Aloha Kohala: Exploring Hawaii’s Kohala Coast

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Mt. Kilauea keeps erupting but that doesn’t deter the tourists. While Maui and Oahu get the most visitors per year, it’s the Big Island of Hawaii that captures the true spirit of the land. With 11 of the world’s 13 climates, the Big Island has something for everyone, from rainforests to hiking trails to sandy beaches. The Kohala Coast, stretching along more than 20 miles of the Pacific Ocean, is home to the chicest resorts on the island.

Driving from Kona Airport to the Kohala Coast, one is surprised to see large heaps of lava rock rather than the usual greenery associated with Hawaii. The remains of violent eruptions centuries before, the dark fragments give the island its incongruous lunar-like landscape. Even stranger is the graffiti on said rocks. Enterprising locals have used leftover coral, imported into the area in the 1970s to build the two-lane highway, to state their allegiance to sports teams and loved ones.

 A visit to the Kohala Coast wouldn’t be complete without a stay at the fabled Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Built by Laurance Rockefeller in 1965, the Mauna Kea was recently renovated after an earthquake devastated the property in 2006.

On the northwest side of the Kohala Coast lies the award-winning Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. Nestled among 865 acres of lush foliage, the resort includes multi-million-dollar private residences, a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, three restaurants, eight tennis courts, and a spa and sports club. Winding pathways lead guests to a choice of accommodations, from golf-view rooms to premium two-bedroom suites with ocean vistas to private villas. Deluxe suites, which start at $2,500 a night, incorporate much of the natural beauty of the island. Lava rock encapsulates the outdoor, canopy-covered shower. Traditional wicker furniture and native koa wood blend in seamlessly in the expansive living room with its view of the ocean and one of the resort’s many natural fishponds. Airy bathrooms feature full tubs, marble sinks, and large showers. At the other end of the suite sits another water closet complete with a private steam room. Drop a few ounces of eucalyptus oil into the steam capsule and let your worries disappear. A king-sized bed dominates a bedroom complete with a chaise longue and flat-screen television. Breakfast can be enjoyed al fresco on one of the suite’s two lanais or patios.

At the top of the resort sit privately owned residences. Each resident has access to hotel amenities , entrée to an exclusive Tom Wyscoff golf course, golf club, and private excursions such as whale watching and sailing. Residences range in size from two to seven bedrooms and require a one-time fee of $225,000. One five-bedroom home for sale combines Hawaiian, Japanese, and Balinese influences to lovely effect. An open-air plan from entryway to the infinity pool only enhances the feeling of serenity. The resort is almost two-thirds complete, with 200 residences in all. Developers can construct new homes from scratch according to their specifications.

Six miles from Hualalai sits the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows. The resort’s renovated five bungalows, which start at $6,100 a night, appeal to guests who want privacy and luxury but with hotel amenities. Butlers greet guests at the airport with champagne and transport them to the resort via limousine. Each 4,000-square-foot bungalow has open beam roofs; rich, brown koa wood floors; green brocade couches; curly koa tables; and marble baths with hydrotherapy tubs, steam rooms, and outdoor showers. A private pool encompasses the patio area. Separate entrances to the pool, hot tub, and hammock allow two couples to share a villa. A salt-water pond weaves through the bungalows, and the hotel will place special fish into the pond at a guest’s request. Entertain your friends at the well-stocked bar at which the butler serves up cocktails and hors d’oeuvres nightly. Butlers also prepare meals, and one of the hotel’s chefs can create culinary delights, complete with resort-grown herbs, for an extra fee. Relax on the lanai at which you can view whales and the sunset, and don’t forget that the butler is there to serve your every need.

A visit to the Kohala Coast wouldn’t be complete without a stay at the fabled Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Built by Laurance Rockefeller in 1965, the Mauna Kea was recently renovated after an earthquake devastated the property in 2006. The deluxe rooms, starting at $850 a night, were once kitschy but are now examples of modern elegance with sliding doors and panels throughout. Beds are large and airy and decorated in neutral tones with pops of orange or turquoise and the always-present plumeria. Flat-screen televisions are hidden in teak entertainment centers, and half of the rooms look out onto famous Mauna Kea beach. Entire rooms have been eliminated to make space for larger bathrooms. Kohler sinks and Frette linens line the washing area, while a large, two-person tub dominates the stark white bathing area that also includes a rainforest shower and private lanai for sunbathing.

Mauna Kea is also host to 10 gated communities with private residences for sale and rent. The Bluffs, a new home designed by Hawaiian architect Sean Roth, is powered entirely by 150 solar panels. Available for rent for $8,500 a night with a five-night minimum, the four bedroom, 12,000-foot manse is fit for a king or a California governor (Arnold Schwarzenegger recently visited the home). Oversized windows open onto a large lanai with an infinity pool-complete with lava rock-and teak tables and chairs. Watch a movie in the media room. Entertain in the large kitchen with its Viking appliances. Each of the four bedrooms is distinctive and has a hand-carved door. The rooms are awash in neutral tones with colorful bedspreads, ceiling fans, and bathrooms with granite counter tops, Duravit bathtubs, and large outdoor showers, some with foliage and others with plastic balls for play. Residents and their guests also have exclusive access to the private three-hole, practice course on the resort grounds.

The nearby Hapuna Prince Beach Hotel has its own private villa for rental at $7,000. The Hapuna suite is a butler-operated, 8,000-square-foot home with private access to one of the finest snorkeling areas on the island. Decorated in traditional Hawaiian colors, each of the four bedrooms has its own private lanai and bath. Butlers prepare fresh breakfast daily and hors d’oveures nightly.

From deluxe hotel rooms to lavish suites to private villas, the Kohala Coast provides luxury at any price. Visit www.kohalacoastresorts.com for more information.

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