A King's Retreat
by Alain Gayot
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai Review
The Island of Hawaii is rich in history, and the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka'upulehu takes full advantage of it. Boasting four resorts (Wailea, Manele Bay, Koele and Hualalai) in the Hawaiian Islands, the Four Seasons chain offers a setting for everyone. Hualalai is prized by repeat guests who fight for availability during the busy holiday season. With rates starting at $795, the resort is amongst the most expensive in the state, but rates stay rather stable year-round. So pick a date and get ready for a break from the bustle back at home. Although the island offers many opportunities to explore, the idea here is to park yourself at Historic Ka'upulehu and enjoy all of its services and amenities. The 895-acre resort was built in 1995 in a lava flow from its namesake Hualalai Volcano on a half-mile stretch of the North Kona coast. With anchialine ponds, bays and beaches, the resort is an idyllic setting for romance, activities, families and even (possibly hard to justify) quaint corporate meetings.
Return guests might develop a preference for a certain room, but the Four Seasons keeps things interesting with ongoing additions and renovations. Room types include 192 standard, 635-square-foot guest rooms at $995 per night, 1,050-square-foot Deluxe Suites at $1,195, and two Presidential-style villas with one to three bedrooms: Makaloa on the edge of the Waiakauhi Pond comes in at 2,600 to 3,800 square feet and Hawaii Loa, set on the beach with its own plunge pool, offers 5,500 to 6,100 square feet for up to $10,000 a night.
One of the key factors in selecting a room is to pick the pool you want to hang at. Will it be the new, adults-only Palm Grove pool with a swim up bar and infinity edge? Anchialine ponds are an endemic feature to the island of Hawaii. They occur when sea water mixes with ground spring water in naturally shaped ponds. They offer their own micro environment and are a natural aquarium, very convenient for keeping fresh fish for inhabitants. Hawaiian Kings capitalized on this concept and sometimes expanded them to support their population... and guess what? Not only does the Four Seasons Hualalai have a few natural ones, it also built its very own King's Pond where you can swim and snorkel with some 5,000 fish including spotted eagle rays.
Back to current civilization, the Beach Tree Pool is a rectangular-shaped salt chlorine system pool that feels more like a beach club, complete with cabanas and the Beach Tree Bar & Grill. Families will definitely want to hang at the Sea Shell Pool with its waterfall and a small Keiki Pool next to it, featuring a sandy beach entry designed for any small child that might have escaped from the Kids For All Seasons activity room. Teenagers also get a clubhouse and can benefit from the Alakai Nalu beach activities program. Another option is the Fitness (lap) Pool at the Hualalai Spa, but it's slightly more remote from any accommodations. Finally there is the Ocean Pool, which is carved out of the oceanfront lava rock and measures a total of 656 feet in length, where you'll often swim with the local honu (green turtles). One of the five crescent-shaped clusters of thatched units is built around the eighteenth hole of the Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course. All rooms come with a private lanai and a toaster (no kidding!), while lower units boast an outdoor shower.
If all this made you hungry, there is an array of opportunities to load up on anything from a Japanese breakfast to a lavish barbecue on the beach via a gourmet meal or a simple burger. While 'ULU Ocean Grille & Sushi Lounge offers Asian-influenced ocean fare, Beach Tree delivers Mediterranean flavors. You can go to the Surf Shack, head to the Hualalai Coffee Company, the Lava Lounge, the Hualalai Grille, the Residents' Beach House or relax and order food at any of the pools.
Hualalai Spa is a space to disconnect from the hotel — as if you needed to do that — by hiding in an outdoor hale massage room for an apothecary or acupuncture treatment and finishing in the open-air garden, complete with a boutique, fitness center and yoga studio.
For ritzy shopping, Seaside Luxe boutique and Hildgund Jewelers are located in the lower level of the lobby and both are fit for the king's queen. She will also be able to browse around at the Seaside Boutique at the spa or at the Club Shop. Further up the resort road, a short walk from your room, is the Hualalai Trading Company where you'll find necessities, T-Shirts, souvenirs and food items.
Activities abound and you can choose from horseback riding, tennis, hiking, rock climbing, basketball and volleyball. Or, trust the friendly ocean ambassadors of the Alakai Nalu (leaders of the waves) to sharpen your skills at water sports such as snorkeling, scuba diving, stand up paddling, canoeing.... Serious golfers visiting this official PGA Tour Resort should sign up for a tee time at the 7,100-yard, Jack Nicklaus course, where you can take a private lesson or participate in one of the free weekly clinics. Afterward, head up to the Hualalai Grille, which overlooks the eighteenth hole, for a salad or a burger.
Uncle Earl with his knowledgeable associates will greet you and tell stories at the Kaupulehu Cultural Center and discuss where the early settlers might have come from and what their customs were. The resort hosts many events, from a daily lei making class to a winemaker dinner to a concert at the Hoku Amphitheatre, so be sure to check the schedule, which might help you pick a date for your visit. Should you want to go into town, or for some island exploration, you can rent a car on site for a day. The concierge will be happy to help with any reservations you'd like to make, whether for a restaurant, helicopter tour, night dive with manta rays, etc.
With no building taller than a palm tree, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Kaupulehu promises to deliver an authentic experience in a natural setting. If you truly want to feel like a king, you now know where to go.
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