libations that are reflective of Rosewood’s renowned bar program. Today, Shipwreck Bar resides on its original foundation right on the beach. Also occupying an enviable position on the shoreline, Talk Story’s name is inspired by the pidgin phrase for catching up with friends. Here, guests come to engage in conversation with one another as well as their bartender hosts, bonding together over the highest quality cocktails made from fresh, whole ingredients.
Across both the dining and drinking destinations, a majority of all ingredients are sourced from the Big Island, where ten different microclimates allow for a diverse bounty of produce, protein, and plants. The property itself is home to an onsite apiary and farm growing everything from coconut to lime to canoe plants, which are those that were brought over by the natives when they first discovered Hawaiʻicenturies ago. As part of Rosewood’s Partners in Provenance program, the team has tapped many of the island’s most skillful and sustainable culinary talents to enhance the offerings at Kona Village. Kona Sea Salt, Blue Ocean Mariculture, Hawaiian Vanilla Co., Pacific Coffee Research, and Wai Meli Honey are just a few of the local leaders that contribute to the incredible program and affirm it as a true deep dive into Hawaiian food culture.
Connecting with Self and Surrounding
Built into the black lava flow with views toward the Hualālai volcano, Asaya® Spa at Kona Village, A Rosewood Resort offers a unique interpretation of Rosewood’s integrative wellness concept, creating a holistic experience that is tailored to the individual. With a menu of treatments, therapies, and journeys inspired by the spiritual quality of Kaʻūpūlehu and the elements that have forged life in the area over its many years, Asaya Spa aims to connect guests with the resort’s location. These experiences will bring guests beyond the spa walls and expose them to the healing powers of the landscape. Standout treatments include the Kahuwai Journey, which begins with a gratitude ritual on the shores of the Bay to provide a safe harbor for a subsequent canoe excursion across the waters. Back at Asaya, guests enjoy a hydrotherapy foot ritual and a restorative massage that relaxes, reduces muscle tension, and overall rebalances the body. By demonstrating the strength of the ocean, its history in relation to ancient Kaʻūpūlehu, and its power to restore and renew, the Kahuwai Journey invigorates mind, body, and soul. Also of note are the Mana Awakening Journeys, which immerse guests in the unique earth, fire, water, and wind of Kona Village. Inspiring a true sense of renewal, the experiences aim to foster a connection between people and place while guiding guests closer to their well-being goals.
As the heart of Kona Village, Kahuwai Bay is the launchpad for the resort’s Kilo Kai, or Ocean Pursuits program. Much more than a pile of watersports equipment on the sand, Ocean Pursuits educates guests on the concurrent delicacy and power of the wai. Dedicated watermen, educated on the specific nuances of the Bay by the legacy team of the original Kona Village Resort, harbor vast knowledge and experience of ocean life and how to enjoy it through sport while protecting its priceless resources. This appreciation of the ocean and our place in it is a value that weaves through all water activities, from a guided sunrise paddle, using the traditional Hawaiian canoe that has been used by voyagers for centuries, to surfing, snorkeling, and boating excursions. All equipment has been blessed to be kindly welcomed by the water.
As many guests may prefer to do their swimming in the pool, there are two; one of which has been designed specifically for families. Additional recreational facilities include tennis, paddle, and bocce ball courts as well as a state-of-the-art fitness center. Creatively conceived by the team at Asaya Spa in collaboration with local experts of fitness and sport, group fitness classes will leverage these spaces as well as the expansive grounds. For more formal group meetings and events, the Hoʻokipa lawn and stage provide the ultimate outdoor setting. It is host to Kona Village’s lūʻau – traditional Hawaiian feasts that were held in ancient times to celebrate victory in battle or a bountiful harvest – but are now a way to celebrate life and its milestone moments. These events invite guests to revel in a large banquet filled with Hawaiian staples such as freshly roasted kālua pig from the imu fire pit, paired with performances of music, hula, and fire dancing.