Big Island Hotels: Luxury Big Island Resort at Fairmont Orchid Hotel

Hotel History

Nestled on the Island of Hawaii's sun-drenched Kohala Coast, the story, or mo'olelo, of The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii resort stretches back hundreds of years to when Native Hawaiians fished, farmed and lived in perfect harmony with nature in a region known then as Kalahuipua'a.

The Kohala Coast is the birthplace of King Kamehameha I, the Hawaiian king who conquered and unified the Hawaiian Islands in the early 19th century. The history of Kalahuipua'a, where Kamehameha once traversed, is preserved today in a treasure trove of archaeological sites, early Hawaiian footpaths, royal fishponds, and lava formations.  Trails and paths through the Mauna Lani Resort reveal cave complexes, burial sites, shelter caves, a stepping stone trail and thousands of petroglyphs, or ancient messages carved in stone-the most found anywhere in the world. 

The first to develop Kalahuipua'a was Francis Hyde I'i Brown, who purchased the parcel in 1936 from the heirs of Parker Ranch founder John Palmer Parker. Brown was often referred to as 'the last ali'i' (chief) and created a sanctuary where he could 'be Hawaiian,' a secluded fishing retreat with well-stocked fishponds and plenty of palm trees. A descendant of Papa I'i, who served as a general in Kamehameha's army, the younger Brown became a leading Hawaiian statesman and one of the most internationally recognized Hawaiian athletes of the 1920s.  He was a champion golfer (his nickname was 'Mr. Golf'), a master swimmer and diver, a net fisherman, surfer and polo player. He entertained in the true Hawaiian style of 'ho'okipa' or hospitality, and hosted legendary parties during his 40-year ownership.

In 1972, Francis H. I'i Brown sold the property to the Mauna Lani Resort, and Kalahuipua'a was rechristened Mauna Lani  - 'mountains reaching the heavens' -  named in reverence to the five volcanic mountains that surround the Kohala region.

In 1990, this 540-room Hawaii luxury resort was unveiled - a luxurious, all-encompassing hotel built on a breathtaking 32-acre beachfront, complete with upscale dining outlets, a full-service spa, a 10,000-square-foot pool, championship tennis courts and other world-class features.

In 1996, $13 million in improvements and renovations, which included creating the signature restaurant, Brown's Beach House and the Plantation Estate, a spacious, private outdoor function area were completed.  In 2002, the hotel unveiled the new, oceanside Kahakai Bar and Beach Club buildings.  The resort is now a member of the world-renowned Fairmont Hotels & Resorts collection, joining other notable hotels such as The Fairmont San Francisco and The Fairmont Banff Springs in Alberta, Canada.

By the end of 2012 the hotel will have undergone the most comprehensive guest room renovation since the hotel opened in 1990.  The new room décor illustrates a modern, luxurious feel with clean lines, incorporating uniquely Hawaiian elements into subtle touches throughout the space.

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