For most people getting to Hawaii takes a good deal of travel time, so the Ooh and Aah factor of where you stay and what you do have to match the travel time.
The Big Island has resort options that blend the allure of the islands with lavish appointments and island charm. It is the kind of destination where focusing on a particular area yields the best travel experience. The Kohala coast, north of Kona, offers a bevy of resorts that combine beach, dining, stunning golf and relaxation in one of the most idyllic settings.
Plan on staying 10 days, especially if you want to stay at one resort, and then gallivant to cultural sites and wonders that span recreation, nature, and dining. The exact mix is best combining activities that are close in driving distance.
If you need to blend your stay plus give the children oodles of energy burning activities, then the Hilton Waikoloa Village might be the place. The entire property, all 65 acres is splashed with an Asian/Oriental theme. Pools abound, and while it’s big, whether you go in a small or large group, you can find your own little kingdom on the beach or at the pool.
The Hilton Waikoloa is an extremely friendly place for kids and families, with their dolphin experience and extensive children’s programs. The tranquil spa is in the lower level of one of the main buildings, adjacent to fitness facilities so sweat can pour while the skin gets radiant. The Kamuela Provision Company, their signature bar and restaurant offer dining with a prime ocean view at sunset with a large variety of steak and seafood options. The resort might seem a little Disneyesque at first, but the wisdom of the activity and geography is there when the children sleep all through the night. The two Waikoloa courses, the Kings, and Beach, are adjacent to the Hilton; so good golf is really close.
A little northward on the Kohala Coast, the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows exemplifies the classic, Hawaiian resort. Each room enters through a garden foyer, has Koa wood accents and art, and has an outward facing lanai. The operative concept here is an understated luxury with a feeling of not being overcrowded at any venue at the resort. It’s buzz at the right level.
Take it up a notch with the Ocean Bungalows that feature seclusion with easy access to the hotel lobby. A gated driveway ensures privacy and private access to the beach. Each bungalow sports 4,000 square feet of relaxation space, with two master bedrooms, three baths, a private swimming pool, whirlpool spa, full kitchen and an opulent lanai. The CanoeHouse restaurant is a place you can dine multiple times because of the menu variance. The Francis I’l Brown North & South golf courses on the property are stunning, the former site of the Senior Skins Game.
The pool circles like a cove just in front of the Terrace restaurant, and then it is just a few feet to the beach and covered chairs. In paradise, you don’t have to walk far to get from one part of heaven to another.
In the same coastal area, the Fairmont Orchid, a former Ritz-Carlton, has a little different feel similar to a grand plantation estate. An understated entrance expands into a stunning view of the ocean and pools just inside the door.
While the Orchid has two sides to the rooms, each is easy walking distance to the pools, beach, and restaurants. The luxury option here is the Gold Floor, 32 rooms with a personal concierge. The lounge area for this option has their own deluxe breakfast with an ocean view on the private lanais. High tea in the afternoon and attention to your requests make this the best choice.
Just a short hop north is the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, originally commissioned by Laurence Rockefeller in 1965 to compliment the noted Kauna’oa Bay & beach. This resort is a little smaller with 252 various rooms, but the plus is excellent golf or ocean views with classic ambiance.
The newly renovated Copper Bar respects tradition while adding new twists in a setting with magnificent ocean views. The beachside Hau Tree restaurant features a weekly clambake that might bring back Elvis, it’s that good. And, the former Kauna’oa Bar & Grill is now the Kauna’oa Ballroom, so the Mauna Kea can now accommodate meetings and indoor events.
And, don’t forget the golf here as two varying course styles please any golf pallet. The Hapuna course rises from the ocean to over 700 feet elevation, with just about every hole having natural topography twists and overlooks of the ocean. The Mauna Kea course is a little lower and lush, with the signature par 3, 267-yard over water, up a cliff, into a mist to get it on the green.
Culinary diversions are relatively close, and it’s nice to get somewhere different during the stay. The Lava Lava Beach Club on A-bay features an open-air dining and bar, a weekend Bloody Mary brunch, excellent island fish dishes and entertainment most nights. Combine shopping and dining at Tommy Bahama with a shirt, a cucumber smash cocktail and coconut shrimp.
Go vegetarian with Under The Bodhi Tree, started by a former chef at the Fairmont. If you want to go where farm to table began in Hawaii, head up to Waimea and Merriman’s. For over 20 years, they have been growing their own produce, and it goes right to the table with authentic Hawaiian dishes.
If something natural is in the activity plans, then go towards Kona and the NELHA Grand Tour at the Natural Energy Lab where they turn sea water into energy. For the adventurous, consider a trip up to the Mauna Loa Observatory/NOAA weather and climate station. Climate change is measured and coordinated from this site so your scientific curiosity can get stoked from one of the scheduled tours.