As a new mom I had resigned myself to the fact that a vacation would never be relaxing again. Between surprise public meltdowns, the copious amount of equipment required to feed, bathe dress and transport our baby, and the fact that we were relegated to a hotel room for naps twice daily, I was certain our fate had been sealed.
However all of this changed after spending a week at the stunning Four Seasons Resort Hualālai at Historic Ka‘ūpūlehu, Hawai’i Island
Commonly referred to as ‘The Big Island’, Hawai’i has a unique landscape of lush rainforests, white, golden, green and black sand beaches, snow capped mountains, an active volcano spewing molten lava and vast expanses of volcanic desert. Within a 45-minute drive the scenery can change from fields of lifeless lava rock to rolling grasslands. Although the Island of Hawaii offers a plethora of activities and endless scenic beauty, we actually chose the destination because of the multi-award winning Four Seasons Resort Hualālai, which has been touted as one of the world’s best family-friendly resorts and recently won TripAdvisor’s #1 Luxury Hotel in the World.
While I could rave about the resort’s six pools, snorkelling pond, sandy beachfront, amazing fitness centre (which I will admit with guilt that we never set foot in), world-class spa, gorgeous rooms with ocean view lanai’s, and impeccable grounds, which are set against a dramatic backdrop of black lava rock that spills into an intensely blue ocean, it is actually the baby-friendly amenities that put the biggest smile on this mommy’s face.
Our room had filtered tap water (always needed for making up bottles), a crib with perfectly firm mattress, diaper garbage and baby bath toiletries. Upon request, a bottle warmer and highchair were delivered, and a complimentary washer and dryer, complete with detergent suitable for sensitive skin, were located within a few steps of our room – a godsend for anyone travelling with children.
Of course, there is more to a holiday than bottles, laundry and diaper changes. Thankfully, the Four Seasons has the fun stuff taken care of as well. We arrived at the family pool, an infinity pool with plenty of shaded cabanas, and were immediately greeted by a staff member who set up our chairs and offered us a pack ‘n play for the baby. Our darling daughter actually napped in an open-air cabana (under our watchful eyes), allowing my husband and I to sunbathe, read and swim together.
Early bedtimes for babies tend to be a bit of a nuisance on holidays, especially when the time change creates an even earlier one. However, the room service at Four Seasons is restaurant quality and so we were able to enjoy romantic sunset dinners on our lanai while our little one slept. On our last night we even decided to splurge on a babysitter (booked through the hotel concierge) and dine at the newly opened ‘ULU Ocean Grill & Sushi Bar, which was culinary perfection and a wonderful ending to our fairy-tale trip.
Feeling exceedingly relaxed after a few days of sunshine, we booked a family portrait session with local photographer Toby Hoogs. Our one-hour shoot took place throughout the resort gardens and on the white-sand beach, and left us with wonderful family photos that captured the memory of our time in Hawaii (when we actually looked carefree and rested).
Although many of the returning Four Seasons guests claim to never actually leave the resort, we felt compelled to check out some of the island’s famous sights. From Hualālai, which is located 30-minutes from the Kona International Airport on the Kona-Kohala Coast, you can easily make day trips to many of Hawai’i, the Big Island’s most popular beaches and attractions.
The Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is easily the most popular sight on the island. It takes approximately two and a half hours to drive from the Kona-Kohala coast to the park. Upon arrival, visit the Kilauea Visitor Center for an overview of the park trails and to learn more about the current volcanic activity. There are both driving and hiking itineraries available depending on how much time you have to explore. For shorter visits the 18-kilometre Crater Rim Drive offers stunning scenery through desert and rain forest, with access to short walks and scenic lookouts along the way. If you plan on staying longer (and are not travelling with little ones) there is a five-hour driving itinerary as well as many well-marked wilderness hikes.
Akaka Falls State Park
Akaka Falls State Park is a lush oasis with two waterfalls that are easily accessed by a paved footpath fringed with draping ferns, brightly coloured orchids and bamboo groves. The half-hour trail-loop has lookout points for both the 30-metre Kahuna Falls and the impressive 134-metre Akaka Falls. On the drive back take a short detour to the Waipi’o Valley Lookout to view the incredible 8 kilometre deep valley, which is surrounded by cliffs that are upwards of 610 metres high. Of course a trip to Akaka Falls isn’t complete without a stop at the legendary Hawaiian Style Café in Waimea. This cash-only restaurant is known for great service, inexpensive prices and massive portions. We ordered an omelette each, shared a ridiculously large side of pancakes, and barely made a dent.
Historic Kailua Village
The once quiet fishing village of Kailua, 15-minutes south of the Kona Airport, is now a vibrant seaside community that hosts local and international events, including the Kona Coffee Festival as well as the world-renowned Ironman Championships. This bustling village offers visitors a mix of waterfront restaurants and shops as well as historic buildings and monuments. In the heart of Kailua you’ll find the Hulihee Palace, which was built in 1838 and used as a vacation home for Hawaiian Royalty as well as Mokuaikaua, which was built in 1820 and is the earliest Christian church in the Hawaiian Islands. Our favourite spot in Kailua is Hugo’s on the Rocks to watch the sunset, listen to live music and take advantage of the half-price Happy Hour Mai Tai’s and snacks.
There are a handful of beautiful sand beaches, tucked away in quiet coves, within a short drive of the Four Seasons Resort Hualālai. Hapuna is the largest and most famous white sand beach on Hawaii and only a 15-minute drive from Hualālai. The calm waters are perfect for little feet to splash around in and there are picnic areas and restroom facilities if you care to make a day of it. Laalao Beach, which is a few minutes south of the Historic Kailua Village, is commonly known as ‘Magic Sands Beach’ because it often disappears overnight due to tidal shifts. This busy little beach is ideal for bodysurfing, body boarding, or simply hanging out on the sand and watching the locals skimboard in the surf. Punalu’u Black Sand Beach in the Kau district is Hawai’i Island’s most accessible black sand beach. The drive takes about 3 hours from the Kona-Kohala coast, but the reward is a unique beachfront with jet-black shores, and if you’re lucky, a Hawaiian Green Sea turtle sighting.
While the days of carry-on luggage and staying in bed beyond 7:00 am are temporarily on hold, it is comforting to know that all is not lost. Mahalo Four Seasons, for taking care of all the little details, so that we could enjoy every special moment of our first family trip to Hawai’i!