Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Hualalai, Big Island
Four Seasons Hualalai, Big Island
A favorite among Hollywood royalty, the Big Island’s Four Seasons is more secluded than its sister property on Maui. It sits on 32 acres of palm-fringed coastline, with little else for miles in any direction, other than two exclusive golf courses and some of the most expensive vacation homes in the state. Yet, conveniently, the hotel is only a 15-minute drive from Kona International Airport, and it isn’t uncommon for guests to fly in, park themselves at the resort, and never leave. Why would they? It’s an immaculate, ingenious playground, shamelessly verdant against the area’s prodigious black lava. There are seven pools to choose from, including one rock-walled rectangle in the ocean, and another man-made lagoon stocked with thousands of reef fish for guaranteed snorkeling success. Kids can camp overnight in a rock amphitheater. Lovebirds can have candlelit dinners on the beach. Even the accommodations are a Polynesian fantasy, with tropical woods and gauzy bed canopies; many have outdoor, lava-rock showers. All that, along with a tiki torch–lit beachfront, an Italian head chef, a swank sushi bar, a staff that treats every guest like Hollywood royalty, and honest-to-goodness cultural cred (the on-site museum and library are well worth visiting), and it’s easy to understand why one would happily pay a king’s ransom to spend a few days here.
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Don’t be fooled by the scorched-earth look of the surrounding hood. All along the seafront of the Hualalai area are the private homes of billionaires. To mingle with the hoi polloi in Kailua-Kona, the biggest town on the island’s east coast, you’ll need to drive about 30 minutes.
Need to Know
Rooms: 243 guest rooms, including 51 suites and villas. From $795. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: Two of the three restaurants are right on the water’s edge. The Beach Tree, the more casual, is that rare combo—tropical Italian, which works surprisingly well (Hawaii-grown tomatoes should be required on all bruschetta). Ulu, home of the priciest breakfast buffet on the island, has a sushi cocktail lounge and a mostly seafood menu. The steakhouse, overlooking the Hualalai Golf Course, is open for dinner only. Spa and gym details: The fitness club has a rock-climbing wall and basketball court, as well as eight tennis courts and an 82-foot lap pool. The spa has an apothecary where patrons choose among 40-plus ingredients for their aromatherapy scrub.
Who it's best for: Pool people (the beach is long and lovely but not ideal for swimming); movie studio execs (there’s plenty of networking to be done around the Beach Tree bar); families with young children (the kids’ pool has toys aplenty and pint-sized chaises). Our favorite rooms: Other than the suites and villas, all steps from the ocean, the standard rooms in Bungalow 9 are the best for privacy and beach views. Upstairs units have lanais with prime ocean views; downstairs rooms have delightful outdoor showers. Good to know: The Four Seasons Hualalai is helping to fund a massive reforestation project on the slopes of Mauna Kea. Guests who want to participate can take a helicopter (or a car) to the site to plant their own koa tree. In return, they’ll receive the exact GPS coordinates of their seedlings, which they can watch grow over time via Google Earth.