At a Glance
The ultimate luxury resort on the Big Island, the swanky Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Big Island complex is a destination in itself (and it recently underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation).
The Standout: The brilliant layout with lushly planted gardens and multiple pools—one more scenic than the next—that give a luxurious sense of space Don’t Miss: Learn from the team of marine biologists with newly added experiences including eagle ray feedings and tide pool tours, at the updated King’s Pond, a swimmable aquarium that’s home to thousands of tropical fish.
- Lovely views and open space in every bungalow-style room
- The beautiful grounds, with multiple pools, tennis courts and a championship golf course
- The ‘Ulu restaurant, one of the best on the Big Island
Every one of the 243 rooms and suites at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Big Island is a pleasure. Beautiful textiles that reflect the colors of the sea make the spaces feel vibrant; the bathrooms come with deep plunging tubs; and the newest suites have spa-like steam showers. All accommodations also have roomy outdoor spaces, whether it’s a patio, terrace or outdoor shower hugged in lava rock. The resort’s clever footprint snakes along the tip of the 865-acre Hualalai development. Its two-story building clusters, which blend beautifully into the lushly landscaped grounds, are crescent-shaped and surround the property’s different pools, including a stunning see-and-be-seen extravaganza with breezy, blue-and-white canvas cabanas and sweeping Pacific views. There’s also a large, free-form kids’ pool, complete with a waterfall and wading area for toddlers. The layout assures that both honeymooners and families with children can harmoniously co-exist here, especially as activities to keep the little ones happy abound.
For example, there’s King’s Pond, one of 13 on-property ponds that were lovingly restored and restocked by on-site naturalist David Chai. Some 3,000 reef fish, representing 65 species, mingle in King’s Pond, making it a fabulous place for kids to test their snorkeling skills in a controlled environment. The spotted eagle ray is a popular one to see and feed during supervised outings. “There’s a real interest amongst the kids to find out about our sea life, whether it’s the turtles on the beach or the fish at King’s Pond, which I take to be a very positive sign for the future,” says Chai who is currently working on a proposal that would turn most of the surrounding coastline into a marine reserve. “There’s nothing like it yet in Hawaii,” he says of the project, explaining that his vision includes a 10-year no-take policy to replenish the local fish population. “We want to try and manage the resources we have in a positive and sustainable way,” he says.
Sustainability also figures prominently in the menus of the two restaurants, Beach Tree (also redone during the renovations) and ‘Ulu. Most of the produce and some meat served come from nearby farms. For guests interested in Hawaiian farming (Kona’s world-renowned coffee plantations are nearby), the resort can arrange for a special farm visit excursion with chef James Babian, who prepares an on-property lunch with the freshly picked ingredients.
For active types, the Big Island offers a lot to do, including hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding, but most visitors seem to stay put thanks to myriad on-site options. There’s a Jack Nicklaus-designed, 18-hole championship golf course, three large pools (including one for laps), tennis courts, a climbing wall, a state-of-the-art gym, multiple workout classes per day and a cultural center where you can try your hand (or hips) at hula and learn to bead a shell-crafted bracelet. The award-winning Hualalai Spa includes a lengthy treatment menu and four indoor-outdoor treatment rooms, as well as a serene relaxation garden. (It is open exclusively for hotel guests or renters at Hualalai Resorts’ private residences). Nearby Kona Village offers extensive water sports (they have the more gentle ocean access), including outrigger canoeing, snorkeling, scuba, paddleboarding and surfing.
What continues to convert visitors into instant Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Big Island devotees is the friendly and expert service. Many of the longtime staff has seen families return year after year. They know the kids who went from toddlers to teenagers, and they intuitively seem to know when to pamper and when to retreat. The Four Seasons Hualalai is poised for its next chapter.
Who Should Stay
Couples and families whose ideal vacation includes lots of together time at the beach, the pool or in the gardens of a beautiful property. Those who want the resort to be their focus during their stay will appreciate the Four Seasons. For travelers who are interested in renting a car and venturing off-property more frequently, Mauna Lani Bay (which also has a much larger waterfront) may be a better alternative.
Written by Simone Girner