The road from Kona International Airport is a dramatic one—historically, visually, and literally. As you drive north along the Big Island’s Queen Kaahumanu Highway you’re flanked on both sides by seemingly endless stretches of black lava flows, the desolate landscape disturbed only by tufts of wild grasses. You outline the eastern flank of the Kekaha Kai State Park and the great lava flow of 1801 before passing by legendary black sand beaches. Twenty reflective minutes later you reach your turn seaward to the Kohala Coast. Here, Waikoloa Beach Resort is an oasis of modern civilization—nearly a shock to the system after the drive in. Within lies 1,350 acres of playground for all ages, including resorts small and large, shopping pavilions, golf courses, restaurants, and any other amenity that you’ve left behind.
As you near the end of this resort metropolis, you tuck into the Hilton Waikoloa Village; a final destination certainly nothing like what you left at home. Check into your balcony suite in the Makai wing and you have access to personalized services, a private concierge, signature amenities, and most importantly, you can take in the view. Makai means “towards the sea” and all suites in this boutique hotel-within-a-hotel are afforded stunning water vistas.
Sixty-two lush, landscaped, and art-filled acres make up the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Though massive in size, much of that space is preservation area for the extensive flora and fauna protected within. The guest suites, pools, restaurants, and, yes, dolphin habitat are carved into sections that let you feel and see nature from each opportunity, though it’s not difficult when the resort is perched on the dramatic coastline and hugging a four-acre, ocean-fed lagoon and white sand beach. The lagoon is worth coming for on its own; guests are free to snorkel, Hydrobike, paddleboard, or wade in the shallow salt water alongside the extensive tropical fish and giant green sea turtles, followed immediately thereafter, of course, by a saunter up to the bar for a Mai-Tai.
After building an appetite floating with the majestic turtles (the local sharks are kept in an area away from human swimmers), or relaxing in repose with an indigenous Naupaka treatment at the tranquil Kohala Spa, take your pick of 14 restaurants and bars. Don’t miss dinner al fresco on the lanai of Kamuela Provision Company restaurant. KPC, as it’s known, is the flagship restaurant of the resort, a well-executed and welcoming ode to all ingredients Hawaiian, especially the exotic bounty of the sea. The sunset views are breathtaking, and listening to the crashing waves, sipping champagne, and feasting on two pounds of Kona lobster at a seaside table illuminated by lanterns and flaming torches overhead is an experience impossible to forget.
Photos courtesy of Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort.