Kona, the crown jewel of Hawaii’s Big Island, is rapidly reaching epic popularity with five-star visitors, yet it has the feel of being its own self-contained world. Join our globetrotting Lance Avery Morgan as he ventures to the tropical paradise for sun, surf and adventure on the fabled seaside retreat of Four Seasons Hualalai
In the wind-swept blue water that surrounds new visitors to Kona, a sense of awe of the deep, diaphanous sea and its arid surroundings embraces like a warm, welcoming sun-kissed glow. James Michener, author of Hawaii, captured it beautifully in Tales of the South Pacific by stating, “The endless ocean. The infinite specks of coral we called islands. Coconut palms nodding gracefully toward the ocean. Reefs upon which waves broke into spray, and inner lagoons, lovely beyond description.” It still rings true decades later. All so true in this flip-flop paradise.
Since Hawaii is the only state to be completely surrounded by water, that fact adds to the sense of remoteness, almost like being marooned, which is a feeling that permeates every view… water for dozens of miles at every wayward glance. A tremendously gorgeous five-star resort nestled in centuries-old volcanic ash and a pristine Pacific ocean view beach is the ultimate destination, the Four Seasons Hualalai at historic Ka’ūpūlehu (named for the dormant volcano situated miles behind the resort and also believed to have been the name of the wife of one of the early navigators to Hawaii) is the go-to place these days.
The Hollywood crowd always flocks to Hawaii, since the flight takes less travel time (about five hours direct on United) than any other tropical destination. Upon arrival at the Four Seasons Hualalai, it’s easy to see why the resort is a haven for CEOs and celebrities. Regular guests include the likes of tech tycoon Bill Gates, actress Megan Fox and designer Tory Burch, to name just a few of the wide variety. I ran into comedian Sarah Silverman poolside, incognito, just the way most of the resort’s Jet-Set guests prefer it. She, along with plenty of Ari Onassis-Jackie-O duos and other chic, well-heeled guests dot the serene environment that seems like a respite from reality.
From a Texas luminary perspective, it is interesting to note that Austin-based tech titan Michael Dell’s MSD Capital, LP co-owns the resort, as well as several other Four Seasons resorts in Hawaii. According to Bloomberg News, the 865-acre resort on the Big Island, which also includes a master-planned community, is seeing increased demand amid a travel rebound that has sent Hawaiian tourism revenue to a record and a one-night stay here starts at about a thousand dollars.
Robert Whitfield, regional vice president and general manager of the resort shares, “We’re the only Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond hotel on the Big Island. Our service, the resort’s facilities and offerings, food and activities are all done at an amazingly high level. But the sense of place here at Hualalai is unmistakable. When you’re here, you are living the Hualalai lifestyle – and enjoying the finest of everything Hawaii has to offer.”
The attraction for those who love to vacation in a tropical paradise? There’s plenty of luxury for all who venture here. Naturally, Hawaii is in the tropics, yet this area has a cooler, drier climate due to the trade winds that blow from the east. Temperatures remain consistently warm but comfortable throughout the year, but it’s important to keep in mind when planning your travel to Hawaii that May through October is the dry season, while November through April is the rainy season. So if you don’t mind a little rain, that shouldn’t be a deterrent.
Water is a constant thematic element of Haulalai. The volcanic rock coast’s tides gush up to the resort’s seven seawater and freshwater swimming pools (including two adult pools, a lap and oceanfront pool, and a kids’ pool). A very special pool at the resort is the King’s Pond, a 1.8 million gallon snorkeling pond stocked with more than 3,500 tropical fish (including a fascinating eagle ray) for world-class swimming in a natural environment. For poolside loungers, a host of amenities range from foot massages, lunch in your cabana (if traveling at during peak seasons, reserve your cabana in advance), eyeglass cleaning, frozen liquor pops, refreshing Evian facial spritzes, and the general scene-watching is worth the price of admission. Heck, it’s a scene fit for a Slim Aarons photo.
And what’s a vacation without relaxing? With the time difference of four to five hours behind Texas time (depending on Daylight Saving Time’s status during the year), it’s early to bed and early to rise. Getting up for a workout or run at 6 AM isn’t that unusual. Then, taking in a quick breakfast in one of the outdoor restaurants while chatting with folks at a nearby table is the perfect precursor to a day of beachcombing, swimming pool lounging, or a host of activities. In fact, every kind of activity you could want is available and includes (as noted on the daily activities bulletin attached to the New York Times Digest of news): pilates, yoga, personal training, spinning, a tennis clinic, and even basketball pick-up games, to name a few activities that are offered almost daily.
While the 28,000 square foot open-air tropical garden spa is nestled by exotic fauna, evoking a sense of primitive beauty, it features 11 different types of massages and facials from across the globe. The massage I chose was the Lomi Lomi treatment, a traditional Hawaiian massage that is a sacred healing art passed down from generation to generation by kupuna (elders). Its techniques are rhythmic and unique to each therapist, integrating use of palms and forearms, an excellent full body wellness massage. To say that I felt like a billion dollars afterward is an understatement.
Other massage treatments include a broad range including Haulalai Island Stone, Ashiatsu, Swedish, Reiki, Craniosacral, Thai and more. Plus, you can also opt for a massage in your own villa or suite. “The Four Seasons standard of fine service is always on call and on duty. We have an amazing team of very happy people working at Hualalai. Their passion for life and for living is relayed to our guests every day, as we strive to make extraordinary experiences happen for each and every guest of the resort,” confides the property’s vice president Robert Whitfield.
Want to play a round of golf with a once in a lifetime experience? The private, oceanfront Jack Nicklaus signature golf course is carved right into the underlying black lava, which serves as occasional, naturally entrenched bunkers. In fact, professional golfer Ben Crenshaw plays the course yearly and told me, “It’s paradise and is truly Heaven on earth.” The course plays host to an annual Champions Tour event, and is maintained at PGA level for the exclusive use of Four Seasons guests year round. If playing inside the ropes has always been your dream, make it a reality at the resort when you tee off with the ultimate partner: a PGA golf legend.
This opportunity is available during the PGA Tour Champions Pro-Am event, which offers resort guests a spot in the Pro-Am tournament and unmatched access to golf’s greatest players. You can kick off your six-night adventure at the pairings party, where your PGA pro partner is announced. Hit the course together for the day before trading your clubs for cocktails and dinner at a Beach Party event, where you’ll mingle with more legends of the game. Warning: it may be the most fun time of your life.
The hotel has three main restaurants to serve its guests that make it a true culinary destination from near and far: Hualalai Grille, Ulu Ocean Grill + Sushi Lounge, and Beach Tree Bar & Lounge. The menus feature indigenous, Big Island-grown and raised items such as avocado, goat cheese, red and yellow tomatoes, mushrooms, lobster, white organic honey, and baby abalone. Plus, with the entire Pacific ocean to source, the local fish, often only hours old, is served to the delight of its patrons. Executive Chef Massimo Falsini, hailing from Italy, stewards the culinary point of view and creates exquisite events for guests to enjoy, such as La Dolce Vita in June and Chef Fest in October.
When you are not swimming, sunning, or awed by the ocean, retreating to your room is ideal and a part of any relaxing vacation. With 243 guest rooms in low-rise bungalows (51 of these are exquisite suites), all with an ocean or golf course view, every guest feels like royalty year ‘round. For families there’s a state-of-the-art teen lounge and baby-proofed rooms for guests with infants. With each month there is a different focus, for instance September’s theme is romance, October spotlights the culinary arts, November is for celebrating the art of escapism from the cold weather, and December is all about pre-holiday shopping. Whale watching during humpback migration season runs from December through April and is not to be missed. Naturally, any time is perfect for a destination wedding and the resort’s team of nuptial experts can make any beachside matrimonial ceremony dream come true.
So, there is a reason Hawaii remains a timeless tropical paradise in the hearts and minds of paradise-seekers. The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at historic Ka’ūpūlehu is a trip of a lifetime to be savored as often as possible. So, what are you waiting for? Dive into paradise.
While you’re lying about in your cabana, reading your tablet or The New York Times Digest of news, and of course, people watching, add a feast to your ears as well with this specially curated playlist we recommend in between dips in the swimming pool…
1. I Want To Be With You…. Sammy Davis, Jr.
2. One Note Samba… Nancy Wilson
3. The Shadow Of Your Smile… Astrid Gilberto
4. Quiet Nights… Sarah Vaughn
5. The Look Of Love… Sergio Mendes
6. Sway… Dean Martin
7. Quando, Quando, Quando…. Michael Bublé
8. Then Came You… Dionne Warwick
9. Easy To Love… Steve Lawrence
10. Mirrors… Justin Timberlake
11. Dreamlover… Mariah Carey
12. Tiny Bubbles… Don Ho