Royal Kona Resort to reopen Thursday with start of pre-travel testing program

  • Though Royal Kona Resort may not have hosted guests since mid-March, a lot of activity has been taking place as part of a “multi-million” renovation that is nearing completion. Highlights of the renovation include fresh carpeting and paint throughout the property, as well as new teak furniture from Indonesia with beautiful blue accents in each of the rooms, pictured. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • The iconic Royal Kona Resort overlooking Kailua Bay welcomes back guests Thursday following a seven-month closure amid the COVID-19 pandemic and multi-million renovation. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

The iconic Royal Kona Resort overlooking Kailua Bay welcomes back guests Thursday following a seven-month closure amid the COVID-19 pandemic and multi-million renovation.

The 428-room, three-tower resort was the only West Hawaii property confirming it was taking the plunge to reopen the same day Gov. David Ige’s pre-travel testing program goes live, allowing mainland visitors to bypass the 14-day quarantine with a negative result in hand. Since the implementation of the quarantine in March, visitor arrivals to the island have dropped 97% and hotel occupancy has hovered around 30%

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“Hell or high water, we’re opening. We’re going to chance it,” said Royal Kona Resort General Manager Jay Rubenstein, who later noted there’s been “quite a few” reservations coming in.

The 53-year-old hotel will join a handful of other Kona Coast hotels in welcoming guests, including the Kona Seaside Hotel and Uncle Billy’s Kona Bay Hotel, which reopened in the summer, and the Sheraton Kona Resort &Spa at Keauhou Bay, which has kept its doors open throughout the pandemic.

It is unclear when King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel will welcome guests while Four Seasons Resort, Hualalai, said last week the Kaupulehu property is undergoing renovation with plans to begin accepting reservations starting Dec. 1.

All Kohala Coast resorts, meanwhile, remain closed. However, several properties have set reopening dates in November and December while others will begin accepting reservations then.

Though the Kailua Village hotel may not have hosted guests since mid-March, a lot of activity has been taking place as part of a “multi-million” renovation Rubenstein said is nearing completion. The refresh, the first since 2006, had been planned, but was sped up amid the shutdown.

This multi-million renovation is part of the Hogan’s belief in taking care of the community and families and the people who have worked here for 30, 40, 50 years,” Rubenstein said of the hotel’s owner Honolulu-based Hogan Hospitality Group.

Highlights of the renovation include fresh carpeting and paint throughout the property, as well as new teak furniture from Indonesia with beautiful blue accents in each of the rooms. The pool was also redecked and outfitted with new furniture.

“It’s a whole revitalization of the resort that once was. So many people love our hotel; they’re going to come back and they’re going to be blown away,” said Rubenstein, noting that Royal Kona Resort opened in 1967 as the Kona Hilton and was hotelier Conrad Hilton’s first property in Hawaii.

Upon reopening, the hotel’s Tiki-inspired Don’s Mai Tai Bar will also welcome diners with modified food and beverage hours and options. Reservations are strongly recommended.

The resort is hopeful to resume the Thursday Legends of Hawaiian Music concert series as soon as “gathering rules are better defined.” The same goes for the resort’s luau and show, though Rubenstein is hopeful to resume the popular event around the end of the year.

“It all depends on how many people can gather,” he said. (The luau) “is huge — everybody wants the luau back up.”

The next West Hawaii hotel set to reopen is the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, according to dates provided by Craig Anderson, vice president for Mauna Kea Resort. That’ll be followed by neighboring Westin Hapuna Beach Resort, which is part of Mauna Kea Resort. Both properties have been shuttered since March.

“It is kind of wait and see, but we’ve got a date identified of Nov. 1 for Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and Nov. 20 for the Westin Hapuna,” Anderson said, noting Mauna Kea Beach Hotel employees were sent notice of the reopening on Friday. “Were very much looking forward to welcoming guests back to the Mauna Kea Resort in a safe and responsible way.”

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No other Kohala Coast property had a defined date for reopening as of Monday, though some are accepting reservations for future dates.

The Fairmont Orchid is accepting reservations for Nov. 1 and onward as is the Hilton Waikoloa Village with the caveat that resumption of operations is contingent upon state policies. Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort operations remain suspended.

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