Light on the Land


Kona Village experiences a complete metamorphosis that protects both the land and the legacy

The property’s main restaurant, Moana, features Pacific Rim-to-table cuisine and cocktails. Photos by Douglas Friedman.

Nestled among beds of lava rock that line the Kahuwai Bay on Hawaii’s Kona Coast sits the recently reimagined Kona Village. Originally built in the 1960s, the unique resort was purchased by Kennedy Wilson, a global real estate investment company that has established an impressive reputation for their commitment to responsible and sustainable development in Hawaii. With a goal of honoring the island’s remarkable elements and fostering a deeper connection to the cultural legacy, they partnered with Rosewood Hotels & Resorts to rethink the destination with the help of two California icons—designer Nicole Hollis and architectural firm Walker Warner Architects. “Debuting Kona Village, a Rosewood Resort is a satisfying new chapter for this treasured place that carries significance and meaning for the community and for our team,” said William McMorrow, Kennedy Wilson chairman and CEO. “We are grateful for the thousands of talented people who contributed to the reawakening of Kona Village along this special coastline and for the guidance of our many local stakeholders, including our Cultural Leadership Committee, whose contributions furthered our efforts to care for this land through development.”

Sprawling across 81 acres, the property’s design honors Kaūpūlehu’s heritage (the area is the site of a historic settlement) while the construction preserved the natural beauty by remaining as light on the land as possible. This included keeping the lava ground intact by installing an underground infrastructure that allowed the teams to protect the multiple archaeological preservation sites and the 22 anchialine pools, which house some of Hawaii’s rarest endemic species.

The Shipwreck Bar is constructed from a rehabilitated boat that was pulled from the bottom of Kahuwai Bay and is now sunken poolside. Photos by Douglas Friedman.

The mission to act as a steward of this sacred land lends itself to the magic found in the design. Each space is immersed in the natural environment and supported by organic materials shaped by local craftsmen that pay respect to the past while ushering the property into the future by integrating sustainable elements, including new thatched roofs that are made from recycled materials rather than the traditional native leaves. This decision not only continues the cultural connection but also protects the buildings from weather events while keeping unnecessary waste from landfills. Custom architectural details, furnishings, fixtures and decor are made of natural materials—wood, stone, fibers—that allow the focus to remain on the land. Many of the guest suites feature private lanais that are remarkably large to further encourage guests to enjoy as much time as possible in the open air.

The Asaya Spa offers guests ample seating and a plunge pool for achieving ultimate relaxation. Photos by Douglas Friedman.

The team at Kennedy Wilson enlisted Vita Planning & Landscape Architecture to devise ways in which the plant and animal life could thrive while contributing to the critical mission of low-impact design. They preserved existing trees, plants and lava features while incorporating native species that help keep the diverse landscape in balance. With the utmost respect for the surrounding waters, the property has a reverse osmosis and wastewater treatment plant that produces enough water for 100 percent of the irrigation needs on property.

Anchoring the resort are large, open main spaces where connection is fostered that were built following LEED Gold Certification standards. Kennedy Wilson worked with Re-Use Hawaii, a nonprofit organization that recycles and repurposes old building materials, to achieve their goal and used sustainably sourced timber and engineered wood as well as low-emitting paints, coatings, adhesives and sealants. Here, guests can enjoy one of the many restaurants that offer seasonal fare made with fresh local ingredients in addition to achieving the ultimate relaxation at the Asaya Spa at Kona Village.

All of the hales, or guest houses, are infused with natural elements that allow guests to focus their attention on the land and water that surrounds. Photos by Douglas Friedman.

“We are honored to join with Kennedy Wilson to serve as the caretakers of this land, which holds such significance to so many,” said Radha Arora, president of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts. “We have stayed focused on providing an elevated experience that allows for guests to truly immerse themselves in a culture of discovery at this ultra-luxury retreat for a truly rarefied experience. At Rosewood, we have always held a deep reverence for the legacy properties around the globe that we have been chosen to steward, and Kona Village, a Rosewood Resort is a true representation of inherent hospitality and the understanding that we are intimately intertwined with our natural surroundings, as well as those who came before.”