In mid-January, Fodor’s map guru, Bob “Tiny Bubbles” Blake, spent a week at the lustrous Four Seasons Hualalai Resort on the Big Island’s Kohala Coast. Bob had a lovely time relaxing by the pool, talking to turtles on the beach, and dousing himself liberally in Hawaii’s famous spirit of aloha.
Why the Four Seasons Hualalai Resort? It was a trip I couldn’t refuse: I was the guest of someone attending an all-expense-paid corporate event. You can send hate mail via my editor.
What did you like most about Hualalai? The buildings are arranged in four crescents and all rooms have ocean views. Mine was on the first floor with a beautiful private beachfront patio/lanai, a perfect retreat for a pre-dinner drink. The room also had an outdoor lava shower, so named for the content of the walls, not what came out of the showerhead, though I suppose molten lava would be the ultimate body scrub. I also liked the fact that the hotel is close to the beach. Each morning, I would stroll down to the area where sea turtles — who can live to be older than Mick Jagger — sun themselves and say hello, being careful not to disturb them. After that, I would follow my usual exhausting schedule: breakfast, pool, whirlpool, pool, beach chair, lunch, pool, nap, beach chair, martini, dinner, show, drink, sleep.
What surprised you? The resort’s Ka’upulehu Cultural Center. I spent a couple of hours one morning with the director, Earl Rodiger, who showed me the exhibits and provided a fascinating overview of Hawaiian history and culture. The center also offers lessons in natural history, Hawaiian language, the ukulele and the hula. (The brochure for this last item read “impress your friends!” I surely would if I broke out in a hula during my weekly staff meeting.) A disappointing surprise was the beach, which was stunning to look at but unswimmable because the currents are too strong and the lava rocks dangerous.
What did you find was essential during your trip? Sunscreen. I’ve never been to a place where the sun is so strong — and I’ve been to Miami, Las Vegas, and Palm Springs. If you show up without sunscreen, or if yours isn’t strong enough, there are bottles of the stuff scattered all over the resort at stations where you can pump liberally from a bottle. Also, if you’re going to be taking advantage of the many spa treatments offered, book your appointment as far in advance as possible.
Did you ever leave the resort? Twice. One morning I went on a “dolphin quest,” where a small group of us snorkeled among two or three hundred friendly dolphins. The snorkelers are encouraged to treat the animals respectfully. There is no chasing or touching allowed. Another morning I went into Kona — the name should be Hawaiian for “souvenir shop” — the nearest town to the resort. At three ABC stores there you can stock up on postcards, t-shirts, macadamia nuts, and other essentials.
What advice do you have for someone staying at Hualalai? Do not overpack. Everything you’ll really need for a week will fit in a carry-on and a knapsack. The resort is pricey but not formal. The only enforced dress code is at Pahu i’a, the resort’s ritziest restaurant, where diners are encouraged to wear “slacks, collared shirts, closed-toe shoes for men and evening resort attire for ladies.” Also, don’t bring black clothes — they’re great in New York, but in Hawaii they’re funereal. Think pastels, Polo, and Pucci, and leave the Prada at home. You’re going to fall in love with this place, but resist it with all your might. One glance at the prices in the residential section will break your heart.