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BIG ISLAND GETAWAY

by Peter Gotfredson

Hawaii Ocean View

 

The North Shore of Hawaii’s “Big Island,” is an amazing escape that offers a diversity of experiences that no other Hawaiian is- land has. From the expansive lava fields that stretch out over the landscape as far as the eye can see to the luxurious resorts on the Ko- hala Coast and the cowboy country of Waimea, my trip to the North Shore was one of my best adventures ever.
Every visitor to the North Shore begins with a drive on the Big Is- land’s Queen Kaahumanu Highway, the island’s main road to every- where. This highway is unique because it passes through vast ancient lava fields and the beauty of their ever-changing rock formations. Af- ter a 30-minute ride, we landed at our soon-to-be island home for seven days, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Built by Laurance Rockefeller in

1965, this resort has a timeless tradition of aloha. We were welcomed at the front door by a charming local who greeted us with beautiful plumeria leis, whose fragrance stayed with us throughout our trip. Because sun and sand was the mission of our trip, the first stop was to the famous Kauna’oa Beach, ranked one of Hawaii’s finest beaches. As we kicked off our shoes and began to explore, we came across the Hau Tree restaurant, a beachside oasis and regular destination for ho- tel guests. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and were introduced to a lunchtime favorite, Ovaltine milkshake, which I can tell you as a bit of a milkshake connoisseur is among the top five shakes I’ve ever had.
For the next few days we stayed at the resort to take advantage of all the Mauna Kea had to offer beyond its incredible beach. A round of

 

Hawaii Cove

golf on the renowned Rees Jones-designed championship course, spa treatments, luaus and tennis on courts literally steps from the ocean. Fortunately for us, on the day we played we saw a mother humpback whale and her calf resting in the cove not more than 50 yards away. Every day began with a local fare of fruits, breads and Hawaiian Kona coffee at the hotel’s Manta & Pavilion restaurant, overlooking their incredible beach and other islands on the horizon.
Setting out to find all that the North Shore had to offer, we headed out, taking in all the beauty of the coastal route as it took us through one historic town after the next. We elected to stop at the charming town of Hawi for lunch. A quaint village of shops and restaurants where islanders and visitors mingle about, Hawi is populated with arti- san galleries that offer up furniture and art crafted by locals—definitely worth the time to stop in. Needing a bit of a pick-me-up, we found the Hawi shave ice parlor, (shave ice is a must on any trip to the island) and treated ourselves. Grape was my flavor while my wife was a bit more adventurous, mixing coconut with mango. We engaged a local in con- versation and he shared stories of the North Shore’s history, telling us

about the famed Parker Ranch and the cowboy country of Waimea, and also that the Big Island was the birthplace of King Kamehameha.
Bidding farewell to our historian, we continued on our jour- ney to the end of the road, and the Polulu Valley Overlook, which showcases breathtaking coastal views of the Hamakua Coast. The beach below was covered with black lava sand and white sea foam from the crashing waves, a beautiful contrast in color that was worth the drive alone. A steep trail down the cliffside drops you on the beach where a trail continues on into the valley of ponds and palms. After venturing for a bit we decided our day was done and headed back to the Mauna Kea for a relaxing dip in the ocean followed by a serenade on the resort’s terrific veranda that served as the perfect vantage for picturesque sunsets.
The next day, our ventures pointed east, inland from the volcanic Kohala Coast to discover Waimea, which provided another enjoyable surprise. Unlike any other place on the Hawaii Islands, Waimea is pan- iolo (Hawaiian cowboy) country. Filled with rolling green pastures, it is still home to cattle, cowboys and ranches. Waimea is a place where

 

Hawaii Collage

stop signs read “Whoa,” instead of “Stop” and is home of Kahua Ranch, a working sheep and cattle ranch that allows locals and visitors to learn about the paniolo lifestyle. But there is more to Waimea than just paniolo. On the side of the road we discovered Merriman’s restaurant. Peter Merriman is one of Hawaii Islands’ finest chefs and a three-time finalist in the prestigious James Beard Awards for Best Chef. Sitting in a small shopping center, Merriman’s from the outside looks inviting but not overly exciting. But that all changes once your food arrives. My wife chose the classic Wok Charred Ahi and I had the Grass-Fed Beef grilled on a giant outdoor German grill called a “schwenker.” Our meals combined with a fantastic bottle of wine and a lilikoi mousse dessert, our day in Waimea was over.
We decided to take a break from the car the next day and instead
Turtles and Hawaii getaways

took a hike along the Ala Kahakai trail. The trailhead begins behind hole number 3 on the Mauna Kea Golf Course and ventures up the coast, winding among some of the most beautiful scenery on earth, with homes adjacent to the trail equal to the beauty of the coast. Stopping at remote coves along the way, we visited the schools of fish frolicking undisturbed, with periodic sightings of sea turtles and manta rays flying by beneath the waves. We never encountered a single person on our three-hour hike and it was undoubtedly one of the highlights of our trip.
With time running out on our Hawaiian get away, we decided to grab our snorkels and masks and check out a few other resorts along the coast. Our first stop was to the Hapuna Beach Hotel, sister resort of the Mauna Kea, and equally exquisite with a more modern feel and a tremendous pool. Our next stop took us to the Mauna Lani hotel where we stopped for lunch at the famed Oar House and a dip in the ocean, where you are almost guaranteed to encounter an abundance of sea turtles. The last of the resorts we visited was the Four Seasons Hualalai Resort, an oceanfront palace with best-of-the-best food, golf, tennis and lava-rimmed lagoons teaming with fish, meandering throughout the property. Our day was done so we headed back to the Mauna Kea as we had ended every day…with sunset music from local musicians sharing the rhythmic beauty of Hawaii’s historic songs and relaxing slumber with gentle breezes cooling us each night as waves lulled us to sleep. Hawaii’s North Shore is a magical place and a perfect combination of relaxation and adventure.