The Most LovedAuthor:Lindsey Shook
“Mauna Lani is a timeless and authentic place where the stories of the past meet the people of the present—its history dates back to the 1980s, and we wanted to maintain the elegance that has captured generations of families and friends for decades,” says Sanjiv Hulugalle, regional vice president and general manager of Mauna Lani. The iconic hotel, which holds a special place in the memories of many Californians, recently underwent a massive $200 million renovation right before the lockdown that aimed to reconnect the hotel with its natural surroundings and with the guests who frequent Hawai’i’s Kohala Coast. Hulugalle notes, “The reimagination aimed to preserve the natural beauty of soulful Hawai’i through warm tones and textures. We believed it was important to redesign a sacred and serene space that combined organic yet refined decor with a property rooted in history and spirit.”
Auberge Resorts Collection’s chief creative officer, Kemper Hyers, worked with global design firm Meyer Davis to instill the level of inspiration and sophistication that travelers expect from Auberge properties while honoring the property’s legacy and the deep-rooted culture native to the Big Island. “The direction for the new aesthetic was certainly driven by the rich design language of Hawai‘i but seeing it in a less obvious way—a modern view that gives the patterns, the woods and the colors a freshness,” notes Hyers. “Mauna Lani is a series of larger spaces and these beautifully chosen items, which speak to
the culture and give the hotel its human scale.”
From the scale of the main spaces, which are wide open yet maintain a level of intimacy, to the back-lit wall of gourd-shaped vessels that draw guests into HāLani restaurant and the impressive murals that complement the rare flora that hang from warm, wood-slat walls, the level of superb design is evident in every detail throughout the hotel. “Good design is a masterful balance of brilliant broad strokes and precious, small details that give humor, authenticity or the touch of an individual to a space,” Hyers says.
And while the design is beyond captivating, it’s the hotel’s preservation and promotion of the culture that has existed on this sacred land for centuries that permeates the soul. “Situated within a sacred historical site, Kalāhuipua’a, Mauna Lani, meaning ‘mountain reaching heaven,’ was once an area treasured by Hawaiian royalty who fished in the fishponds and walked the storied paths along the perimeter of the property,” Hulugalle reflects. “Mauna Lani emanates a distinct spiritual energy, or mana, that renews and restores all who experience it. This manifests itself in cultural traditions like the Sunrise Canoe Paddle, which allows guests to organically connect with their natural surroundings through age- old rituals.”
Of course, no hospitality experience is complete without top-notch amenities that keep guests returning. During the lockdown, the hotel took advantage of the closure to enhance the wellness
and fitness programs and to renovate their renowned oceanfront restaurant, CanoeHouse, which
is now helmed by Chef Matt Raso, formerly of Nobu Miami Beach. “Matt is a passionate and masterful chef dedicated to culinary excellence, and cultivating a one-of-a-kind dining experience rooted in togetherness and a genuine appreciation for the gems our island has to offer,” boasts Hulugalle. “He merges CanoeHouse’s soulful and purposeful sense of place with unique dishes” Another added bonus: Guests can now book the signature Goop facial at the spa or shop at the Goop boutique, owned and operated by founder Gwyneth Paltrow.
When asked why Hulugalle wants guests to leave feeling that they just experienced the most loved hotel, he shares, “For me, it’s not about being the best, it’s about being loved. At Mauna Lani, we strive to share the soul of the place through unique experiences that allow our guests to develop a deeper appreciation for Hawaiian culture and our sacred oasis, Kalāhuipua’a, while nurturing relationships with their natural surroundings and the people they love most.”