After staying at five different hotels on our last trip to Hawaii, I realized that none of our hotels were located right on the coast.
So wanting to experience what it would be like to enjoy magnificent ocean views while in Hawaii, we made sure to find a hotel situated right on the coast this time and the Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa fit that bill.
Below, I’ll take you through our experience staying at the Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa, including what it was like staying in one of the top suites at the property. I’ll cover the food, lounge, facilities, and of course, the manta viewing.
Table of Contents
Location: Keauhou Bay (Kona Coast)
The Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa sits perched upon the rugged lava rock coast near Keauhou Bay, the historic birthplace of Kamehameha III.
The surrounding area definitely has a “vacation country” feel as the property is set among a large stretch of resorts, vacation rentals, and country clubs, interspersed with barren lava fields.
Found about 15 minutes south of Kailua-Kona, you’ll need to drive to get to nearby stores but there is the Holoholo Market located on site for your convenience where you can find all sorts of snacks, souvenirs, and other necessities.
Also, on Wednesdays and Fridays you can attend the Ho’oulu Community Farmers Market & Artisans Fair, which takes place right in front of the property’s parking areas.
Something that makes this hotel’s location special is its connection to manta rays. The waters just outside of the resort are home to “Manta Village,” one of the premier places to view manta rays. Much more on that later!
Our room wasn’t quite ready whenever we arrived which wasn’t a major problem.
For one, it’s not uncommon for large suites like this to take a little extra time to get ready especially at a property that offers the option for guaranteed late check out (which we took advantage of).
But we also had an extremely personable check-in agent that really made us feel welcomed. She went through all of the different features of the hotel and as soon as our room was ready she came over and notified us.
It was a great start to the stay and the superb treatment by the staff continued on through the duration of our stay.
In fact, I had a few exchanges with housekeeping and they were some of the most friendly and proactive housekeeping crew I ever interacted with.
The lobby made an immediate impression on me. Large floor to ceiling windows open up wide allowing the seabreeze to flow right through the lobby while giving you sweeping views.
We had just flown in on a connecting flight from Honolulu that gave us some trouble so it was nice to finally be able to relax with such a beautiful view.
The Club Deluxe Oceanfront Suite
We booked the 900 square foot Club Deluxe Oceanfront Suite, which often goes for around $799 a night for a pre-paid reservation. You can save $400+ bucks by pre-paying which makes this a much more attractive deal.
When you factor in the lounge access (free breakfast and evening drinks/food) and free valet, it’s actually pretty solid value in my opinion.
These are the biggest rooms available at the property and they only have a few open each night.
Near the entrance of the room, you’ll find a large half bath. It’s directly across from the large balcony so if you have people over out on the balcony, it’s very conveniently located.
You have a large living area with plenty of seating options and great ocean views. There’s a table for four along with a wet bar where you will find a small sink, microwave, coffee maker, and mini fridge.
The main sofa also functions as a sofa bed which means you can sleep up to four in this room.
One thing you will probably notice at the resort is that it does have a dated feel. I knew this going into this stay and so I just focused more on the major highlights of the property like the views and the great service.
But something you’ll be happy to hear is that they recently began renovations and so eventually the property is going to be completely overhauled. So it won’t be dated for long!
We had a large 55 inch TV in the living area that came with a nice welcome message from Mario Lopez.
The actual bedroom is super spacious and we had some good sleep in the bed which we found to be very comfortable. The temperature was great and easy to control.
If you open up the balcony door in the bedroom, it will cut off the AC but opening the door on the other side does not.
There’s a nightstand with a lamp on either side of the bed and you’ll have plenty of easily accessible outlets.
In the corner of the room you’ll have a workstation.
Next to the workstation, there’s a dresser with another TV. There is a second mini fridge in this dresser which is easy to miss!
There’s a little walk-in area on the side of the room where you will find the bathroom, the closet, and also some extra space for a dressing area.
The bathroom is pretty spacious although it only has one sink.
The toilet and bath tub/shower are located in the same space and it’s definitely one of the more interesting bath designs that I’ve seen.
In the closet, you have multiple hotel safes along with robes.
Now onto the room balconies!
This room has more square feet in the balconies than I think I’ve ever seen in a hotel room.
First, there is the large balcony that you can access from your bedroom or from the living area. On the balcony there will be a small table with a couple of chairs so you can enjoy some drinks or a meal while checking out the view.
From this side, you have a good view of the main pool area and the beautiful lava rock coast.
There’s something just so captivating about watching and listening to waves crash into lava rock cliffs. I definitely did not take this view for granted!
Then there is the main balcony which has a sliding door that opens up from the entryway of your hotel room. The balcony is gigantic and it comes with a few different types of seating options and umbrellas.
From this balcony, you can look out to the bay and also to the manta ray viewing station.
While you do have some great ocean views on both balconies, the biggest thing that stands out with these rooms is the manta ray viewing that’s possible to do right from your own balcony.
A little bit before sun set, you’ll start to notice boats of all sizes coming in to the area and setting up for viewing.
They will place some lights in the water to attract plankton which will then attract the manta rays.
We actually did a scuba dive with the mantas the next night but they took us to a different location, closer to the airport. That entire experience was epic to say the least and you can read about it here.
Anyway, from the balcony, your best bet is to have a pair of binoculars to help you zoom in on the action.
When the manta rays appear you can usually hear the snorkelers shouting in amazement and that’s how you can know where to look. You may be able to spot a shadowy figure moving around in the water and that is likely a manta ray. In between sightings, you can just admire the sunset which we had a perfect view of from our balcony.
Even if you are not into spotting manta rays, just the sight of all of the boats and the lights is a bit of a spectacle.
While it was fun viewing from the balcony, you may also want to check out the viewing station which I’ll talk about below.
Voyager 47 Club Lounge
The Voyager 47 Club Lounge exceeded my expectations on this stay.
Sometimes club lounges at resorts in tropical locations can be pretty underwhelming, especially if you don’t drink alcohol. But this club lounge was absolutely worth it.
First, the staff running the lounge did a tremendous job. They were very welcoming, warm, and personable.
During the evening you can go for happy hour where you can also get a bite to eat. The snack lineup was pretty extensive with poke bowls, charcuterie, chips, fruit, and sweets.
The views from the lounge were pretty impressive although they were essentially the same as the views from our room.
Brad had a lot of good things to say about the drinks they were serving up, especially the blue manta.
The lounge is located in the Ahiahi (red) wing, which was great for us because our room is located just one floor beneath the lounge.
On the other hand, it did mean that we would have reduced privacy on the balcony since the lounge balcony overlooks ours.
It’s something to think about but I didn’t mind because the balcony gave us a premier vantage point for manta ray viewing which was such a unique room feature.
While you can get breakfast at the Wailele Cafe, if you have lounge access you can enjoy your breakfast up there.
I found the breakfast options to be very solid in the lounge and each morning we were able to start our day off with a nice, well-rounded breakfast. Here’s a look at all of the breakfast offerings.
Yogurt parfaits were perfect breakfast items to take with you on the go.
The staff in the lounge was very clear that we could take items with us which I really appreciated because sometimes you feel like you’re smuggling items out of the lounge.
The fruit slices from the fruit bowl were very fresh.
Multiple four-slot toasters and pre-made and packaged condiments made it easy to enjoy bagels in the morning.
The property has two pool areas and the hours are 8 AM to 10 PM.
The slightly smaller pool (called the inner pool) is the adults only (21+) pool which is located in the courtyard of the resort. This is still a pretty decent sized pool and it never got too crowded during our stay.
One of the cool features of this pool is the waterfall which you can actually get underneath.
The much larger pool is family friendly and this pool stayed busier.
It’s also the pool where you can find a pretty legit waterslide.
We did the waterslide a few times and it’s a lot of fun for both kids and adults.
Just keep your arms held in when you hit the water because this thing sends you crashing into the water a little bit faster than you might think.
The hours for the slide were 9 AM to 6 PM and there is an attendant at the top to make sure people go down it safely.
If you have small children, you’ll enjoy the beach entry for the pool located on the other end of the swimming pool.
They also have a couple of large hot tubs in this pool area.
You can rent cabanas by scanning the QR code on your guest reference hand out.
A deluxe cabana for two goes for $100. Meanwhile, you can rent a shaded umbrella with pool lounge seating for up to two people for $20. Compared to other resorts, I thought these prices were pretty reasonable.
I really liked that some of these had real ocean views as some hotels sometimes inexplicably put their chairs and cabanas right behind large bushes that obscure the view.
Manta ray viewing
The Outrigger is a special place to view mantas because this is where it all began.
About 50 years ago, when this property was known as the Kona Surf Hotel, the hotel set up some lights on the water so that guests could enjoy that sights of the ocean at night.
The lights ended up attracting a lot of plankton which also started to bring in the manta rays.
Initially, people didn’t know what the shadowy figures were swooping around but after a bold scuba diver jumped in, they realized these were majestic manta rays coming in to feast on plankton.
Over time, this developed into a tourist attraction with regular scuba dives for people to come check out the mantas. And eventually, a few other spots were found on the Big Island where mantas could reliably be seen.
So when you visit the Outrigger, you get to enjoy spotting manta rays from where it all began!
The viewing area is a pretty cool facility and it’s also where a restaurant was once located.
Reportedly, this restaurant should be returning at some point which a lot of people will be happy to hear because it was apparently a pretty popular joint.
You’ll find a deck with railing and a row of chairs which do fill up so you may want to get there a little bit early to get a spot.
We arrived at the viewing deck after our scuba dive so things were slowing down but it’s a really cool vibe from that spot — definitely a unique hotel feature.
Our first dining was at Holua which is located between the two pools.
I went with the spicy chicken sandwich which did not have much spice to it but had a fresh chicken breast and good flavor to it. Brad went with the smash burger which did not disappoint.
Because of our schedule with the diving we didn’t really have an opportunity to sit down and experience Wailele Cafe as we arrived back to the property a little late.
However, despite approaching closing, the staff was still happy to serve us some food to go like the Korean braised short rib and Thai red curry beef and it all hit the spot.
You’ll find the fitness center on the first floor of the Helani wing which is located close to the manta ray viewing area. It’s a well equipped gym with some cardio machines having ocean views.
You’ll also have a good range of other equipment to utilize.
The resort does put on a luau which is called the “Feast and Fire Luau Show.”
It takes place on the Hawaii Lawn and it looks like they put it on a couple of times a week although that might vary depending on the time of year.
Unfortunately, we had planned a scuba dive with the manta rays on the evening when the show was going on so we were not able to attend. But I’ve heard good things.
If you’re a tennis player, there are a couple of courts for you to enjoy.
The hotel also has a full basketball court with manta ray logo at center court which was a nice touch. I really do love that they brand themselves so closely with the mantas.
You’ll find a pathway that takes you along the coastal portion of the hotel. It’s worth taking a walk around because it gives you a really close view of the beautiful lava rocks.
You can also sign up for a free historic Keauhou Land tour which is a guided walking tour along the shoreline. Take in the beautiful scenery while learning about the historical village of Kaukulaelae which is the birthplace of King Kamehameha III.
The resort puts on a lot of events and you just need to check the activities calendar to see what is going on when you visit.
You can partake in things like lei making, slide races, hula lessons, beginner ukulele, and other activities like yoga classes at the chapel lawn.
If you need equipment rentals for the tennis courts you can get those complimentary and they also offer a daily paddleboard rental for up to two hours free of charge. For those who need snorkel gear or beach chairs and umbrellas, you can get 20% off.
And finally, if you want to learn more about the manta rays, join a manta talk at the mantle learning center, which I believe they put on a little while before sunset.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay here.
The service was top-notch from beginning to end, and I couldn’t get enough of the views. I’m really big on unique hotel features and the manta ray viewing that can be enjoyed from here ranks pretty high on my list of unique hotel attractions.
The food did not disappoint and neither did the lounge experience. The only drawback to the property is that it is dated but with the renovations just beginning, that will soon be remedied.
So I would gladly return back to this resort!
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.