‘Big Island’ romance awaits

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Hawaii’s resorts offer privacy, recreation and relaxation

By Mark Neves

As a young boy, I visited my tu tu (grandmother) in Hawaii. As a hapa (part) Hawaiian boy raised on the main land I would listen to her speak of her love — almost romance — for the aina (land). My tu tu instilled in me a great love for my Hawaiian heritage and culture.

More than 20 years later, my wife and I were in search of that romance, found not just with sunsets, waterfalls and white sandy beaches but also through authentic Hawaiian culture. This fall we found ourselves living in a legend like locals tell of Pele, Ohia and the Lehua flower: a tale of romance, loyalty and adventure.

With its delicious diversity, authentic Polynesian resorts and relatively undisturbed Hawaiian culture, the Big Island is definitely “no ka oe,” meaning “No. 1” or “the best.” On any given day, you can choose to stand beside an active lava flow, get pampered in a world class spa, sunbathe on beaches of green, black or white sand, swing on the finest fairways Arnie and Jack have ever built, stargaze after the sunset amidst the largest observatories on the planet from the tallest mountain in the world (Mauna Kea is over 30,000 feet from the ocean floor), feel the mist of a 400-foot waterfall, sample the finest East-meets-West cuisine or horseback ride on the second largest ranch in the United States.

 

Kona Village 

Our first hideaway on the Big Island was in a thatched roof bungalow on a quiet private bay with no TV or phone. Our “Do Not Disturb” sign was a coconut. The Kona Village resort allowed us to swing in a hammock on a beach with no one within shouting distance except each other. Yet there’s a flare of rustic elegance here where you create your experience. Our Hawaiian server couldn’t tell us the best lunch item on the menu. “In Hawaii we don’t eat until we’re full, we eat until we’re tired,” he said.

We wore ourselves out on Belgian waffles and Portuguese sausage for breakfast, and then a crab sandwich with avocado for lunch. A white linened table, sterling silver and a few feet of sand separated us from the breathtaking sunset on the Pacific while surfing through a fabulous five-course meal for dinner, oh so ono (delicious): chilled papaya and coconut bisque, served in a papaya, Opakapaka adorned with macadamia butter and lobster medallions. If you are only in Hawaii for a few days, visit Kona Village for its quiet romantic Hawaiian experience.

We wanted to add some adventure to our romantic getaway, so we hiked with Hawaiian Walk Away tours through the rain forests above Waipi’o Valley, where Hawaiian monarchy Kamehameha I was hidden as a small child to protect him from assassination.

For a magical afternoon, hike down from the lookout, a steep two-mile walk, and picnic on the black sand beach at the mouth of Waipi’o, still one of the most pristine secluded beaches in the world. Be forewarned, when greeted by one of the wild yet friendly horses that roam this valley you may be tempted to jump on, pin a Lehua blossom behind your ear, ride off and never come back!

 

Hilton Waikoloa Village

The Big Island isn’t all about seclusion, however. The most famous of the Big Island resorts is certainly the Hilton Waikoloa Village north of Kona. Once you wander the 62 acres of lagoons, waterfalls, palm trees and life size art along the pathways you may miss a Disneyesque monorail and boats that transport guests to more than 1,200 rooms. Huge pools, waterfalls and slides, a great children’s program called menehune, and the Dolphin encounter make the Hilton probably the best family resort in Hawaii.

But this resort isn’t just for families. Guys are often stumped at just what makes a getaway romantic. Here’s a hint: spa. And the Hilton has a beautiful one. Ask for a romantic couple’s seaside massage. You will leave with memories of the ocean you’ve never experienced before.

 

Four Seasons Hualalai

When you’re ready for the next spectacular resort, wind along the Nicklaus designed golf course miraculously perched on carved lava and you will come upon the perfectly understated open-air lobby of the Four Seasons Hualalai adorned with teak, koa wood and tropical arrangements. After fresh orchid leis, cool towels and frosted stone cups of pineapple nectar we were taken by our bell man in a cart to our ocean front suite.

If romantic was what we were looking for, our search was over — white cotton linens on a king sized bed, slate floors, tasteful Hawaiian contemporary furniture and floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors and teak shutters.

My wife soon discovered what Modern Bride’s issue of The World’s Best Honeymoons named the #1 Most Luxurious Hotel Bathroom. The marble double vanity and large teak mirror are nice, the deep 6-foot tub with enamel fixtures and large glass shower are very nice, but I think what is beyond the wall of glass is what brides are talking about.

An enclosed lava outdoor shower includes orchids and sun streaking in through bamboo draped above. It has our vote, too.

Yes, this Four Seasons is very expensive. This might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But the Hualalai will serve you as if it will not be. The spa is world class with indoor and outdoor equipment, a rock climbing wall, exceptional tennis and aromatherapy massages. The golf course is only for resident guests so you won’t have to play through more than spectacular ocean views and undulating greens. An infinity edge beckons you to the perfectly quiet Beach Tree pool where you can lounge on cushy chaises and be spritzed with Evian.

This is romance – Big Island Style.

THE BIG ISLAND OF HAWAII

Getting There: United flies non-stop to Kona from Los Angeles and San Francisco

Best Hawaiian Luxury: Four Seasons Hualalai

Best Family Resort: Hilton Waikoloa Village

Most Relaxing Old Hawaii: Kona Village

Best Time to Visit: May or September (Christmas time is busiest)

Best Tour: Hawaii Forest & Trail to the summit of Mauna Kea

Best & Most Authentic Luau: Kona Village

Best Beach: Hapuna beach (10 minutes north of the Hilton)

Best Local Fine Dining: Daniel Thiebaut’s – Waimea

What Makes the Big Island #1: Diversity, preserved Hawaiian culture, fabulous Kohala Resorts

Best Way to Experience Hawaii: Discover the Hawaiian culture, hula, music, food, artwork, and legends

Best Way to See Hula: The Merrie Monarch festival in April or Aloha Festivals at Labor Day

Best Kept Secret: There’s a Costco & Wal-Mart in Kona, where you can save on local novelties, treats and aloha wear

Best Big Island Gift to Bring Home: Big Island Candy Co. Mac Nut Chocolate Dipped Shortbread

Best Way to Keep Sweet Hawaiian Memories: get CDs of IZ,

 

Marc Neves is a freelance travel writer living in Provo.

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