Paradise is perhaps the most overused word in the travel industry. But, there are times when no other word can be used to describe a place. The Four Seasons Hualalai in Kona, Hawaii, is just such a place. While the focus of our Great Cruise Hotels micro-site is pre-/post-cruise accommodations, it should be noted that the Four Seasons Hualalai is a destination in and of itself. Therefore, if your cruise vacation takes you to Kona, don't simply book one or two nights here. Plan on at least four nights to take in all of the special things this property, and island, have to offer.
When we arrived at Four Seasons Hualalai, we were greeted in the open-air lobby with beautiful leis and then were escorted to Jason, one of the reception staff. He invited us to sit in the lobby on a sofa with a tray of welcome goodies including guava juice, pineapple and cold towels on a table in front of us. We felt special from the moment we arrived! Check-in was quick and painless and soon we were walking to our Oceanview Deluxe Room (#813). Upon entering the room, we were immediately reminded of what we loved about this resort when we stayed here back in 2001. The view of the Pacific ocean from our second-floor lanai is breathtaking.
With only one day to enjoy this place, we wasted no time in changing into our swimwear and heading down to King's Pond which, by the way, just happens to be steps from our room. King's Pond is a 1.8-million-gallon lava rock aquarium, home to 4,000 tropical fish and spotted eagle rays. But, it's much more than that. This is an aquarium in which you can swim! Complimentary snorkeling gear is provided to guests and there are several partially-shaded lounging "huts" surrounding the lagoon. Even though the aquarium is fed by the waters of the Pacific ocean, it is completely "protected" and totally calm. Guests are encouraged to bring kids along for eagle ray feeding at designated times.
We grabbed snorkel gear from the attendant and picked a secluded, shaded "hut" with two loungers on the edge of the pond. Soon, we were in the cool water snorkeling with more than 3500 fish. I took my GoPro into the water to capture some video of the adventure. It was great fun just floating on top of the pond and seeing all of the colorful fish. Afterwards, we dried off on the loungers, which have been fitted with plush towels.
We spent the rest of the afternoon just taking in all that the resort's extensive beach has to offer. This place is a photographer's dream, and worst nightmare. It is nearly impossible to take a bad photo, but if you do, it is all on you! Rickee and I wanted to get some photos of us with the Pacific in the background and the warm light from the setting sun provided the perfect opportunity.
As the sun begins to set, we return to our room to get ready for dinner. Tonight, we have reservations at Ulu, Hualalai's authentic Hawaiian dining + Sushi lounge. Ulu claims to focus on "fresh local flavors and sustainable dining". We claim it to be delicious!
We arrived a few minutes early for our 7:30 pm reservation on a Saturday evening and the restaurant was quite full. So, reservations are definitely a good idea. We were seated at an outdoor table with an amazing view of the ocean. And, even though it was dark outside, the sound of the crashing waves is the best background music you can imagine. When I inquired about a Spicy Tuna Roll as an appetizer, something not on the restaurant menu, our waitress informed me that they have a 'Sushi Lounge Menu" and that items can be mixed and matched from both menus. The roll was delicious. Rickee's Gezpacho with spicy grilled shrimp put a smile on her face.
For a main course, I had to try the Mongolian Beef. Rickee ordered the Roasted Pineapple Mahi. The Mongolian Beef, with a side order of mushroom fried rice, was near perfection. When I requested the dish to be spicy, the waitress responded by delivering an ominous little bottle of liquid fire that is dispensed with an eyedropper! The prime beef strips were fork tender with a sweet glaze and tossed with oyster mushrooms and a grilled slice of Maui onion. Oh, and the eyedropper hot sauce definitely added the desired kick I was hoping for. Rickee's Mahi was also beautifully presented and delicious. Both dishes were so filling that we had to skip dessert, however, our waitress did offer us the opportunity to order a chocolate souffle that sounded amazing. Maybe next time?
Our meal at Ulu was the perfect ending to a perfect day in Kona. A visit to Four Seasons Hualalai is not complete without a visit to Ulu. For more information on Ulu, visit their website at www.uluoceangrill.com.
After dinner, we walked back to our Oceanfront Deluxe Room where we had a wonderful night's sleep on the Four Seasons Bed from Simmons. This is one of the most comfortable mattresses you will find anywhere. The room is 635 sq. ft. and would easily be considered a "suite" in most properties. The huge bathroom with tub and separate rain shower stall features a dual-sink granite vanity and top-quality amenities. The bedroom/living room includes a small table with two chairs and another chair with ottoman for relaxing. But, the highlight of this room is the spacious lanai with an expansive view of the Pacific Ocean and King's Pond. How many places on Earth can give you a view like this?
We were impressed with Four Seasons Hualalai when we spent three nights here in 2003 and our opinion has not changed. This is one of the best resorts in the world, and certainly our personal favorite in Hawaii. We recommend at least four nights here when visiting Hawaii. You could easily spend all four days right on the property. With seven different swimming pools, an amazing beach front, your choice of water toys, King's Pond, a cultural center, incredible spa facility (which we plan to visit on our next stay), and an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus signature golf course, you will not want for things to do. Without question, this is a resort that should be at the top of everyone's travel bucket list.
For more information on Four Seasons Hualalai, visit their website at www.fourseasons.com/hualalai