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.
The bedrooms are simple and serene, inspired by a lower-key Hawaiian aesthetic.
The bathroom delivers on requisite fancy stone, but reminds you with wood and a rattan shade that you ain’t in Las Vegas.
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.
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.
Except when it looked like this.
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.
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.
In fact, we spent much of the time when we weren’t eating just wandering around. Up the path to the lobby.
Through that lobby.
Back down the path towards the main pool, accompanied by the clack-clack of our flip-flops.
Past the children’s pools,
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.
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.
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.
Sushi. Bao. Nom.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.