Last week it was winter break for our kids at school and we decided to make a trek to one of my favorite spots on the planet, The Big Island of Hawaii. Regular readers of this blog know how much I love this place and it's beauty. In fact I had to control myself from over Instagramming while I was there. There's just so much gorgeousness. I've been to Hawaii in June (our usual time) and in April for Easter, and this was our first time in February. Even thought it was high season by their standards, it never feels crowded in the Big Island or where we love to stay, The Mauna Lani.
What keeps bringing us back to The Mauna Lani is the serene and understated elegance that just seems to permeate the whole resort. It's modern and pretty, but has an old school Hawaiian vibe about it. To me that means wonderful Big Island people- the same employees have there since my boys were small and remember us, though it's often years between visits.
It also shows in their huge commitment to historic preservation of the Hawaii culture as the 30 ocean-front acres are set amid historic Hawaiian fishing ponds. A cultural center where you can learn ukulele or weave a pretty basket, as well as an historic cottage for storytelling and music makes you feel part of true Hawaii and not a big hotel's phony version of it.
The minute I walk through the entrance there is ukulele music gently wafting on air and the smell of tropical flowers hits me. I'm relaxed before I can even think about it!
Right before I left on this trip coincidentally I was contacted by the Mauna Lani to share about special rates they have beginning March 1. When they heard I was traveling there they invited me to experience dinner with my family at the legendary Canoe House with their newest Chef de Cuisine. Who could refuse? So today I'll share all the good things about this hidden gem of a resort. Just don't tell too many people! I want it to stay that way.
First thing in the morning, my favorite thing is to grab some Kona coffee or a coconut latte at the Mountain Thunder Roasting Company in the lobby and then take an early morning beach walk with my husband while the kids sleep in. This is the northern facing beach on the property near the bungalows and has the best turtle sighting and is a pretty walk or jog. There's a path to the Fairmont Orchid which is about a ten minute walk along the beach here. You can also take a one of the beach cruiser bikes over there and have lunch or to the Mauna Lani Shops and restaurants which are about a five minute drive or ten minutes by bike.
After that we usually have buffet breakfast overlooking the fishponds and beach. Love this outdoor seat to all the birds and flowers. It's a wonderful way to begin the day.
Since there are two beaches we sometimes walk through the historic fishponds. On this day we came across someone playing guitar. It's such a inspiring spot.
On this side of the resort, there is fantastic snorkeling in a secluded cove and Mauna Lani Sea Adventures where you can rent standup paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, surf or learn to scuba, take a night dive or a catamaran sail. My guys were loving the snorkeling and saw so many beautiful fish. They spent a lot of time standup paddle boarding too.
The beach here also has a little restaurant if you want lunch with a view
We loved the little cat who has a special spot to nap at the lifeguard station here!
After lunch we like to go back to the pool at the hotel which is very large and never feels crowded. We have never once felt the need to save a chair at the pool or the beach and I was happy that it was the same during the busier high season in February. Everyone loves the afternoon popsicles they hand out at the pool!
There are also 3 jacuzzis- one for the small ones with little spurting fountains. There's the Ocean Grill here too which serves cocktails, lunch, dinner and snacks from 11- 8:30. The view cannot be beat and it's a perfect place to watch the sunset.
I also am partial to the front beach of the resort as it has beautiful trees, hammocks and cabanas to duck into and read or watch sailboats float by. There's a nice reef here for beginning snorkelers and paddle boarders. It's also where the green turtles or Honu like to sun themselves. You have to be careful not to step on one as they sometimes blend in with the lava rocks!
This little point is probably my favorite spot...
Great tide pooling out here as well. The boys love it.
This to me is the most paradise part of the resort and the most relaxing!
My youngest just couldn't get enough of the hammocks.
The view from our ocean front corner room was wonderful too.
I see why some people never left their rooms!
Most evenings there is live hula and music in the hotel's center.
Our last two nights were the best. First, we had dinner at The Canoe House which is located right on the properties oceanfront and is all about fresh and sustainable ingredients. Chef Alan Nagun is the new Chef de Cuisine and focuses on using the farm to table as his suppliers are all nearby small farmers. He himself is a Big Island native as are many of the longtime team here and they work together so well to showcase the best of food, drink and a dining experience you won't forget.
Our view from the table right before sunset of the torch lighter.
I think this picture says it all. Probably the prettiest sunset and view we've ever had at dinner!
Cocktails did not disappoint! I love a flower in my drink. They have many house specialty drinks and a terrific wine list. David Morimoto the manager, has worked in Napa and has brought his knowledge of wines to the table so to speak here.
It was hard to choose what to order.
Everyone takes photos at sunset and on the bridge into the restaurant as it's exquisitely picturesque.
I had the macadamia encrusted mahi mahi. Was wonderful with pineapple relish.
My boys had filet mignon and were in heaven.
Desserts were pretty as well as yummy with a kit kat bar like creation that we all wanted more of and a bread pudding to die for!
There was even a special pineapple drink too! Max ordered it and I just posed with it. I think I had the perfect Hawaiian dinner ensemble with my Trina Turk fringed short outfit and my grandma's vintage coral color beads which I think were from a Hawaiian trip in the late 1960's she took.
If you plan to go to The Canoe House, make a reservation as this is a very popular destination for visitors from all over the island. There's live slack guitar music every night and there is also a special Captain's Table where chef Alan offers a blind tasting menu Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. He uses 85% of Big Island ingredients paired with his personal wine choices! The restaurant is closed on Sundays. I think this is probably one of those experiences you want to savor at the end of your trip as it's an evening you'll remember for a long time. I know we did.
As if The Canoe House wasn't enough, we were fortunate that our last night coincided with Twilight at Kalahuipua'a, Talk Story Under a Full Moon- the Mauna Lani's evening of storytelling and entertainment held monthly on the Saturday closest to the full moon rise at the Eva Parker Woods cottage lawn. Historian Danny Akaka shares Hawaiian legends and lore and there is a musical guest. Everyone brings a chair or a blanket and some even had dinner and settle in for a night under the moon. This particular night we were so lucky as the guest was none other than Jake Shimabukuro, who is one of the most famous and innovative ukulele players in the world. We had no idea how talented he was. He plays the ukulele unlike you've ever heard it before from celtic music to Jackson Five and even Queen along with Hawaiian songs.
Right after Jake began playing people were oohing and suddenly the whole audience saw that whales were going crazy flipping and splashing not far off the beach. There were several of them and they wouldn't stop. At one point Jake jokingly said he'd just play background music as we were all mesmerized. The evening could not have been more magical. I highly recommend going to this special night if you are at the resort during the full moon Saturday. You'll never forget the stories, fun and maybe you'll see whales too. Pretty romantic!
One more thing I learned about the Mauna Lani and have to pass along.. They are a Green Resort and generate the most solar power of any resort in the world and were named top Eco-Friendly Beach Resort by Conde' Nast Traveler. They received an award from Golf Magazine as one of the ten Golf resorts that were leaders in environmental stewardship. Love that! They also have a turtle program where they raise them from babies and set them free on July 4 each year. If you happen to be in The Big Island, that is the day they swim them out to sea and help educate the public about these beautiful creatures. How cool to do that! It's on my list.
From March 1 to June 30, 2016, Standard Guest Rooms start at just $269 and Ocean Fronts at $399 (normally $399 and $649 respectively.) That's an amazing deal as it's a beautiful part of the year to travel to The Big Island and a rare opportunity to get a deal at this iconic resort!
Click on this link to the resort where they have a beautiful video playing that really shows the whole expanse of this beautiful property.
Next up on the blog, I'll share my other favorite spot on the Big Island..It was hard to leave the resort, but we did make it out to some cool places. Then I'll tell you what to pack and what to bring home from a Big Island getaway.
Thanks for coming along!
Last photo courtesy of Mauna Lani, all other property of NorthernCalStyle.