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Following $150 million in Repairs and Renovations, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Prepares for Re-opening

Structural Damage Caused by Earthquake on Oct. 15, 2006, Caused
Prince Resorts Hawaii to Close the 43-year-old Landmark 

MAUNA KEA BEACH HOTEL, Hawaii – December 2008 - Following an extensive multi-million dollar restoration, The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel will reopen its doors on December 20, 2008 to the delight of new guests and loyal, long-standing returning patrons who have enjoyed the resort’s signature hospitality since it’s opening in 1965.

“The ‘Grand Dame’ of the Big Island of Hawaii will continue to perpetuate the true Hawaiian traditions of aloha, coupled with the classic elegance of the Hawaiian Islands that it has been known for,” says the resort’s new General Manager, Jon Gersonde. “The goal of the restoration has been to update and refine The Mauna Kea’s reputation as a sophisticated and intimate luxury beachfront resort. We are reopening with new luxurious accommodations and amenities of the highest caliber, a revitalized golf course with new clubhouse, and, of course, our signature tradition of excellent service.”

Gersonde says the December 20 date represents a soft opening to ease the hotel back into operations after two years of being closed. “Many long-time Mauna Kea employees have been hired back and we should be up to speed pretty quickly,” he said. A lavish formal Grand Opening will be celebrated in March 2009.

New amenities at The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel include a spa offering an array of exotic treatments; exciting new culinary experiences stewarded by Executive Chef George Gomes; and newly refurbished guest rooms. The total room and suite count has been reduced from 310 to 258 as a result of rooms being enlarged in the main building. Many of the resorts popular services and activities will also return, including the 13-court Seaside Tennis Club, the Salon at Mauna Kea, play-while-you learn children’s activities, Hawaiian cultural experiences, Art & Garden Tour, yoga and exercise classes, and the Beach at Kauna’oa Bay, offering enhanced beach services and cabanas.

When The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel originally opened, it was the most expensive hotel ever built in Hawaii at the time, at a cost of $15 million. Upon opening, it was the recipient of numerous accolades and awards from the traveling community and media. The American Institute of Architects recently placed the hotel on the list of 150 iconic structures nationwide recognized as “America’s Favorite Architecture.”

Mauna Kea’s owners closed the hotel in December 2006, following an earthquake centered close to the Big Island. “The earthquake damage required us to close the hotel for a period of time, and we realized that it also presented an opportunity to conduct a comprehensive restoration of the property,” stated Gersonde. “While the hotel’s interiors have been redecorated, little changes have been made to its classic exterior architectural design that has been recognized throughout the world.”

The renovation of The Mauna Kea, updates American venture capitalist, Laurance S. Rockefeller’s vision of the resort he developed at the invitation of Hawaii’s then Governor, William Quinn. Today, The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is the flagship property in the Prince Hotels and Resorts international portfolio.

The extensive multi-million dollar repair and refurbishment has focused primarily on freshening up guest rooms and suites, lobby, restaurants and common areas. Mr. Rockefeller’s fabled world- class art collection from Hawaii and the Pacific Basin has also been lovingly restored.

In addition, the historic, world-famous Mauna Kea Golf Course has received a comprehensive upgrade and redesign to USGA standards by Rees Jones, son of the original course designer, Robert Trent Jones, Sr. The renovation includes a newly-constructed Clubhouse with Pro Shop, locker rooms and a restaurant, that will transform in the evenings into another dinner option for resort guests.

Ocean view baths highlight new Mauna Kea Beach Hotel guestrooms

Refined, clean lines, the familiar orange plumeria and elegant new furnishings and finishing touches by John Hara Associates, Inc. and Robert Barry Design Associates of LA, team up with hi-tech bells and whistles that produce a room product to lure today’s traveler back to the beloved Big Island of Hawaii beach resort.

“We are very pleased with the guestroom models,” says Prince Resorts president Donn Takahashi. “John Hara and Barry Design have updated the original style with quality materials and an elegant décor that our guests are going to love, and that’s perfect.
But in the enhanced rooms, the new baths will take their breath away.”

The new ocean view bathrooms are a destination unto themselves. These sanctuaries of relaxation feature super-size baths, stunning white-on-white tiles, wall-less “rain showers,” soaking tubs and private lanai.

“There's something gleefully luxurious about floating in a bath the size of a small swimming pool, gazing across palm fringed Kauna’oa Beach,” says Takahashi, “It’s elegant and pampering and I think Mr. Rockefeller would appreciate that.”

The hotel will reopen with 258 rooms, ranging from the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa suites at 1,610 square feet (including lanai), to Junior suites at just under 1,000 square feet and expanded regular guest rooms at 550 square feet on the remodeled floors. The hotel originally has 310 rooms, but 58 rooms were taken out of inventory as they were resized from three rooms into two.

Prince Resorts Hawaii plans to pursue the AAA Five-Diamond rating, consistently held by The Mauna Kea for almost 20 years. Tougher 21st century standards require specifics and the “new” Mauna Kea is stepping up to the plate, with solid doors for sound attenuation, electronic “touchpad” key cards, 32-40” flat screen hi-definition TVs subtly hidden in custom entertainment centers, built-in media hubs and bedside iPod docking stations, along with luxurious amenities, upgraded bedding and much more, all presented in the trademark Rockefeller style of “understated elegance.”

“I truly believe we have come up with the right combination,” says Takahashi. “We have taken the essential, familiar elements of The Mauna Kea—the open-to-the-ocean lobby, the art collection, the beach, the great style of a private estate—and preserved them for our guests, while updating services, amenities and other elements to take it to the next level.” As the word was getting out; with anticipated reopening for the Holidays, The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel had collected a waitlist of over 500 names according to Prince

Jon A. Gersonde appointed general manager of The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

“Jon brings to The Mauna Kea strong leadership and many years of experience in managing luxury hotels in Hawaii and other resort areas,” said Donn Takahashi, president of PRH. “I’m confident that his creative management style and track record of operational excellence will complement Mauna Kea’s reputation as a world class hotel of the highest caliber.”

Gersonde will be coming to Mauna Kea from The Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki where he has been general manager since 2005. He also was general manager of Kapalua Bay Hotel & Ocean Villas in Kapalua, Maui? The Westin Mission Hills Resort & Spa near Palm Springs, and was with Hyatt International for 10 years opening hotels and resorts throughout the Pacific Basin.

“The very name, The Mauna Kea, is among the greatest names in hotels and I’m delighted and privileged to have this opportunity,” said Gersonde. “My job will be to ensure that the unprecedented renovation that is underway elevates Mauna Kea to a higher level of elegance, while at the same time ensuring that the fabled charm and classic style of the hotel remains timeless.”

A graduate of Michigan State’s School of Hospitality, Gersonde has 23years of luxury hospitality experience and he and the hotels he has managed have received numerous hospitality awards over his years in the industry. Gersonde has relocated to the Big Island with his wife, Lynn and two of his three children. 

The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is currently taking reservations for stays beginning December 20, 2008.
What was, will be once more…The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.


Liana Mulleitner
Prince Resorts Hawaii

Also See: Prince Resorts Spending $150 million on Repairs and Renovations to the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and Mauna Kea Golf Course; Scheduled to Reopen in December 2008 / December 2007

Laurance S. Rockefeller, 1910 - 2004; Developed Environmentally Oriented Resorts: Jackson Lake Lodge, Caneel Bay Plantation, Dorado Beach Hotel, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Little Dix Bay, Woodstock Inn / July 2004


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