A Review Of The Four Seasons Hualalai On Hawaii’s “Big Island”


Palm-Grove-Pool-v2

In the middle of December, Significant Husband, my two grown children, and I packed up and flew to Hawaii. The Big Island, to be specific. Our destination? The Four Seasons Hualalai. Two years ago we stayed at their sister resort on Maui, this time we thought we’d try remote-ish and volcanic.

Let’s start with a brief overview of the facilities. Catnip to the resort aficionados among us.

The resort consists of:

  • An open-air lobby
  • 6 swimming pools (main rectangular pool, 2 children’s pools, an adult’s only infinity pool with swim-up bar, lap pool, and a salt water pool with fish in it. Yes, fish.)
  • 3 restaurants (Italian at the Beach Tree by the main pool, Asian fusion at ULU  by night/breakfast by morn next to the children’s pool, and the Hualalai Grill steakhouse by the golf course)
  • A number of one-up, one-down rooms and suites, each with their own exit directly outside, no hallways. The one-up rooms have balconied lanais, the one-downs have patios, and an outdoor shower off their bathrooms.
  • A golf course, a spa, several boutiques, a tennis court, a climbing wall. All this stuff is at the top of the resort, and thus invisible when you’re down by the pools and the sea.

As for atmosphere, turns out, FS Hualalai is to FS Maui as Maine is to Miami. Or, as San Francisco is to Los Angeles, and maybe, Austin is to Dallas. As such, it suited our little pod to a T.

Our visit began with a welcome offering, as is the practice at luxury hotels. I’d show you the banana cake but unfortunately I ate it.

Welcome-at-the-Four-Seasons-Hualalai

The bedrooms are simple and serene, inspired by a lower-key Hawaiian aesthetic.

King-Size-Bed-At-The-Four-Seasons-Hualali

The bathroom delivers on requisite fancy stone, but reminds you with wood and a rattan shade that you ain’t in Las Vegas.

Bathroom-at-the-Four-Seasons-Hualalai

Can we all agree that a walk-in closet is a true luxury, even when you’re living from a suitcase? Perhaps especially then, since you can keep you suitcase on a stand inside, right next to your hanging stuff? Wonderful for travel clutter containment. Loved the slate flooring.

Walk-In-Closet-At-The-Four-Seasons-Hualalai

But unsurprisingly, it’s the out of doors that makes the FS Haualali what it is. Here’s the view from our lanai. And it looked like that almost all the time.

Our-Lanai-at-the-Four-Seasons-Hualalai

Except when it looked like this.

Sunrise-from-our-room-at-the-Palm-Grove-hotel

This is an early morning resort. First of all, Hawaii is 2 hours behind even California, so all the American visitors are jet-lagged and up at 6am. The hotel understands, opening breakfast at 6:30am, and the fitness center at 6. Secondly, and infinitely more romantic, the light at sunrise is beyond.

I mean, really.

Yet-Another-Sunrise-Hualalai

Just walking to one of the 3 restaurants to eat becomes an exercise in eyes-rolling-into-back-of-head from beauty. No, I am not exaggerating. I kept gasping, and exclaiming out loud, “The light!” like an actress in a movie about alien landings.

Sunrise-at-the-Four-Seasons-Hualali

In fact, we spent much of the time when we weren’t eating just wandering around. Up the path to the lobby.

Walking-up-to-the-lobby-Four-Seasons-Hualali

Through that lobby.

Lobby-at-the-Four-Seasons-Hualalai

Back down the path towards the main pool, accompanied by the clack-clack of our flip-flops.

The-Main-Pool-at-the-Four-Seasons-Hualalai

Past the children’s pools,

The-Children's-Pool-at-the-Four-Seasons-Hualali

often pausing to gawk at the landscaping. Because it’s a work of art. Here’s the path from the room below ours out to the Palm Grove pool. Look at the layers, the colors, the mix of control and abandon.

Landscaping-at-the-Four-Seasons-Hualalai

But one cannot live on gorgeous alone. Luckily, most of the food at the FS Hualalai is lovely too, with the exception of the Beach Tree. Somehow Italian fare next to the main pool equals yuch. In place of our unfortunate meal, I have a photo of two creatures near and dear to my heart.

Kids-at-Four-Seasons

We ate much better at the other two restaurants. ULU, where the breakfast buffet opens every morning, turns into a lounge/Asian fusion dinner spot at night.

ULU-at-the-Four-Seasons-Hualali

Sushi. Bao. Nom.

Dinner-at-ULU-Hualalai

The Hualalai Grill specializes in steak. I’d show you a picture of my filet mignon but I ate it. Here are some parmesan crisps as understudies, stepping in when the star is indisposed.

Dinner at the Hualalai Grill

And what to do besides eat and wander? We did use the fitness center. Significant Husband with regularity, me just once. Hey, wandering counts as exercise.

Fitness-Center-at-Hualalai-Four-Seasons

Can you believe that space is for working out? It’s actually 3 different buildings, one for classes, one for treadmills/ellipticals and one for weight training. Also a lap pool.

But for the most part, you would have found me and my family at the adults-only quiet pool, known as the Palm Grove, which I had intelligently arranged to situate right outside our back doors. Don’t tell anyone, but you can order lunch at the Palm Grove pool chairs. The Super Salad with kale, avocado and quinoa, add seared tuna, is awesome. Doesn’t taste a bit like a meadow, which is always my fear with healthy greenery.

Huh. There are those two dear creatures again.

Champagne-at-the-Palm-Grove

We did spend a little time at the resort’s water sports beach. I have to put my head under salt water or vacations aren’t real.

Water-sports-beach-at-Four-Seasons-Hualalai

One important note for anyone thinking about staying at Hualalai. While the resort is on the ocean, directly, the waters are full of lava formations, and not good for wave jumping, deep wading, or any serious swimming. The resort designers have made a little shallow “bath” out of the beach in front of the children’s pool, so small kids will be fine. But adults who love to frolic in the actual Pacific will need to walk about 10 minutes south, down a paved path, to the beach you see above. And even there, although it’s pretty, and quiet, we’re not talking a float in a blue half moon carved from the wide Pacific kind of experience.

No food nearby, BTW.

But not to worry. You’re going to be eating plenty. And wandering. Don’t forget the wandering. From sunset,

Couple-at-sunset,-Four-Seasons-Hualalai

to sunrise.

The-Beach-at-the-Four-Seasons-Hualalai

And back again. Every night a man dressed in old Hawaii garb – leaf crown and frond skirt- runs through the resort lighting torches. It could be hokey, but doesn’t feel that way. It feels like Hawaii was there before we arrived, and will probably be there once we’re long gone.

The-Torches-at-the-Four-Seasons-Hualalai

All lit up.

 

 

A final note, for those truly interested in the comparison of FSMaui to FSHualalai.

  • Mauai winners include a real, wide, swimmable beach, an infinity pool up a hill so that infinity doesn’t look out on beach chairs, and a central bar/lounge in the lobby, which makes it easy for sub-groups within your family to meet flexibly at the end of the day.
  • Hualalai winners include everything else.

For us, low-key beauty beats out marble fountains, even those bubbling by the edge of a beautiful beach. We’re thinking of a semi-annual return, December, right before the “festive season” begins. Oh, and of the Palm Grove pool.

 

Photos: me. It really looks like that.

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27 Comments

  • Your children are lovely. Not surprising, considering their mother. xo, Naurnie

    01/05/15
    10:24 am
    Lisa said...

    @Lauren, Aw, thanks. I’ve always felt like my children’s beauty sort of descended from the universe. We just hope beauty serves all our children well, right?

  • I used to live on Oahu many years ago. My husband has always preferred Hawaii (the Big Island) over Maui for vacations. Unfortunately, our favorite resort (an Outrigger hotel) has been torn down to make way for a Kamehameha Schools cultural center. It was on a sacred site so I understand why. Therefore, I am glad to hear of the Four Seasons Hualalai as an alternative, albeit a pricey one! Sounds totally worth it.

    01/05/15
    10:25 am
    Lisa said...

    @Jane, It was wonderful. How cool to live on Oahu. I could see doing that, at some point.

  • This is a delightful syopsis. I’ve never been but am eyeing it for my 20th anniversary next year (coming from the East Coast). It looks wonderful as do your children. Thank you for sharing!

    01/05/15
    10:26 am
    Lisa said...

    @Erika, My pleasure! I’d say it’d make a wonderful 20th anniversary spot, very, very romantic.

  • Looks gorgeous…a wonderful family tradition.

    01/05/15
    10:27 am
    Lisa said...

    @Bungalow Hostess, There are many families who go all together at Christmastime. I recommend the week before all that begins:).

  • Sounds and looks so lovely! What takes it over the top is the presence of your two beautiful (truly!) children. It always seems so difficult to arrange vacation time with grown children. Such a treat!

    01/05/15
    10:28 am
    Lisa said...

    @Leslie, It is a wonderful treat. I felt very lucky they could both make time.

  • Sounds so lovely! We went to Hawaii (Oahu and Kauaii) last January and I’d like to make it a bi-annual event.

    01/05/15
    10:29 am
    Lisa said...

    @Cathy, Where did you stay? I feel like I could keep going back to Hawaii forever and not get bored.

  • What a gorgeous setting, and gorgeous kids too. :-)

    01/05/15
    10:29 am
    Lisa said...

    @déjà pseu, Thank you ma’am:).

  • Wow! Beautiful! So are the “kids”.

    01/05/15
    12:00 pm
    Lisa said...

    Thank you:).

  • Gorgeous pics especially of your kids (love those sunnies on beautiful daughter!).

    *Lisa, not receiving your emails again and not going into my gmail spam folder like last time either. Might be an issue on my end as I tried funneling your alerts into my regular InBox rather than the ‘Promotions’ folder. Tried re-subscribing but notified I’m already subscribed. Just an FYI in case you are having similar issues elsewhere.

    01/05/15
    12:01 pm
    Lisa said...

    White sunnies for the win! Thank you! And yes, a couple of people have now let me know they aren’t getting emails. I’m going through the usual rigamarole. It’s not spam filters this time, it’s some configuration issue with WordPress/email/host. I hope to get it sorted out at some point, soon.

  • What a beautiful place! Just the kind where we’d love to stay! I love a beach resort holiday. Italian by the sea? Crazy! Your kids are lovely x

    01/05/15
    2:48 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Faux Fuchsia, Noodles and oceans are not friends;).

  • The photos of your children are breathtaking–right up there with the photos of the resort. What a great review! I have to confess–I’ve never had an urge to go to Hawaii. My husband had a legal case there and made 14 trips and I declined to go (mainly because I knew he would be working full time). Now, I am just sure I should make just one trip. It looks so lovely and if you want to return–it must be heavenly.

    01/05/15
    2:49 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Susan, You’re very kind. And Hawaii really is a beautiful and spiritual place. All that 1960s tacky is receding, and the island culture is stronger and more present. I think you’d love it, especially this place. Very little showing off.

  • Your children are absolutely gorgeous, well no surprise look at their mother but really they are exceptional.
    How much would I love to go to this spot with my MrBP? We would love it. We are fans of the Quatre Saisons they do things properly don’t they.
    The family holiday really evolves into something unexpected and special when the children become young adults, we’ve just had that experience skiing for a week in Ellicottville New York. Our son will soon be 22 and he likes to hang out with us again, teenage years in the rearview mirror.
    Lovely post Lisa and thanks for all the pics. xo

    01/05/15
    2:50 pm
    Lisa said...

    @DaniBP, Thank you. Of course I can’t take full credit for my children, even though I give you full thanks:). And I’m so happy you got to ski with the full contingent. It really is a joy, having grownups become part of your family. Like a rebirth.

    How far would Hawaii be for you?;)

  • Gorgeous! Your children, I mean and the resort looks wonderful. It has been so long since I have been anywhere tropical and it was oddly refreshing just to see your vacation.

    01/05/15
    6:19 pm
    Lisa said...

    Thank you. I was hoping the post would be like that for someone. Glad it was you.

  • Heartstoppingly beautiful; I can sense contentment rolling off each photo.

    01/05/15
    6:19 pm
    Lisa said...

    You are exactly right.

  • ahhhhh

    01/05/15
    6:19 pm
    Lisa said...

    :)

  • Lovely review, beautiful photos, including beautiful photos of beautiful children. I’m not much of a beach person except at dawn and dusk or later, but you make this possibility sound appealing. I guess this is why I’ve never been particularly intrigued by Hawaii. Four Seasons resorts are nice though and, I have to admit I’d go back to the Lodge at Koele on L’anai in a heartbeat. The beach resort on L’anai, Manele Bay, although lovely, did nothing for me, but it was that beach thing again, and the spa and the food were lovely.

    01/05/15
    8:00 pm
    Lisa said...

    I do think Hawaii is best for those who like the beach – on the other hand, Oahu has wonderful hills and forests in the hills…Maybe some day I’ll get to Lanai:).

  • What gorgeous young people! Well done!

    And Hawaii, I love Hawaii even more.

    SSG xxx

    01/07/15
    9:25 am
    Lisa said...

    @Sydney Shop Girl, Why thank you! And I am glad to hear you feel about Hawaii as I do.

  • Lisa,

    That first picture stunned! I had a visceral, greedy, “I want to go THERE!” reaction-almost envy-and then as I read and looked and saw how obviously relaxed and happy you all were I became less greedy and more happy and relaxed myself. Lovely review, even lovelier family.

    Thanks for sharing your holiday and the health and happiness to you all in 2015. Leigh Ann

    01/07/15
    9:26 am
    Lisa said...

    @Leigh Ann, Such a nice comment. I always hope to give more than I display, if that makes sense. Feel free to let me know, the times that I fail.

  • I loved reading about your vacation; I felt like I had been away too, but without the hassles of getting ready and returning home.

    Perfect.

    01/07/15
    9:35 am
    Lisa said...

    @WA_side, Hooray!

  • What a wonderful getaway at a perfect time of the year. Loved the photos!

    01/07/15
    9:35 am
    Lisa said...

    @E. Jane, Thank you:).

  • So lovely, including your “dear creatures.” I’ve never been to Hawaii, but my youngest son’s significant other is from there, so I do hope that via wedding or otherwise, I’m able to visit soon. Thank you for sharing your wonderful holiday.

    01/07/15
    9:36 am
    Lisa said...

    @CashmereLibrarian, My pleasure. And I hope you get to visit soon too. It’s really a wonderful place, much more to it than the simple vacation pleasures.

  • Dear Lisa,
    Your comment “I always hope to give more than I display, if that makes sense.” made perfect sense. I only wish, again greedily, that you would deconstruct the process so that us mere mortals could learn through baby steps. That is the essence of what I love about your writing.

    Haven’t screwed up the courage to watch the helicopter video in the next post… all the adventure I can handle at the moment(in a good way!), but promise to revisit. Your visit to Hawaii is panacea for frozen midwestern souls…xo LA

    01/07/15
    6:23 pm
    Lisa said...

    That is an exceptionally nice thing to say. But please, I’m just as mere as everyone. I have more time, is all. And I’m happy to spend the time answering questions, so if there is anything you’d like to know about how I come to my conclusions, or how/why I write what I do, I’m happy to discuss. But, again, mostly, thank you. <3

    Luckily the video is short;)

  • Your son though. Is he single? I promise I’d be a delightful daughter in law and I’m sure he’s well-raised.

    01/09/15
    7:21 am
    Lisa said...

    You are very sweet! In fact my son is gay, well-raised, and single at the moment. I’d like to say handsome, brilliant, kind men should apply, but I don’t think it’d go over well with my boy;). And if you can’t be my DIL, perhaps we can be friends?:).

  • Great review. We’ve stayed at the FS Maui, as well, and had dinner at the FS Big Island and wandered the resort grounds two years ago when we were staying at the Fairmont nearby. I had the same thought about the ocean set-up — not great for swimming and kids, which was interesting because it seemed like there were so many families with young kids staying there. The Fairmont (for anyone considering it) has a great lagoon-like area that is protected by large rocks from the rough ocean waves. It is perfect for younger kids (ours were 8 and 11 at the time) and easy paddle boarding, and you can snorkel and spot sea turtles and other interesting creatures. We stayed on the club level at the Fairmont, and it was really wonderful. We did a horseback riding tour of the Waipio Valley, which was a lot of fun, and spent a couple of days exploring Volcanoes National Park on the opposite end of the island. Sounds like you had a fabulous trip as well

    01/12/15
    1:36 pm
    Lisa said...

    Thanks for the suggestion! The littlest kids at the FS have a little lagoon carved out for them. But for any children over about 6-7, they are going to want to go down to the water sports area, or off the resort to one of the other Hawaii beaches.

  • If you want an experience like non other, go to Molokai. You have to fend for yourself most of the time, but to see Hawaii as it once was, this is the place to go. Not many tourists go. It is so underdeveloped that there is not one stop sign on the island. My son and I stayed in a condo, that was like being in a home with everthing provided, except the food. A must is a mule ride down the mountain ridge into Kaulaupapa. An unforgetable experience. Lots of hiking, beaches are beautiful, and the sunrises and sunsets are a spectator sport. People would line up their chairs on the edge of the beach and sit as if they were watching a movie. I lived on Oahu in the 60’s and have gone back every few years. Now, my destination will always be Molokai.

  • Sorry, I meant not one stop light, only stop lights. A must see. Aloha!

    01/15/15
    9:06 am
    Lisa said...

    @Sharon, Mahalo:). Molokai sounds amazing – the full spirit of Hawai’i. I will have to go some day. Thank you.

  • Oh, thanks for bringing me to Hawaii on this frigid Pennsylvania morning! I’m glad you had a lovely getaway with your beautiful family. It looks perfect. Mahalo!

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