Kohala Coast Resorts – a Perfect Hawaiian Vacation

             I bet you can clearly conceptualize a Hawaiian vacation, whether or not you’ve been to the remote but famed island chain. Colorful flowered shirts, luaus, perfect weather and pineapple in frozen cocktails are pervasive both in your imagination and in reality on each of the Hawaiian Islands.
            “People tend to want to see Honolulu on their first trip to Hawaii, and then maybe they try Maui. But once they get to experience a visit to the Big Island, this is where they come back again and again,” said Sharon Sakai, director of the Kohala Coast Resort Association over beer battered fresh fish tacos in the historic Mauna Kea Golf Course’s clubhouse.
            The Big Island (actually called “Hawai’i, offers expansive, earthy, wide-open landscapes and non-touristy breathing room in an authentic Hawaiian environment. All of the other Hawaiian Islands combined would fit on the mountainous volcanic terrain of the island. The low-rise, but big-name, natural resorts and residential developments, only minutes from the tiny Kona-Kailua Airport, are spread out sparsely along the warm and scenic Kohala Coast. A simple left turn out of the airport will send you past the The Four Seasons Hualalai; Kona Village Resort; Waikoloa Hilton and Marriott, Mauna Lani, Mauna Kea, Fairmont Orchid, and the Hapuna Beach Prince, but the drive is less like a line-up of stores in a shopping mall and more like leafy oasis after oasis along the dramatic lava fields.
            Are you visiting the Big Island to rest and relax with the solitude of the sun and surf? Or do you want to make the Kohala Coast your personal Pacific playground? You get both opportunities. Easily the most restful, languid “come as you are; stay where you are” vacation option is the Kona Village Resort, the subtle, low-rise neighboring sister to the famed Hualalai. From across a black, barren lava field the road leading into Kona Village Resort becomes a crushed shell path under shady trees until you reach the grass-roofed reception hut, where you are greeted by name immediately with a traditional floral lei and a glass of rum punch. Your rental car is then hidden from view during your stay, which is one of the ways Kona Village ensures the Polynesian environment remains peaceful. As the very first resort created on the Kohala Coast, Kona Village has an authentic, organic feel – as if you’re lost on a desert island. Torches light your way through the property.
Your guestroom, a private bungalow called a “hale,” puts you directly on the soothing, sloshing ocean, lounging on your front lanai or swinging in a tree-covered hammock. Be assured you will not be disturbed, because you will have no phone, no television, no radio, and no internet portal in your hale. Of course, your mobile phone will work, and there are complimentary computer stations concealed in the concierge office, but it’s the sound of the sea, the soft chirping of birds, and the otherwise silence, you’ve really come for, isn’t it?
Just down the shoreline, beyond the tiki totem pole, lies the resort’s beach and water sports area and subtle gourmet restaurants which offer an all-inclusive option. You can take every meal in an open-air environment, including breakfast with fresh pineapple, star fruit, dragon fruit, guava, papaya, mango, and coconut French toast.
Kona Village Resort stages what’s known as the island’s most authentic, upbeat Hawaiian Luau every Wednesday and Friday night in a natural setting of the wooded property, serving kalua pig, lomi lomi salmon, and poi before the fire eater and dazzling hula dancers take the stage just across a fishpond.
If you’re not dining on fish, you’re swimming with them. Scuba, hidden snorkel sights, boogie boards, stand up paddle boards, surf boards, windsurfers, outrigger canoes, sailboats, whale watching, deep sea fishing, and other ocean activities are available at the beach each day. Snorkeling with a dive propulsion “scooter” is the most unique option, with no experience needed. You’ve seen the devices in James Bond movies. Just like 007, you don a wetsuit – which is cool enough – and grab a small, torpedo like device which, with the push of a button, propels you through and under the water once you wade in from the shore. A guide leads you to a depth of about 40 feet for a close up look at green sea turtles, manta rays and colorful parrot fish in their natural environment. The experience lasts over and hour and costs about $100 plus a tip for your aqua man guide.
If you’re not the swimming type, you can enjoy a 30-minute trip on an Atlantis Submarine, which departs from the pier in the town of Kona, about 20 minutes away, and takes you to a depth of 100 feet to see shipwrecks, a coral reef, and even, on occasion, whales. The safe, pleasant trip is well-worth the $40 per-passenger price tag.
For information on planning your Hawaiian escape, visit www.AtlantisAdventures.com (800) 548-6262; www.KonaVillage.com  (808) 325-5555; or www.KohalaCoastResortAssociation.com

Michael Patrick Shiels may be contacted at MPSbigshow@aol.com

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