Everything on Kona seems heightened—colors brighter, food tastier, the wildlife friendlier—while at the same time life seems a bit slower and sweeter. Stepping off the plane into the open-air Kona airport, you see a luminous sky and feel a warm breeze as clean ocean air fills your lungs. The trip to the hotel whisks you past miles of black lava landscape peppered with a beautiful golden grass—the legacy of an English woman who brought this grass to the island as an ornament for her garden. The grass, now spread far and wide, billows and waves in the wind welcoming you to the island.
WHERE TO STAY
The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai captures the beauty and essence of Hawaiian design and culture. Set on the North Kona Coast, the sprawling yet intimate resort presents a dramatic vista of a black lava landscape magnificently contrasted with white sand beaches and a sapphire-hued ocean. With the 18-hole Jack Nicklaus signature golf course winding more than 7,100 yards of brilliant green fairways, seven pools (one more beautiful than the next), a state-of-the-art spa, a 1.8 million gallon “aquarium” for snorkeling and snuba, three oceanfront restaurants, world-class concierge service, and a calendar of daily activities for all ages, the Four Seasons has and is everything you need for an unforgettable vacation.
After our long flight, we were delighted to be welcomed with fragrant leis and a cold fruity beverage. A golf cart then whisked us to our room—an ocean-front suite complete with outdoor shower. Ready to explore, we strolled along the beach passing sea turtles napping in the sun, sea life cavorting in lava rock tide pools, and whales on their journey to the Alaskan Seaboard. We had only been at Hualalai for a few hours and were already immersed in nature. At bedtime, we took in the view, the décor, the spacious layout and agreed our oceanfront suite reflected the Four Seasons signature blend of luxury and comfort. We had two words for the outdoor shower—fabulously cool.
WHERE TO DINE
All of the Four Seasons restaurants boast ocean views, authentic Hawaiian cuisine, and beautiful evening sunsets. Ever-changing menus offer an array of delicacies. The culinary team are experts in sustainable dining and work with over 160 island farmers and fishermen to offer dishes where at least 75 percent of the ingredients are locally sourced.
On our first day, we dined at Beach Tree located at the resort’s center. The chef set up his kitchen on the lawn beside the restaurant and presented a delicious burrata cheese that he had been crafting all day. This creamy delight was then paired with house-made dishes like Rigatoni, Wild Boar Sausage, Broccoli, and Burrata or Flatbread, White Mushroom, Truffle, and Burrata—the epitome of a fresh dining experience. As the sun began to set, a performer in authentic Hawaiian garb carrying two lit torches delighted us with a dance and then lit the resort’s lanterns bathing us in a golden glow.
On our last night, we dined on mouth-watering Ahi Poke prepared tableside and melt-in-your mouth tenderloin at the ‘ULU Ocean Grill + Sushi Lounge. It was our favorite night. We dined on the finest of food as the sun sank into the horizon and the resort’s spotlights illuminated the waves providing a beautiful backdrop to dinner. Lanterns danced in the breeze, palm trees swayed, and the waves crashed in tune with the band’s music—the soundtrack of paradise.
The 28,000 square-foot spa has a distinctly Hawaiian feel. Its variety of amenities and treatments are guaranteed to rejuvenate even the most tired soul. Treatments extend beyond the spa’s walls and are offered poolside. We indulged in a massage in a private cabana where we were serenaded by birdsong and ocean wind—no recordings needed here.
The Kohala Zip & Dip provides a tropical adventure of a lifetime. The day started out with a hike through the rainforest. We explored the forest on foot and in a Pinzgauer, an Austrian military vehicle. During our trek, we often found ourselves perched atop a cliff with breathtaking views. We cooled off by jumping into a waterfall—the swim was cold and purifying. Our adventure ended with zip lining high above the rainforest. At one point, our speeds reached more than 45 miles per hour. After the course took us over five sky bridges, on nine zip lines and a rappel, we high fived and exclaimed “best day ever!” The guides were incredibly friendly—I suppose daily zip lining over this lush landscape would make for great workplace morale.
For our next excursion, we swapped the sky’s heights for the ocean’s depths. We have been lucky enough to swim with dolphins before, but The Alii Ocean Tours’ Five Star Dolphin Experience, which offers the chance to swim with spinner dolphins in their natural habitat is an experience like no other. The aptly-named Captain Sharky skillfully drove the boat as we crisscrossed the ocean searching for dolphin pods. When we located a pod, we slid into the water and were enveloped by these beautiful creatures in front, behind, above, and beneath us. After our swim, we recovered from the surreal experience with a lovely lunch and then headed over to coral reefs to snorkel with a colorful array of underwater life.
Whale watching is seasonal and can be hit or miss, but our day in search of a few appearances by one of nature’s largest mammals was a day well spent. The adventure began with a swim to the boat, which was docked off shore. As we swam to the boat while carrying our gear in waterproof bags, sea turtles swam with us—an inspiring sight. Once on the boat, we raced over the blue ocean with not another boat in sight. We sat, listened, and looked. When the majestic animals broke the ocean’s surface, it made the wait more than worthwhile. The sounds and sights of that day are something we will forever treasure.
For a vacation that offers a rare combination of exhilaration, relaxation, a chance to commune with nature and a hotel known for its impeccable service and the utmost luxury, visit the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai on Kona.
A hui hou (until we meet again).
For more information about: Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, visit fourseasons.com/hualalai; Kohala Zipline, visit kohalazipline.com; and Allii Ocean Tours’ Five Star Dolphin Experience, visit AliiOceanTours.com.