Travel to Hawaii can be a dilemma — every island is gorgeous, so which one is the best? On the Big Island, Kona’s stunning tropical beaches, snorkeling, golf courses and volcanic features make it a top choice for upscale travelers in winter, when its dry, sunny days provide a welcome contrast to the frequent rains on the other islands due to its location on the protected, leeward side of the Big Island. The elite Gayot guide chose 3 Hawaiian resorts from Kona on its list of the top 10 romantic hotels in 2009.
Flights from the mainland arrive directly at the small Kailua airport, where limos and shuttles whisk travelers to nearby exclusive hotels. After a few days on a sparkling sandy beach, take a day trip to Hawaii’s most active volcano and National Park, the unforgettable Kilauea. Walk the scenic trail to the crater at the heart of this enormous volcano, or hire a helicopter for an airborne view of the steam vents, and stunning live volcanic eruptions. If time permits, visit the Jagger Museum, Thurston Lava Tube, the Halemaumau Crater, or a Kona coffee plantation. Visit a rain forest, go horseback riding, or swim with sea turtles. Fortunately, the Kona Coast is far enough from the eruptions that there is never a concern about safety. Numerous golf courses lie between Kona and the volcanic crater. There’s a beautiful botanical garden in Hilo. Another new destination near Hilo is the Pineapple Maze, where you can challenge your sense of direction.
Here are three top luxury hotel destinations, the choice is yours.
Mauna Kea. The gold standard for Kona coast luxury travel was set when the Mauna Kea opened in 1965. Since then, it continues as the playground of the rich and famous due to its magical aura of exclusivity and seclusion. International travelers will be impressed with the $150 million renovation that was completed in 2010. Now, in addition to the dramatic hillside location overlooking a natural white sand beach where you can see manta rays swimming directly beneath the terrace, an array of new features have been added. Visitors who have enjoyed the golfing, water sports and upscale excursions will also enjoy: a transcendent spa by Mandara, an 11-court seaside tennis club, a new 2,500 square-foot fitness center with 43 Life Fitness exercise machines, and a new boutique shopping area which is enhanced by meandering koi ponds.
Hilton Waikoloa Village
International travelers seeking the ultimate resort experience, make plans for a luxe getaway to this unparalleled destination resort. From the moment you cross the lobby to your own private gondola ride through an ocean-fed lagoon, you’ll know you’ve entered Shangri-la. Choose from three fresh-water swimming pools, a snorkeling lagoon, and waterslides. Go native on the rope bridges to private tower suites. Interspersed within the swimming pools are sparkling waterfalls and waterways. Try water aerobics in the sun, or enjoy locally inspired treatments at the Kohala Spa. Children will adore the Dolphin Quest educational center, unique in all the islands. Meet a dolphin up close and personal.
Mauna Lani Hotel.
Hotel rooms, villas and even spacious private bungalows offer romantic accoutrements for the discriminating guest. No wonder the Mauna Lani made the list of Hawaii’s top 4 romance hotels. The waterfront bungalow features two master bedroom suites with private baths, a guest bathroom and large living and dining areas. Naturally secluded, each bungalow provides the ideal environment for achieving the “Aloha Spirit.”
More ideas for a sun-filled splurge winter vacation:
Sunny Lake Tahoe
Caribbean Day Dreams Come True
Winter Getaway: Sedona’s Red Rock Country
Escape to Down Under: Boutique Luxury Lodges
Winter Getaway to Mexico’s Costa Azul