Say the words “Four Seasons” and you know you’re going to have a terrific time with A-plus incredible service. And that’s precisely what we experienced at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, where, as one of the staffers said to us, “There is no ‘No.’” As Ciro Tacinelli, the Director of Marketing told us, “Everyone here is a VIP.” That means that whatever your request, big or small, it is done with a smile and a pleasure to provide you with great service, whether it’s opening the gym after hours, providing you with complimentary laundry facilities and detergent, or wowing you with a romantic, private dinner-for-two on the beach.
First things first. The resort recently unveiled a 15-month, $40 million enhancement, showcasing 20 new suites, a sweeping spa transformation, renovated beachfront bar, lounge and restaurant, and stylish new retail boutiques. Gloriously revitalized, the award-winning resort (a AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five-Star) has unquestionably re-established its reputation as an unparalleled yet understated destination that honors the essence of Hawaiian design, culture and tradition. Adding even more to the mix? The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai was also named “World’s Best Beach Resort” by Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report.
And here’s a tip: Beginning June 21, 2010, the resort is enticing friends and family with a special offer: Book one room or applicable suite for a minimum of four nights, and you’ll get a second room or suite for the same period of time at a 50% discount. Prices begin at $775 for the first room per night, with the second room at $387.50 per night, in the golf oceanview category. Other special summer offers include a $500 resort credit with every consecutive four-night stay.
Rooms At The Top
We stayed in an oceanview suite that thrilled us, as it was so close to the pool and the beach ($1,000 per night). Room number 2410 features all the amenities and creature comforts that you’ll love: the signature Four Seasons bed (which is so comfortable, it is available for purchase and many celebrities have done so). If we could fit the bed into our suitcase, trust us – we would. Rooms also feature plasma TV screen, refrigerator, coffeemaker, in-room safe, ironing board and iron, L’Occitane amenities and much more. Management even brought in an extra table that we set up as a desk, to make our room even more efficient.
The best room at the resort is room number 3203, the 6,500-sq.-ft Hawaii Loa Presidential Suite that costs from $10,000-$12,000 per night, and is frequently scored by CEOs and VIPs. This amazing area, which just underwent a half-million-dollar renovation, boasts a pantry that is ideal for parties, fridge that’s fully stocked with alcohol and juices, an outdoor shower, a private beach and Jacuzzi, and much more.
The complimentary services that come with this villa include roundtrip transportation to the airport, two spa treatments at the Hualalai Spa (see Deb’s spa review on JustLuxe, entitled “Four Seasons Hualalai Spa: Distinctive Treatments that Dazzle” and a cabana on the beach. The resort commissioned a local artist to create artwork for the walls, and the result in this suite is a lovely feather work creation that adorns one of the walls, as well as a handmade small canoe that sat upon a table. As Mr. Tacinelli explained to us, “We can have this same artist create a similar piece just for you – that’s the idea.”
To make your stay as authentic as possible, we also suggest you visit the resort’s Kaupulehu Cultural Center, which is great for kids of all ages. In this beautiful Hawaiian facility, you can take advantage of daily itineraries that include the art of oral history; shell crafting; feather art; ukulele lessons; and lei-making, so that you can experience a sense of place, and understand Hawaiian culture. Here, the staff shares the spirit of the land and people through exhibits, hands-on interactive programs and their personal knowledge and experiences growing up in Hawaii.
Another unusual amenity that the property offers is the way that it lets you experience all that the resort offers, with its 200 activities or “Voyages.” The Kaupulehu Cultural Center activities for example, fall under “Mauka to Makai,” meaning “from mountain to ocean.” “Sky and Mountain” activities take guests on hikes into mysterious lava tubes; while Fire and Earth might include a nine-hole shotgun golf outing at sunset that includes cocktails and appetizers, called, “Putts, Pupus, Drives and Drinks.” “Fire and Earth” also features a visit to the spa, with its amazing Apothecary, in which a trained staff member will assist you in creating your own blend for your treatment. You’ll choose from a variety of indigenous ingredients including ground macadamia nuts, coconut, red sea salt and lava mud. (Deb created a unique concoction of cocoa and orange, and had a divinely decadent treatment that she highly recommends.) The menu of spa services include aromatherapy, hydro-lipid facials, and Swedish and lomi-lomi massage. Also under “Fire and Earth” are tennis activities in which you can take private lessons or play with the resident pro. “Wind and Wave” takes you on ocean adventures that range from surfing and stand-up paddle boarding to scuba diving. And while there are charges for these individual activities, there is no daily “resort fee” that you find at other properties.
Food, Glorious Food
The pulse of the resort is the Beach Tree restaurant, with its al fresco dining experience offering expansive water views. We had a fantastic lunch there – by all means order the hummus on fresh-baked flatbread; the superb grilled artichokes; and the mahi fish tacos – it is some of the most stellar cuisine you will ever dine on and prove completely satisfying. New Chef de Cuisine Nick Mastrascusa oversees a menu featuring the best of California with Italian influences. Here, daiquiris, mojitos and mai tais are also made to order with fresh tropical fruits plucked from nets hanging from the rafters over the bar. “We are very focused on service, cuisine and the guest experience,” Mr. Tacinelli said. He added that that Chef Mastrascusa wishes to offer “seasonal, regional and artisanal” choices, and in fact, even works with local farmers when they are still planting the crops, so that he can work the local indigenous ingredients into his menu. Mr. Tacinelli explained that the resort now allows untucked shirts and Capri pants to be worn by the servers, to make this atmosphere as relaxed as possible. “We want to make it fun while offering you the finest food possible,” he said.
If you’re seeking a similar stellar experience, there’s no other choice but a reservation at Pauhia, its signature seafood restaurant that overlooks the beach, just steps from the sand. Chef de cuisine Jacob Anaya has further refined the restaurant’s focus, offering fresh, artisanal and sustainable local seafood and produce. “It’s a thrill to have access to an amazing array of high-quality seafood that is locally caught or harvested from a Kona aquaculture center where the water is piped up from 2,000 feet below the ocean’s surface,” says chef Anaya. “And Big Island farmers grow just about any type produce I want, from baby lettuces and juicy tomatoes to Japanese mushrooms.” Make your reservation here at sunset, and ask for Table Five – you’ll have a front-row-and-center view of the ocean “theatre” in front of you (and with any luck, you’ll see the famous ‘green flash’ at sunset). Ladies, this is the place to wear your little black dress and your Manolo Blahnik shoes, and remember to bring a camera for a picture in front of the lit tiki torches. We highly recommend the signature catch served in a sizzling sesame oil, a light dish that will leave just enough room for dessert: the chocolate lava cake.
Other dining experiences at the resort include the Lava Lounge for coolers and cocktails; the Hualalai Grille offering the best in Hawaiian Regional Cuisine; and the Hualalai Coffee company serving gourmet coffee drinks and smoothies.
For a true inimitable experience, the resort will also arrange a private, exclusive dinner for you on the beach. We actually had this experience the last time we were at the resort, and we can tell you: it is the ultimate luxury, and a truly romantic way to dine. Rates start at $600 for two people, including three-course dinner, private server, non-alcoholic beverages and two floral leis. The prices range up to $975 for two, which includes all of the former plus a guitarist or ukulele player for one hour and a hula dancer.
Oceans of Activities
Looking for a class menagerie of fish? Then look no further than King’s Pond, a 1.8 million-gallon lava rock snorkeling and scuba “aquarium” where guests can swim alongside tropical marine life. Sculpted out of an old 18th-century lava flow, King’s Pond is fed by natural springs and ocean water that enters through underground channels that rise and fall with the ocean tide. (Make sure to sit in the sun beforehand to get heated up – the water can be chilly!) King’s Pond is home to eagle rays and more than 4,000 fish representing 60 species.
And for an adorable treat that you and the kids will love, you must experience the “Fish Circus,” where the delightful little creatures will swim through hoops, jump on trays and even play soccer. There’s even a flounder that flys into a frying pan!
In all, there are six distinct swimming pools, including the stunning adults-only Beach Tree pool that offers an array of magazines and books; complimentary suntan lotions; and even complimentary leave-in hair conditioner (if you want a DYI beauty treatment). An array of pool services at the Beach Tree and Sea Shell pools are a treat: sunglass cleanings, Evian spritz, fruit kabobs, flavored ice water, cucumber slices for the eyes, cold oshi-bori towels, even pre-loaded iPods.
The Hualalai Sports Club and Spa is fabulous. The sports facility features an open-air equipment gym and aerobics gym; 25-meter Olympic-style lap pool; half-basketball court; LifeFitness strength machines, treadmills and stationary bicycles; StairMaster stair steppers; rower; spinning bicycles; rock wall; and Rebound Ace surface tennis courts. You’ll never have a reason to bow out of your daily exercise regime here!
Two incomparable golf courses elevate Hualalai to the status of one of the world’s most elite golf resorts. These include the 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Hualalai course and clubhouse and a private Tom Weiskopf-designed 18-hole Keolu Course for the exclusive use of Hualalai members and their guests. The Nicklaus Course provides dramatic views of the ocean from almost every hole, and four tee locations on each hole allow golfers to match personal handicaps to tee location. All holes on the Keolu Course offer panoramic views of the ocean and North Kona coastline.
There’s also a complimentary “Kids For All Seasons” day-club for children, so the little ones can have as much fun as you. These activities include arts and crafts, swimming, eagle-ray feedings, and much more.
Add it all up, and if you looked up the word “Nirvana” in the dictionary, you would find this, and this resort alone. Book here at the Four Seasons Hualalai, and you will be one contented castaway.