Four Seasons Resort: Hualalai at historic Ka'upulehu

By Lottie Tagupa, Contributor

KAUPULEHU KONA, Hawaii - The 10-minute drive from the Keahole Kona airport northward along Queen Kaahumanu Highway is relatively short one. The scenery is filled with great expanses of sloping terrain dominated by acres of undeveloped ancient lava fields and shrubbery that continue to the shoreline far beyond.

The setting along this lonely stretch of unlighted highway is serene and secluded. A simple lava rock sign with the word "Hualalai" on the left of the highway marks the turn-off to the hotel entrance. The two lane road cuts through the lava field and snakes slowly toward the ocean. The treeless and seemingly lifeless terrain reveals clues of life, luxury, and relaxation up ahead.

Upon arrival at the hotel's porte cochere, the baggage and automobile is swept away by parking valets compliments of the hotel. Eager to please attendants offer fresh flower lei, chilled tropical juice, and oshibori or hot towels to welcome and refresh.

The main lobby is quiet, airy and intimate, done in tropical woods and accents where cool scented sea breezes fill the air and panoramic views of the magnificent West Hawaii landscape is the backdrop for the hotel's registration desk.

The 243-room Four Season's Hualalai is not the largest nor the flashiest nor currently the most popular of Hawaii's hotels. However, this resort certainly has all the makings of what will surely become one of Hawaii's most revered destination experiences.

If you can imagine the richness of Hawaii's cultural history, warm hospitality, and the secluded, natural oceanfront setting on the Big Island's sunny Kohala Coast combined with the personalized service of what the Four Seasons is internationally known for, then you may have a glimpse of what awaits you at the Hualalai.

Grouped in several low-rise clusters of four to eight rooms, the guest accommodations are done in natural tones in a contemporary Asian/Pacific style. Slate, stone, and hardwoods are featured in the designs.

Over 600-square feet in size, each guest room includes twice daily housekeeping service, a walk-in closet, concealed color cable television, CD player, video player, terry cloth and cotton robes, personal safe, fax line, refrigerated wet bar, and a large bathroom. Some of the standard ground floor rooms have direct access to a private garden with outdoor lava rock shower.

Complimentary shoe shines and sandal repair are available to guests as a part of their stay. All these amenities are just steps from the secluded half mile stretch of white sand beach.

However, the guest rooms are just the beginning. The resort has been raising Moi (rhymes with boy,) or Pacific threadfin in fishponds since December 1996. In ancient Hawaii, moi was the most desired fish of the ali'i or ancient Hawaiian royalty.

Ancient Hawaiian commoners built fishponds along the shoreline to raise and harvest this fish, but weren't allowed to consume them. All catches were exclusively for the consumption by ali'i. Moi is a moist, mild flavored flesh, white to light gray in color and best prepared steamed, baked, poached, grilled, or smoked. The resort has also been cultivating their own Pacific White Shrimp or Opae (pronounced oh PIE) as it's known to locals, since 1997.

Cultivated in brackish water of the resort ponds, the opae are received from the Oceanic Institute when they are the size of mosquito larvae. Over the course of about four months they flourish into sizes that range from 16 to 18 count per pound before they are harvested for the resorts three restaurants.

Speaking of restaurants, featuring many health conscious selections, dining at the Hualalai is more of an outdoor experience than an indoor one. In addition to indoor seating areas, the resorts three restaurants have lanais or patios where outdoor dining is enjoyed under the bright star lit canopy of the Kona Coast.

The signature restaurant is called the Pahui'a. Seating 140, it serves international and local specialties for breakfast and dinner. At pool side, the Beach Tree Bar and Grill is open for all day dining from 11:00am to 8:00pm. Dinner specials here include a Saturday evening "Surf, Sand and Stars Barbecue, "Italian Night " on Wednesdays, and "Asian Night" on Mondays.

The Hualalai Club Grill, overlooks the 18th green of the resort's championship golf course and has unobstructed views of the Kona Coast's fabulous sunsets. For those who are interested in dining in privacy, in-room dining is always an option for all meals.

Most serious golfers have probably already heard of the Hualalai's paradise for golfers. The first golf course in Hawaii to be designated as a PGA tour facility, the Nicklaus Course at Hualalai Golf Club hosts the annual Senior PGA MasterCard Championship. For the exclusive use of registered guests and residents of the resort, this par 72 championship course was designed by Jack Nicklaus, and is a wonderful combination of nature and challenge.

The course fees include golf car, driving range, and clubhouse fees. Club rental featuring Callaway Big Bertha graphite shafted irons and woods are available, Foot-Joy golf shoe rental is available.

The course winds around ancient lava formations and over ancient fishponds. Hole 17 is the Hualalai's signature hole. This unique par three incorporates the shoreline and crashing surf of the blue Pacific Ocean. This course is a vivid visual display of jet black lava flows, the immaculate landscaping of the greens and fairways, the azure blue ocean, and white billowy clouds above.

For those interested in perfecting their technique, they can find contentment at the Hualalai where there are complimentary clinics and putting contests on Saturdays... The full service facility has a pro shop, cart and bag storage areas, a 320-yard practice area, and driving range.

This area includes 30 hitting stations, tees at both ends, three target greens, a 9,000 square foot practice putting green, a sand bunker, and a 27,000 square foot short game practice area. In addition there is a 14,0000 square foot golf clubhouse adjacent to the course. Restful and relaxing, the clubhouse has separate men's and women's locker rooms providing a quiet place to change and relax.

For those who are serious about their relaxation, the Hualalai has a fantastic spa and sports facility. Relaxation and rejuvenation, is also an indoor/outdoor experience.

The spa has 17 indoor/outdoor body treatment rooms, outdoor sauna and steam rooms, and private indoor/outdoor showers. There is a full "menu" of international theme treatments such as Hawaiian Lomi Lomi, Shiatsu, and Thai massages along with a multitude of wraps, masques, and scrubs from which to choose.

This facility also offers a wealth of fitness and sports related activities including a sand volleyball court, an open aired aerobic and equipment gym outfitted with Cybex strength machines, treadmills, stationary bicycles, stair steppers, rowers, and free weights. Activities at the Hualalai Sports and Spa Club include complimentary fitness classes, morning shoreline power walks, pick-up basketball games on the resort's half-court area, and sand volleyball. Also featured are resort bicycle rentals, swim lessons, and hiking.

Over at the Hualalai Tennis Club, there are 8 tennis courts, four of which are lighted. The court fees are $12 per day with complimentary racquet rentals. Play against the programmable ball machine or for $35 per set, you can take a whack at the resort tennis pro. Beat him and you play for free.

The Hualalai has no less than six pools. The lap pool is part of the Sports and Spa club, a kid's pool, adults only pool, the main Beach Tree pool, and the very special and unique King's Pond.

About 16 feet at it's deepest and with temperatures in the range of 76- 78 degrees F, the King's Pond is a 2.5 million gallon lava rock pond created out of an ancient volcanic pahoehoe lava flow. It rises and falls with the ocean tides and is fed from both the ocean and natural artesian wells through underground channels.

The pond also is a snorkeling and diving "aquarium" where guest can swim with over 3,500 tropical fish. There are over 40 species including yellow and convict tangs, milk fish, unicorn fish and three very special Spotted Eagle Rays. Included for guests are complimentary SCUBA lessons are available between 10am and 4pm daily.

The PGA Senior Skins Game makes January a very busy month at Hualalai and so goes the rest of the winter, so book early. The resort offers great Golf and Spa packages and the family packages are also very special. The best rooms are those with the garden shower, so be sure to request for it. Peaceful, serene, comfortable, and luxuriously casual, the Four Seasons Hualalai is certainly one of Hawaii's wonderful retreats.

It's a secluded place where the upscale amenities and activities are combined with privacy and the natural elements of the surrounding area to make for a purely wonderful experience. The Four Seasons Hualalai at Ka'upulehu is definitely what life should always be and what heaven certainly must be.

Lottie Tagupa, Contributor

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