nestled on sacred lands, kona village re-opens in hawaii as a sustainable hideaway

nestled on sacred lands, kona village re-opens in hawaii as a sustainable hideaway

reviving kona village, a rosewood resort in hawaii


Kona Village, A Rosewood Resort, officially opened to guests on July 1, 2023. Spearheaded by Greg Warner of architecture practice Walker Warner together with design firm NICOLEHOLLIS, the highly anticipated Hawaiian hideaway celebrates the site’s storied past while looking to the future. Nestled on the sacred lands of Kaʻūpūlehu on Hawaii’s The Big Island, the resort rises from the remnants of a beloved 1965 hideaway after over a decade of stillness. Carefully conceived to emanate a feeling of organic, approachable, and sustainable luxury, this long-awaited second chapter draws inspiration from the unique nuances of the destination and the original Rosewood Resort, which succumbed to the devastating 2011 tsunami. Through a seven-year development process, the duo brings together the collective insights of local expert artists, artisans, environmentalists, engineers, and cultural and community leaders to shine a light on the profound beauty found in balancing the past, present, and future.

nestled on sacred lands, kona village re-opens in hawaii as a sustainable hideaway
all images © Douglas Friedman



minimal-impact hideaway led by Walker Warner Architecs 


Kona Village, A Rosewood Resort was guided by its real estate partner Kennedy Wilson, with a core mission to be as minimally disruptive to the land as possible. Following the site’s unique energy and existing archaeological landmarks, Greg Warner (see more here) set out to restore the relaxed Pacific Island style epitomizing the original property while elevating it with modern touches and sustainable elements. To this end, several key buildings on the property follow LEED Gold Certification standards, and the resort is also pursuing TRUE and SITES certifications. If achieved, Kona Village will be the first resort in the world with all three distinctions. Kennedy Wilson also partnered with the non-profit Re-Use Hawai’i to demolish Kona Village’s previously existing structures. The demolition resulted in over 80% of materials salvaged, repurposed, and brought back to the island as affordable building materials.


The current architecture includes nods to the past, with thoughtful changes made to certain previous elements that were no longer aligned with the latest sustainability standards. Returning guests will recognize the property’s iconic silhouette and single-hale layout – which starkly contrasts the other resorts on the island. Walker Warner organized the guest hale, traditional Hawaiian housing structures much like refined beach bungalows, to stretch across small village-like crescents scattered around the resort’s perimeter. The dining, wellness, and recreational facilities sit in the middle, set against the glistening waters of Kahuwai Bay. This physical footprint of the accommodations and amenity spaces pays homage to the former days of Kona Village and re-establishes the convivial, summer camp-like environment.

nestled on sacred lands, kona village re-opens in hawaii as a sustainable hideaway
revival of Kona Village led by Walker Warner Architects



thatched roofs & scenic landscape echoing island geography


Discreetly tucked along the island’s tree line, Walker Warner’s architectural scheme is carefully conceived to both highlight and harmonize with the diverse geography and biology of The Big Island. The buildings are positioned with the trade winds in mind, underscoring one of the ultimate luxuries of oceanfront living. They are also built and outfitted using natural and responsibly sourced materials that would not deplete the island’s resources. Of note, the thatched roofing around the resort comprises recycled materials rather than native leaves that islanders use. Additional Walker Warner choices that reinforce the place’s organic, natural feeling include exterior siding inspired by the colors found in coconut tree trunks and exposed wood framing. The result of all these efforts and more is a look and feel that is both striking and low-impact.


Don Vita, President of VITA Planning & Landscape Architecture, developed Kona Village’s scenic landscape design, which is very much at the forefront of the property experience. Vita worked closely with Walker Warner to create a setting that pulls inspiration from the rawness of the surroundings, emphasizing the stark, primal beauty of the stretch of shoreline Kona Village calls home, as well as the cultural imprint the native flora and fauna have had on those who have settled here for centuries.

nestled on sacred lands, kona village re-opens in hawaii as a sustainable hideaway
celebrating and echoing The Big Island culture, geography, and history



interiors by nicole hollis honoring the big island heritage 


The Kona Village interiors, designed by NICOLEHOLLIS (see more here), embody a simplistic yet high-end aesthetic. A longtime visitor of The Big Island, Hollis preserves the identity of the original property while infusing it with a contemporary touch. Inspired by the concepts of ‘ohana and cultural heritage, her design tells the rich story of Kaʻūpūlehu through strategic elements: custom furnishings, site-specific color schemes, and specially commissioned art by native and resident Hawaiians. The 150 guest hale, ranging from one to four bedrooms, serves as striking indoor-outdoor retreats. Each hale boasts a distinctive color scheme, reflecting its location on the site: from blues and yellows in the rural South Village to black and red tones paying homage to the lava fields and Mauna Kea volcano in the North Village and darker wood tones with deep greens and teal blues by the lagoons, evoking the natural brackish water and its ecosystem. These accommodations feature large windows; most have private lanais for open-air enjoyment.


Hollis pays careful attention to the choice of materials throughout the hale, focusing on durability and inviting aesthetics. From scraped wood floors to Douglas Fir walls and ceilings, the custom fixtures and furnishings withstand the test of time. Notably, the beds, reminiscent of boats, pay homage to Kaʻūpūlehu’s origins as a fishing village. Upholstery textiles, rugs, and accessories depict traditional Hawaiian art forms and motifs, enhancing the connection to the local land and culture. Decorative pieces inspired by Hawaiian tools are also placed along surfaces, adding depth and authenticity to the design. The bathrooms feature custom concrete sinks and soaking tubs, mirroring the surrounding lava flows.

nestled on sacred lands, kona village re-opens in hawaii as a sustainable hideaway
a simplistic yet high-end interior aesthetic ny NICOLEHOLLIS



reviving kona village’s landmarks and wellness experiences


During the reimagining of Kona Village, the legacy property’s landmarks were carefully preserved to honor its history while creating an elevated experience. The arrival area welcomes guests with a lanai overlooking Kahuwai Bay, while original architectural elements, such as five oceanfront guest hale, offer sweeping views and direct shore access. Shipwreck Bar, restored from Johnno Jackson’s shipwrecked schooner, and Talk Story Bar maintain their original locations and ambiance. Moana, the signature restaurant, showcases a modern communal dining concept while reflecting the design of its predecessor.


Asaya Spa at Kona Village, nestled into the black lava flow, embraces the land’s healing powers. With tranquil reception areas, sauna and steam rooms, sun decks, and treatment rooms with retractable walls, guests can experience wellness amid the rugged landscape. The design draws inspiration from the surroundings, creating a unique atmosphere within the resort. The revival of Kona Village also embraces art and craftsmanship, with salvaged artifacts and cultural items displayed in the cultural center. The NICOLEHOLLIS team collaborated with Hawaiian artisans to curate a diverse collection of art and furnishings that convey the rich history and heritage of Kaʻūpūlehu while introducing new Hawaiian artists to a broader audience.




connecting to local traditions and culture through art 


Lastly, the resort’s artistic installations include ceramic works by Christopher Edwards depicting the constellation of Makali’i, a terrazzo sculpture by Randall Shiroma symbolizing the origin of life, and an installation by Kaili Chun inspired by the sails of voyaging canoes. Lynn Capell’s painting showcases the history of Kahuwai Bay, while Suzanne Wang’s ceramic sconces feature seashell etchings. The design incorporates traditional lashing patterns reminiscent of canoes and fishing nets and features a centerpiece live edge table made from Hilo-grown mahogany. John Koga’s multi-piece structure represents flowing water within the lava flow, and guest hales adorned with curated artwork from Hawaiian artists, including Nancy Vilhauer, Pegge Hopper, and Terry Field.

nestled on sacred lands, kona village re-opens in hawaii as a sustainable hideaway
Asaya Spa at Kona Village

nestled on sacred lands, kona village re-opens in hawaii as a sustainable hideaway
Shipwreck Bar, restored from Johnno Jackson’s shipwrecked schooner

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