Classic Hawaii at the Fairmont Orchid

When you drive to the entrance of the Fairmont Orchid, be sure you have your car windows down so you can hear the birds. After hours on a plane, they offer a fun unofficial welcome for your stay on the Big Island’s Kohala Coast. When you pull into the hotel, you’ll understand why they sound so happy. Set on 32 lush, oceanfront acres, the luxury resort captures the beauty of Hawaii.

View of Fairmont Orchid from sea

The resort has 540 rooms, a sheltered, white sand lagoon, massive oceanfront pool, 10 tennis courts, 24 hour fitness center, golf, six restaurants and a full-service spa. It’s hard to see and do it all — but you can have a tremendous amount of fun trying.

I’ve stayed at the Fairmont Orchid twice in the last decade, and I’d happily return again. It’s a large resort with a fun and bustling rhythm, and staff are genuinely friendly and welcoming.

On my most recent visit I stayed in an Oceanfront Room in the South Tower. A more than generous patio (with a pair of lounge chairs and a table with seating for four) provided stellar seaside views, stretching from the sandy beach along Pauoa Bay to the resort pool.

Fairmont Orchid Oceanview room

Calling the room spacious really doesn’t do it justice. Along with two queen beds and a cushy lounger, there was a working-sized desk, as well as an elongated bureau that provided both drawer space and held amenities like the refrigerator. There was more than enough room for my family of three to claim their own space and spread out.

The entrance hallway featured two large closets with ample room to store luggage. The bathroom was brilliantly broken into three parts: the dual sink vanity was always accessible, the toilet was behind one door, and both a walk-in shower and tub/shower combination were behind yet another door. The layout may sound complicated, but it allowed numerous people to use the bathroom at any given time without sacrificing privacy. Toiletries in Fairmont’s signature scent, Le Labo’s Rose 31, are provided in more eco-friendly, refillable bottles.

Fairmont Orchid Garden View Room

During my first stay at the resort, I spent the night in a Fairmont Gold Premium Ocean View Room, located on the 6th floor of the North Tower. My room had a large lanai with a lounger, table, two chairs and ocean view. The balcony allowed natural light and fresh air to stream into the room. Even with two queen beds, bureau and large desk, the rooms was spacious and well-suited for a non-couple or traveling family.

During both stays, as enticing as lingering in my room was, there were just too many things waiting throughout the property, most notably turtles. Hawaiian green sea turtles or honu, are fans of the Fairmont Orchid grounds. They haul out of the sea to lay in the sun along the resort’s shoreline on a regular basis. A stretch of coast is fenced off, exclusively for the turtles, but viewpoints allow guests to get an amazing look.

Green Sea turtle on the beach at Fairmont Orchid

Since the coast is a turtle hotspot, be sure to be on the lookout when you go snorkeling in the lagoon. If you’re lucky enough to meet a turtle in the water, take as many pictures as you want, but don’t touch. Honu are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act and by Hawaiian state law. Hotel staff frequently offer turtle talks designed to educate guests about honu; be sure to check the event calendar during your stay.

Along with snorkeling gear, an assortment of water gear including paddle boards, kayaks and floats are available for rent at the Hui Holokai Beach Shack. If you’re the active type, you might want to think about buying a Fun & Sun Pass. It covers beach and water rental equipment throughout your entire stay for $85 per person.

If you’re not the type that likes to get sandy, the oceanfront pool is open 24 hours. The sundeck is large and there’s no concern about needing to arrive early to find a spot.

For early risers, the Fairmont Orchid’s morning canoe experience is a memorable way to start a vacation day. There is an additional fee, but along with providing a gentle workout and stellar coastal views, guests learn about the importance of the canoe (wa’a) and the ocean (moana) in Hawaiian culture. Start times vary with the season; my early summertime paddling experience began on the beach at 6:20 a.m.

Food at Browns Beach House, Fairmont Orchid

There are an impressive half-dozen restaurants at the resort; Binchotan: Bar & Grill serves Japanese-inspired dishes the likes of chicken yakitori, pork belly fried rice, and edamame; Brown’s Beach House offers spectacular sunset views alongside entrees including tempura ahi, filet mignon, and fresh baked ube sweet potato rolls.

Orchid Court is open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. for breakfast. Served buffet-style, you’ll find everything from fresh fruit and malasadas, to chow mein with vegetables, and Kalua Hash Eggs Benedict. Brown’s Deli offers grab-and-go options ranging from pizza and sandwiches, to acai bowls and shave ice.

Rates for an Oceanfront Room start at $899; Fairmont Garden View Rooms start at $599. Check or Expedia to compare rates and see if you can get yourself a deal. If you are an Accor Live Limitless lifestyle loyalty programme member, book your stay through the Accor website.

The Fairmont Orchid charges a daily $45 resort fee. I’m not a fan of resort fees, but it does cover an assortment of amenities and services a majority of guests are likely to take advantage of including self-parking, Wi-Fi, 1-hour daily snorkel gear rental, and shuttle bus service within the Mauna Lani Resort.

The Fairmont Orchid is a non-smoking hotel. It is also dog-friendly. There is an additional pet charge of $75 per night.

Review and photos by San Francisco Bay Area travel writer and television correspondent Dana Rebmann. Her stay was organized by the Fairmont Orchid, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.


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