Kohanaiki Golf Clubhouse and 18th hole

Why Kohanaiki is One of the Most Special Golf Clubs in the World

I’ve been to dozens of golf clubs over the years.

Every single one of them has something that makes them unique. Whether it’s the culture, the golf, the amenities, or the people.

But after spending 3 days at Kohanaiki Club in Kona on the big island of Hawai’i, I’ve never been to a club that does all of these things so well.

Kohanaiki is all the best parts of a 5-star luxury resort, while being completely private for its members. 

The amenities it provides are unparalleled.

And somehow, I impressed someone enough to get an invite to come out and experience it firsthand for a few days.

Today, I’m going to tell you about all of it.

Whether you’re in the market for a second (or third, or 4th home), or simply want a little peek inside a world that few people will ever get to see – I’m going to cover everything I experienced during my time at Kohanaiki. 

And, well, there’s a lot to talk about.

I have a feeling this may turn into one of the longer posts I’ve ever published here at Breaking Eighty, but if you’re ready to explore a golf club unlike any I’ve ever seen before? 

Then keep reading, this one is going to be fun.

What is Kohanaiki Club?

Kohanaiki is a private residential golf and ocean club about 10 minutes South of the Kona airport on the big island of Hawai’i.

It sits on 450 acres of oceanfront property and features an impressive 67,000-square-foot clubhouse.

The club is home to the only Rees Jones-designed golf course in Hawai’i, and has a driving range that can also be converted into a par 3 course.

Kohanaiki Driving Range

The driving range at Kohanaiki.

There are dedicated homesites, townhomes, and 17 “Hales” on the property – which we’ll talk more about later on.

Just a few of the features you’ll find as a member at Kohanaiki:

  • Rees Jones designed golf The course with 6 oceanfront holes and 3 comfort stations or “Golf Hales”
  • Tennis and pickleball courts
  • Multiple pools
  • Adventure center
  • 4-lane bowling alley
  • Private wine and cigar rooms
  • A private brewery
  • A full-service spa
  • Countless member events throughout the year
  • 2 primary restaurants

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. 

There’s only one membership level at Kohanaiki, and in order to be a member you have to either be a homeowner, property owner, or Hale Club member.

First Impressions of Kohanaiki

The very first thing you’ll notice about Kohanaiki is simply how convenient it is. It’s literally 8 minutes from the Kona airport.

I left Portland on a 10:55am flight, and by 3pm I was in my Hale at Kohanaiki.

Nearly all members get around via golf cart, and the club can arrange a pickup service at the airport. It’s remarkably easy and convenient.

Pulling into the property, you quickly get a sense that this is the kind of place where no detail is too small.

The landscaping, golf course, homes, and buildings are all in impeccable shape. Considering nearly everything at Kohanaiki has been built within the last 10 years, it all feels very modern and up-to-date.

But the most impressive moment comes when you pull up to the clubhouse for the first time.

There’s a circular driveway with the golf pro shop on the left and the clubhouse directly in front of you. It’s indoor/outdoor living at its finest, and an old outrigger canoe serves as a centerpiece before the ocean views and reflection pool draw you further into the club.

Kohanaiki Club Entrance

Your first look upon entering the clubhouse.

The Hale Club Manager, Neil met me and showed me around my Hale where I’d be staying for 3 days.

I’ve stayed in some nice places over the years, but this is truly among the very best accommodations I’ve had.

The Hales feel luxurious, yet comfortable at the same time.

Kohanaiki Club Hale

My Hale at Kohanaiki

But for the amazing views and amenities that I began to experience the moment I stepped foot on the property, the thing that struck me the most was the people.

Kohanaiki is a club that caters to the type of people who can afford just about anything they want.

I expected things to feel formal, stuffy, and maybe even a little pretentious.

I expected to feel as though I was having to tiptoe around the club. 

“Who is this golf writer that thinks he can just waltz around the club however he pleases?”

The reality was that every single person I met there treated me as though I belonged. 

Both the staff and members I talked to were welcoming, inviting, and more than anything else? They were genuine.

And for all of the insane amenities I’ll share with you, the thing that ties it all together was the warm and welcoming nature of every single person I interacted with.

Kohanaiki Golf Course

Since this is a golf blog and all, let’s start with the good stuff, the golf.

Kohanaiki was designed by Rees Jones and opened up in the Spring of 2013.

What I love about the course is that it’s challenging, while still being very fun.

Kohanaiki Golf Hole 15

The 15th Hole on the Kohanaiki Golf Course.

There’s a solid variety of holes, some nice elevation changes, and the lava rock found throughout makes for both unique views and hazards.

The course is among the most well-manicured I’ve ever played. As with everything else with the club, they really look after the details.

The golf course at Kohanaiki has more oceanfront holes than any other course in Hawai’i with 6. They may not have the drama of say the 3rd at Mauna Kea, but it’s among the best stretch of golf you’ll find anywhere. If you’re looking for a more accessible golf course near by, definitely check out Hualalai Golf Club.

The approach shot on 14.

On the course you’ll find 3 “Golf Hales” which is their term for comfort stations. These are among the most stocked comfort stations you’ll find anywhere. A personal favorite was the Mai Tai machine located at the “Sunset Golf Hale.”

Oh, and these stations are open all members regardless of whether you’re golfing or not.

Kohanaiki Golf Hale comfort station

The “Golf Hale” or “Golf House” off hole 13.

Kohanaiki Club Mai Tai Machine

So if the kids want to pop in for some ice cream after hitting the pool? Go for it. See the video above for more about the comfort stations 🙂

I dedicated an entire post to the Kohanaiki golf experience, so if you want to learn more about the design and history of the course, I’d check it out.

One of the Most Impressive Clubhouses in the World

I’ve seen some very impressive golf clubhouses in my travels. Everything from the historic and sprawling Oak Hill, to modern luxury at Black Rock, to subdued elegance at Valley Club.

But the clubhouse at Kohanaiki might very well be the best clubhouse I’ve ever seen.

It forms the centerpiece for the entire club. Out front, you’ll find rows of golf carts. All are nearly identical.

The rule at Kohnaiki Club is that you can only alter 2 things about your cart: its wheels and the sticker on the front.

Some rep their alma mater, others keep it stock.

My favorite story was from a certain game show star who turned her wheels, into well, “wheels.” 🙂

The entire main level of the clubhouse has a typical Hawaiian indoor/outdoor design, that really embraces the landscape.

The club was designed this way. From anywhere on the property, the clubhouse just kind of blends into the land as opposed to being a prominent visual feature.

I’m sitting in the Clubhouse restaurant, Kōnane, as I write this. The breeze is blowing, there’s subtle Hawaiian music on in the background, and it might just be the most idyllic “office” I’ve had in years.

The restaurant has a nice bar in the center of it, that’s perfect for communal gatherings with other members.

Kōnane Restaurant

Kōnane then spills out to a beautiful grass lawn and pool area that has been host to a number of over-the-top member events.

Wander around some more and you’ll find a state-of-the-art gym, pilates studio, and an extremely well-appointed spa.

Kohanaiki Club Spa

Outside the Kohanaiki Spa.

I spoke with one member who considered herself a “spa connoisseur” and she mentioned that she’s been to many of the best spas in Hawai’i, and they didn’t hold a candle to this one.

High praise.

But for as spectacular as the primary spaces of the club are. 

It’s downstairs where things will really wow you.

The Kohanaiki Game Room

Near the front entrance to the clubhouse, you’ll find a wide staircase that you wouldn’t necessarily give much thought if you didn’t know what was down there.

But as you descend the steps you’re met with a massive glass sliding door, that ushers you into the ultimate member’s playground.

The primary draw is the game room.

You could spend entire days here and never get bored – and I imagine many kids and families do just that.

There’s a long bar stocked with interesting whiskies and other spirits.

Throw in 8 taps of Kohanaiki brewery beer (more on that in a minute), and regardless of your drink of choice, you’ll be covered.

But once you’ve got your cocktail (or mocktail for the kids), it’s time to play.

2 beautiful custom pool tables and a shuffleboard table take up one section of the room.

The epic game room

The epic game room

You’ll also find two nooks, each complete with their own PS5 and Xbox Series X. 4 controllers each. Most of us wouldn’t think of video gaming on our Hawaiian vacation. But for many of the families here? It’s not just a weeklong resort vacation. Many of the people I’ve met are here for weeks if not months at a time. 

And if you’re a teenager who’s on an island for a month? Having your own personal video game retreat is a pretty nice touch.

But the most surprising (and impressive) feature of the game room?

The beautiful 4-lane bowling alley.

Kohanaiki Club bowling alley

The Kohanaiki bowling alley.

Tvs span the top of all 4 lanes, so regardless of what sports you want to watch while you bowl? You’re good.

But this only scratches the surface of what you’ll find downstairs at the Kohanaiki clubhouse

Private, 21 Seat Movie Theater

Kohanaiki has its own private 21-seat movie theater, and it’s impressive.

You walk in and just feel the sound change as the sound panels deaden everything.

There’s a different movie showing every evening, and you can reserve it anytime, and have them play whatever you’d like.

I can only imagine what it’d be like to watch the new Mission Impossible in there – or better yet, the Super Bowl.

And did I mention the fully stocked snack bar outside? Slurpies, coke, candy, hot dogs – all there for the taking, and completely complimentary as part of your membership.

Hidden Poker and Cigar Lounge

Behind a wood-paneled wall in the main hallway hides a secret.

You’d never know it was there, if you well, didn’t know.

But push the door open and you’re ushered into the ultimate cigar room.

Kohanaiki Club Cigar Room

The hidden cigar and poker room.

Wood paneling envelops the whole room, as do member cigar lockers. There’s a state-of-the-art air filtration system, so you’d hardly know a cigar had ever been smoked in there when you walk in.

They’ve got a regular poker game a couple of times a week that’s been known to see some serious action, and a number of notable people as well.

The Wine Room at Kohanaiki

Kohanaiki has something that only two other private clubs have in the world: a Master Sommelier on staff.

There are 273 Master Somms in the world, and Andy Myers might just be the coolest.

Kohanaiki Club Wine Room

He’s approachable, opinionated, and he knows more about wine than pretty much all of the other people I’ve met…combined.

I’ll talk more about the wine program in the dining section, but inside the basement of the clubhouse is one of the most stunning wine rooms you’ll ever see.

Its most impressive feature is its collection of Chateau Mouton Rothschild bottles. The collection spans decades, with bottles from every year going back to at least 1966.

If you’re a wine aficionado, this place is heaven.

The Kohanaiki Brewery

But what if wine isn’t your thing? More of a beer person?

Well, there’s something just as special for you.

I’ve been to a number of clubs that have their own signature beer. These are usually done in partnership with a local brewery.

Koahnaiki is the only club I know of that actually has its own brewery at the Club.

The Kohanaiki Brewery

The Kohanaiki Brewery

The Kohanaiki Brewery is the playground for Head Brewer (and only brewery employee) to explore all kinds of ideas and interesting beers.

Across the property, there are 27 taps, and you’ll find no less than 8 different beers brewed on-site spread across them.

From his “Dad Beer” which is a 3.8% take on Michelob Ultra, to a fantastic “Tropical Gold” American pale ale – the beers are wonderful.

And with so much freedom to play around, there’s always something new for members to try.

Kohanaiki Club Beer Taps

Some of the Kohanaiki beers.

My Hale where I stayed was fully stocked with cans of their beers.

But the best part (for members at least)? There’s no distribution.

If you want to taste beer from Kohanaiki? The only place to do it is here on the property. Not a bad perk of membership.

The Ohana Pool and Event Lawn

The clubhouse pool at Kohanaiki is full of chill vibes. It’s not technically “adults only” but you’re not going to find any 9-year-olds doing cannonballs into the deep end.

Kohanaiki Clubhouse Pool

Chill vibes only at the main clubhouse pool.

That’s saved for the Ohana, or “family” pool.

Located down by the members beach this is a wonderful family playground. There’s a two-tiered pool with a water slide, areas to BBQ, and private cabanas littered around different parts of the pool and beach.

Here you’ll also find an infinity hot tub as well as a cold plunge right on the beach. There’s a little tiki bar that’s open during busy times, as well.

Kohanaiki Club Ohana Pool

The family friendly Ohana Pool

The Event Lawn is a multipurpose area that can be used for large events, parties, and anything else.

But on a typical basis? It’s packed with family activities like volleyball, cornhole, soccer, and just about any other lawn activity you could imagine.

This whole area truly feels like ground zero for kids and families.

You know, at least when they’re not in the game room.

Dining at Kohanaiki

As you might expect from a club like Kohanaiki, they take their dining program very seriously.

There are two main restaurants at Kohanaiki:

Kōnane, is the main restaurant in the clubhouse.

Beach Restaurant, as you might guess, the restaurant on the beach.

Kohanaiki Club Beach Restaurant

The view from Beach Restaurant.

Each provides their own unique dining experience.

The menu changes at each every other week on an offset basis. So one week Kōnane will see an update, and the next Beach Restaurant will.

This ensures members will always have something new to try.

A Truly Unique Dining Experience

On my first night, I was introduced to Executive Chef James Watts. 

He recently spend a year at The French Laundry in Yountville.

Yes, that French Laundry.

So when he said “If you’re ok with it, I’d like to bring you a tasting menu of some of my favorites on the menu.”

I cracked a very large smile.

When Master Sommelier said “well if he’s doing that, then I’ll handle the wine pairings.” I got downright giddy.

This meal at Kōnane was one of the single best I’ve ever had.

The food is inventive, unique, and relied upon seasonable and local ingredients to truly give a taste of the island.

The Whiskey Braised Lamb Shank with smoked Hilo blackberries, was one of the best bites of food I’ve had in recent memory.

Kohanaiki Club Food

This lamb shank was unbelievable.

And the wines? The way they complimented the dishes was an experience in and of itself.

The meals during my stay would continue to be a highlight. 

Whether it was the unexpected Kalbi Beef Benedict I had for breakfast one morning, or the rich seafood pasta from Beach Restaurant that was full of shrimp, clams, and blue crab – I didn’t have a single bite of food I didn’t enjoy.

Kohanaiki Club Food

The Kalbi Beef Benedict.

I expected the food to be good. But I wasn’t prepared for just how interesting the menus would be across the entire property.

The Adventure Hut: Making the Ocean Your Playground

One of the most unique amenities at Kohanaiki is the self-proclaimed “A-Team” at the beachside Adventure Hut.

The A-Team is the group in charge of all water and adventure activities – and these guys (and gals) are phenomenal.

My second morning at Kohanaiki I set off on an early morning outrigger canoe trip with A-Team member Jake.

Not only did I get a killer workout, with some beautiful views, but his knowledge of the island and region was second to none.

We had such a good time, afterwards, we took a paddleboard out to the reef and did some snorkeling.

The reef off Kohanaiki is one of the best in Hawaii. Dive boats will motor from other parts of the island just to dive here.

My time snorkeling led me to see thousands of fish, eels, and turtles.

As shocking as it was to realize this, I hadn’t been snorkeling since my 2015 honeymoon in the Maldives. This was an excellent place to get reacquainted. 

But the most memorable part of it all?

The sea scooter.

Kohanaiki Club A-Team

The sea scooter

Here’s an obscure reference, did you ever see the movie The Rock? Remember the scene where they’re breaking into Alcatraz with what I could only describe as underwater jetskis?

Yeah, those are called Sea Scooters – and Kohanaiki has 3 of them that members can use whenever they want.

Jake hooked it up, and my last morning there I got to explore the reefs in a little bit more style. It was just as cool as I imagined.

The best part about the Adventure Hut? Nearly everything is included in your membership.

Outriggers and paddleboards? Included.

Sea scooters? Free.

Snorkel equipment? Covered.

Scuba diving? Yep, even that is included.

Sure, membership at Kohanaiki isn’t exactly inexpensive, but to have all of these amenities included is just one of the many things that makes this such a special place for members and their guests.

Preserving the Culture of the Island and Community

Let’s face it, many large developments in tropical places have a less than stellar reputation for preserving the culture and history of the land.

Kohanaiki is not one of those places.

From the very early stages of the planning, the developers enlisted the help of local cultural leaders and lineal descendants of the land to make sure they did everything in a way that both honored the region, while also preserving its history.

An example of this are the 14 “Ahu” or shrines that dot the property.

Kohanaiki Ahu shrine

One of 14 “Ahu” or shrines, you’ll find around the property.

They’ve been preserved and everything from homes to the golf course have been built around them to ensure they continue to be honored.

The clubhouse is full of relics from the land, and features displays that tell the story of the Kona area and the Kohanaiki property specifically.

There’s even an oceanside “Cultural Hale” that the developers built. 

This is an area that community members can reserve to provide culturally relevant classes, talks, or ceremonies.

Yes, Kohanaiki is an exclusive private club. But seeing how they’ve worked with locals to provide opportunities like this, or to keep the nearby public “Pine Trees” Beach extra clean and accessible, is a welcome respite from so many developments that care about nothing more than money.

What Does Membership Look Like at Kohanaiki?

If you’ve made it this far, then you may find yourself thinking “Yep, this sounds like everything I want. Sign me up! What do I need to do?”

To make things simple there’s only one club membership at Kohanaiki. You’re either in or you’re out. It’s all or nothing.

However aside from the six-figure initiation fee, you’ll also need to have some sort of property within the Kohanaiki gates.

This could come in the form of buying an undeveloped piece of land, a home, a townhouse, or buying into the Hale Club.

If you’re looking for a recommendation, I can personally vouch for the fact that this one is in an excellent location 🙂

Kohanaiki Hale Club

The Hale Club at Kohanaiki is how many members dip their toes into the Kohanaiki waters.

There are 17 member “Hales” on property that have anywhere from 2 to 4 bedrooms.

Joining the Hale Club entitles you to 45 nights a year and full access to the club while you’re staying.

This is popular with many people who aren’t ready to commit to buying in completely or people who have already bought their land, and are in the process of building their home.

What It’s Like Staying in a Kohanaiki Hale

I stayed in a two-bedroom Hale during my time here, and it was something truly special.

The hale was outfitted with high-end appliances, a Sonos whole-house sound system, and an outdoor shower.

Kohanaiki Club Hale

The Primary Bedroom of my Hale

Better yet, the wall of windows in the living room and kitchen can be opened up to spill out into a large lanai that had multiple sitting areas, a manicured lawn, and a wonderful in-ground hot tub.

Kohanaiki Club Hale Lanai

My Hale Lanai

My kitchen came stocked with a selection of Kohanaiki Brewery beers, Haagen-Daz ice creams in the fridge, and anything else you could need to truly turn the hale into your home away from home.

My days were very full of golfing, snorkeling, eating, meeting people, and much more.

But each day I had at least a few minutes to sit in the hot tub or lay down on the outdoor couch and simply enjoy being in such a special place.

There’s enough at Kohanaiki to keep you busy for weeks without doing the same thing twice. But being able to enjoy those quiet and still moments, is one of the best parts about being in a place like this.

Final Thoughts on Kohanaiki Club

In all of my travels over the years, there haven’t been that many places where I think “I’ll probably never be back here.”

But considering Kohanaiki is solely for members and their guests, there’s a very good chance that I in fact won’t ever make it back to the Club.

I knew it would be nice. And it is. It really, really is.

But what I didn’t expect was how I’d feel while I was there.

It felt comfortable. 



Casual, yet elegant.

All of the members at Kohanaiki have been very successful in their professional lives. Whether that’s sports, entertainment, entrepreneurship, health, law – you name it. 

For many of them, their lives are full of formality.

Kohanaiki is where they’re able to come and be themselves. A place where they can put all of that formality aside and enjoy the fruits of their labor with friends and family.

At a typical resort, guests will come, the staff will be friendly, but then they’ll likely forget them the moment they’re gone.

Here the staff feels like an extension of family. If you’re a member and spending months out of your year here, you want to build relationships with everyone you see.

My last night I was sitting at the Bar at Beach Restaurant by myself.

A high school kid came up and sat down, and immediately introduced himself.

Jason was behind the bar, and he’s been there for years.

Immediately he welcomed the kid back with a big handshake and started talking about all the stuff that had happened in the 9 months since his family was last there.

I saw these kinds of relationships all over the place, and it’s a reminder that what is actually most important in life.

Over-the-top amenities are great, but as I’ve learned with all of my golf travels, what truly makes a place special, are the people.

And that was my big takeaway from my time at Kohanaiki. The golf, the food, the clubhouse – it’s all spectacular. 

But the people are what I’ll remember most.

Looking for a similar experience to Kohanaiki without having to join a private club? Go check out the nearby Four Seasons Hualalai. It’s among the finest golf resorts you’ll ever visit.

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