Kohala Coast Travelogue: Snorkeling with a Spotted Eagle Ray at the Four Seasons Hualalai
The Big Island’s Kohala Coast has become an enclave for Hawaii’s top-notch beachfront resorts, which provide travelers with fine dining options, superb spa treatments and world-class golf courses. But don’t expect to have to put up with a pretentious or stuffy ambiance. Even the finest resorts have adopted the region’s love for laidback luxury. Here’s the third part of our Kohala Coast travelogue, a version of which was published by JustLuxe. While most resorts on the Kohala Coast have amazing ocean views, picture-perfect pools and first-rate service, only one has an exclusive snorkeling pond carved out of natural lava rock. The King’s Pond at the Four Seasons Hualalai resort is filled with over 75 different species of tropical fish, including one fearless but friendly spotted eagle ray. This all-natural snorkeling pond is open to all guests and snorkeling gear is provided at no extra cost.
Located closest to the Kona airport, the Four Seasons Hualalai is a winding collection of two-story bungalows and one-story villa suites, either oceanfront or poolside. All guest rooms have a private lanai to soak in the Pacific and the resort’s stunning green landscaping. On the top floor of the bungalows, the rooms get splendid views and fresh breezes from the ocean; meanwhile the guest rooms on the garden level come with a lava rock-walled outdoor shower.Besides the King’s Pond mentioned above, the Four Seasons Hualalai has four other pools. The main Beach Tree Pool with a wooden deck and crisp white towels and umbrellas, the family Sea Shell Pool, an Olympic-sized lap pool near the sports club, an ocean “pool” carved out of the beachfront, and the adults-only, saltwater Palm Grove Pool with a swim up bar. I’ll buy you a tequila shot if you can guess which one was my favorite. The playful bartenders at the Palm Grove Pool serve fresh cocktails, signature mojitos and Mai Tais until sunset. Everything on the drinks menu tastes like a $18 sip of paradise, but my personal favorites were the Mauna Kea ‘Rita, the bar’s version of a margarita made with Patron and guava liqueur; the Thyme Berry Cooler made with organic vodka, fresh berries, and thyme; and the ginger and coconut water mojito.For dinner, sit beachfront at the Beach Tree and catch the sunset while browsing over the meticulous menu featuring Mediterranean and California-inspired dishes. Every item on the menu is very considered. The zucchini and broccoli pizza uses a pricey pesto imported from Sicily (otherwise, the resort says that 75 percent of ingredients for all onsite restaurants are sourced locally), and the honey-roasted chicks is the one chicken dish that foodies actually rave about. Sushi and seafood aficionados should try the tiki torch-lit ‘ULU Ocean Grill with a fancier vibe and the wine list to match. The wonderfully eclectic menu at ‘ULU features lobster pad thai, wood oven-roasted miso-glazed kampachi and Dungeness crab fritters dipped in celery-mustard aioli.We’d be remiss not to mention the level of service at the Four Seasons Hualalai. When a traveling friend complained about his sunburn, one of the service staff literally broke off fresh leaves from an aloe vera plant nearby and brought them over. For a quick jaunt, head to Makalawena Beach and Manini’owali Beach, both local favorites in the nearby Kekaha Kai State Park. The water at these secluded coves is so crystal-clear you’ll think for an instance you’re swimming in gin.