It happened to be my birthday as we eagerly approached the object of our desire from the Kohola Coast highway. The only thing that hinted at the wonderland nearby was the lone windswept tree adjacent a sign plunked in the lava field.
Following the lane from highway to ocean we watched the earth undergo its ultimate make-over, from barren lava to lush tropical enclave.
"What was here before the resort?" I asked the knowledgeable bellman offering us a property tour.
"So this wasn’t an oasis spared from molten destruction?" I asked, looking around at flora profuse enough to create a botanical garden.
"Every blade of grass, ounce of dirt; every bush, tree, plant, flower -- even the sand for the beach -- all brought in from elsewhere. Instant resort in a former field of molten rock."
I wasn’t sure what I thought about this manufactured paradise - until we arrived at our bungalow. The bellman explained the villa’s many features from special relaxation CD’s to the double set of robes - one for use inside the room and another kimono considered appropriate public attire. We were asked to fill out a request card for our favorite beverages. Tropical fruit, candies and snacks were already stocked on our behalf.
Marble baths, whirlpool tubs and steam showers are de rigeur for luxury resorts, but the Hualalai private rainforest shower had me spinning with delight, allowing me to release my self-righteous indignation over the fact the resort was less than "natural." (Those are real plants and sand after all, are they not?)
Further enhancing its esteem is the fact that the Four Seasons doesn’t overlook a thing, with particular homage paid to the native Hawaiians who formerly farmed the ancient fishponds and surfed the shores of Hualalai. Special programs augment the Hawaiian cultural center, where an edifying advisor is on hand to enlighten guests.
Our room overlooked the King’s Pond, a man-made reef filled with 47 species of thousands of tropical fish where guests can snorkel sans waves. A boardwalk along the beach meanders past four different oceanfront pools each with their own special ambiance. Along the route three anchialine ponds, restored in the style of native Hawaiian fishponds, provide additional serenity and meditation zones. (The pond near the Pahui`a restaurant is currently home to a rescued baby shark that will be released when he reaches the appropriate weight.)
What makes the Hualalai top in its category is foremost its exquisite service. When my husband awoke at 3am with a tummy-ache we called room service. At 3:05 a hushed rap at the door delivered antacids and a smile, the single act transforming a potentially sleepless night into the blissful rejuvenation the resort exemplifies.
Falling back asleep in paradise and dreaming under a mountain of down; priceless.
by smmmarti guide
September 22, 2004
From journal Black Magic: Living Large on Hawaii's Big Island