The Island of Hawaii is a special place for me. From the moment we touched down on the island formerly known as “The Big Island,” there’s an immediate relaxation as we soak in that one of a kind Hawaiian warmth. And that warmth is not just from the unbeatable climate.
The friendliness and kindness of the Hawaiian culture, the refreshing laid-back vibe for someone used to city life, and the beauty of the surroundings all add to the Hawaiian warmth that begs and lovingly enables its visitors to relax and enjoy it all.
The Island of Hawaii is unique as visitors are able experience four out of the five main climate points depending on your location. It’s also a perfect place for vacationers looking for all sorts of adventures – from diving and snorkeling to world class golfing, horseback riding, and hiking to the waterfalls and so much more. But to me, it’s all about the beauty of nature, beaches, and the Hawaiian cuisine.
After retrieving our luggage, we had a quick and easy exit from Kona International Airport and caught the rental car shuttle. At the end of a peaceful drive along the beautiful Kona coast of Hawaii, we arrived at the Fairmont Orchid.
The Fairmont Orchid, a luxury resort nestled in 32 lush acres on the majestic Kohala coast at the very northern tip of the island of Hawaii, has immaculate grounds feature waterfalls spilling over black lava rock, koi ponds, tranquil white sand beaches, and more. But that’s to be expected from a resort that was recently named the best hotel on Hawaii Island by USA Today (2019) and in addition, Travel + Leisure named Fairmont Orchid as one of the top 15 resorts in Hawaii in its World’s Best Awards 2019.
Upon our arrival at the resort, we were met with a welcoming aloha and a kukui lei. In ancient times, only Hawaiian royalty could wear kukui nut leis, so we already felt regal. A smiling and friendly bellhop brought us to the reception area of the Fairmont Orchid for a quick check in.
The comfort continued as we settled into our beautiful, spacious, yet cozy room! The room itself is done in relaxing wood and sand tones with plush carpeting and marble bathroom with separate shower and bathtub. The enormous seven-foot high windows double as doors, letting in the island’s beauty and the magnificent ocean view. The generous lanais are large enough to accommodate a chaise lounge, table, and two chairs.
After the quick tour exploring the beautiful grounds of the Fairmont Orchid, we decided it was time to have drinks against the backdrop of the magnificent Kohala Coast sunset and some live music at the Luana Lounge. We ordered the Rainbow Flow, a drink that’s not normally offered, but specifically created in celebration of Kona Pride. We also tried some pupus (appetizers) and were not disappointed. The food was tasty and the staff was attentive and always cheerful. After we had our fill combined with being exhausted from the flight, we decided to call it an early night.
The next morning, we woke up early to greet the magnificent views that is the Island of Hawaii. After a few minutes of communing with nature and expressing gratitude to the universe, we decided to try the breakfast buffet at the Orchid Court. There was so much to choose from – the fruits were especially delicious and tasty.
Our day’s agenda then brought us to a relaxing massage at Spa Without Walls.
Imagine being given the options of a deep, lingering massage in an open cabana by the ocean or one in the midst of a garden to the sound of waterfalls. I decided to do the Fire and Awe massage which combines a body scrub with Swedish massage. My therapist brought me to the beachfront cabana where I received a massage while listening to the waves lapping on the shore. Over and above the excellent massage, it felt dreamy to be taken care of so expertly amid such natural beauty. When you’re done, you can head indoors where there are treatment rooms, sauna and steam rooms plus a boutique featuring spa products.
Now feeling like well-pampered putty, we moseyed down to the fine white sands of Pauou Bay to do absolutely nothing but bask in the tropical sun by the lagoon. Well, that, and enjoy a cocktail or two.
For dinner, we decided on the AAA Four-Diamond award winning restaurant Brown’s Beach House for open-air dining by the shore. The Brown Beach House features Hawaiian Island inspired cuisine drawn from simple, local, fresh flavors. Our server was very friendly and provided an excellent service, even taking photos of us. It’s truly hard to overstate how utterly romantic and memorable our sunset dinner. The ocean was lapping at the shore just a few feet away, the tiki torches were flaming, and we were being serenaded by a charming man playing the guitar. How could we not want to linger? “Bring us that decadent dessert menu!” Yes, we overate like mad, but we had plans to work those totally-worth-it calories off the next morning.
We had stayed at the Fairmont Orchid several years ago and realized the resort not only lived up to our memories, but that we would need to come back again just to sample the rest of the things the hotel had to offer. We also decided that of all the amenities, the one that made the biggest impression on us was the friendliness of the ever-attentive staff. Good job guys and gals! You made us feel special, spoiled, and wanting never to leave. With the Fairmont Orchid, once — make that twice! — is never enough.
After breakfast, it was time to change our lodging and we headed to Puakea Ranch to have an authentic local stay. Puakea Ranch is a working ranch on the northern tip of the Island of Hawaii. The property has four historic guest cottages spread out over 33 acres of gorgeous rugged land with sweeping and panoramic ocean views. Each house is unique, charming, and beautiful with updated décor and amenities.
We stayed at Yoshi’s House, with a spectacular view of Maui and sunsets into the ocean. The house is wonderful, with plenty of space, a wrap-around porch, and a beautiful kitchen. The property also includes a lovely pool, hammock, swing, and a beautiful outdoor bath house with a brass tub and shower.
The property is massive, and you can walk down to the garden to gather vegetables and herbs to supplement your meals, along with fresh-laid eggs from the resident chickens. You feel like you have the place to yourself (there are only four rentals on the ranch). At the same time, it’s easy to get to the small town of Hawi, or wind your way inland to Waimea, or head down to the big resorts. The nights are amazing for stargazing as the stars are brightly shining and almost felt like I could reach out and touch them. This is really a perfect place to stay for a nature enthusiast.
We spent the next day discovering the city of Hawi, a very small community with a few restaurants and shops situated west of Kapaau. As always, I am just amazed at how friendly and gracious the locals were.
In the afternoon, we decided to explore the Flumin Kohala -Sugar cane irrigation flumes used to bring water to the fields and are pretty elaborate waterways and tunnels. I was worried about being claustrophobic in the tunnels, but I was fine. Our host Jericho was not only very entertaining but also as a native Hawaiian – he had lots of stories to tell. He kept us informed throughout the tour and we left with so much knowledge. It was a great time as Jericho gave us historical lessons, he was hilarious, too.
The next morning, after a quick swim in our private pool at the Yoshi House, it was time to pack up and go to our last destination.
For our last two nights, we checked in at Westin Hapuna Beach Resort, the newest luxury resort to open on the Island of Hawaii. The resort has contemporary style and we were impressed at how grand the builds really were with its open air lobby, humongous columns, and stunning views on many levels overlooking Hapuna Beach.
There is also an 18-hole award-winning golf course designed by Arnold Palmer, two swimming pools overlooking Hapuna Beach, a workout center, and the Hapuna Spa. The beach is of course the crowning glory with its golden sand – it’s stunning. The resort provides loungers and umbrellas.
The check in at the Westin was smooth and easy. We were offered cold towels and a local favorite, POG juice (a mix of passion, orange, and guava juice), along with a Westin eco shopping bag. Our room had lovely ocean views and were close to the pool and beach. The rooms are spacious and comfortable with well-appointed bathrooms.
We acquainted ourselves with the grounds and the different restaurants of the property before heading to Meridia, the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort’s new signature dining experience. Inspired by the Mediterranean flavors combined with the island’s bounty, Meridia’s fresh seasonal menu is complemented by al fresco seating, a charcuterie and crudo bar, and house-made artisanal bread.
The Meridia offerings did not disappoint, were sumptuous, and the staff was friendly and very attentive. Meridia uses their own homegrown vegetables from its garden. We tried three appetizers, devouring them quickly, and then ordered our entrées, one of which was a chef’s special, a locally day caught fish with sweet potatoes. For dessert, I tried the churros which was a perfect complement to our fantastic dinner.
The next morning, we had a breakfast buffet at Ikena Landing a truly enjoyable experience as the choices were plentiful. I finally got to try “Loco Moco,” a Hawaiian favorite made with burger patty, fried egg, rice, and gravy – lip smacking good.
Unfortunately, after breakfast, we reminded ourselves it was time to enjoy our last full day on the island, so we opted to lounge by the pool. What’s nice about the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort is that they have more than one pool, an adult pool and a separate family pool. The Lower Hapuna Pool is a pool for everyone to enjoy including both adults and children. The Adult Infinity Pool is heated as well and has a jacuzzi next to it. Both pool areas have lounge chairs and towel stations. We spent the day lazily in the cabana with occasional food breaks.
The next morning, it was time to say our goodbyes, but of course, we cannot wait to come back soon.