Hawaii Island Resorts With Unique Culinary and Spa Experiences

Whether following in the footsteps of Lurline Matson Roth in the 1960s, Steve Jobs in the 1990s or Instagram influencers in the 2020s, Bay Area’s savvy travelers have long found a special niche for themselves on the island of Hawaii, aka the Big Island. With visitors now back to pre-pandemic levels, three resorts are now vying for special attention with exclusive experiences tied to our fascination with food, wine and wellness.

Feature Photo: Learning knife skills, courtesy of Four Seasons Hualalai

At the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, the Icons of Wine series celebrates legendary winemakers and wines with special ties to the resort, à la Opus One. The late Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild came up with the concept for their Oakville winery in 1970 over dinner at Manta restaurant, overlooking the beach that had convinced Laurance Rockefeller to open a resort there in 1965. Rockefeller in turn convinced Roth, a shipping heiress and San Francisco socialite, to build a mansion nearby, founding a multi-generational tradition of well-heeled families holidaying at the Mauna Kea.

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Photo: Manta Lounge at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

This year’s remaining events, which include special pourings at Manta Lounge and an elaborate, multi-course dinner at the beachfront Parker Cottage, will highlight wines from Gaja, Heitz Cellar, Louis Jadot and Domaine Serene, with more to be announced. Scheduled dates are April 3, May 15, June 26, August 7, September 18, October 30 and December 18; contact the concierge at 808.882.7222 for details and pricing.

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Photo: Neil Kamimura forging a knife at Four Seasons Hualalai

With the help of Laurene Powell Jobs, the long-shuttered Kona Village where her late husband once enjoyed family retreats is expected to reopen in 2023. In the meantime, neighboring Four Seasons Resort Hualalai has hardly rested on its laurels as Silicon Valley’s go-to island oasis. A recent $100 million renovation brought new furniture, decor and bathroom finishes to 249 guest rooms, added second-story, indoor-outdoor living spaces to three luxury villas and created an infinity-edge pool and marine education center by its famed King’s Pond snorkeling aquarium. 

The resort has also teamed with a champion freediver/spear fisher and an innovative knifemaker to offer two unique encounters.The two-day Kimi Werner Ocean Experience ($18,000) includes a freediving lesson with Werner in King’s Pond, followed by an underwater ocean adventure and four-course private meal, among other perks. The Neil Kamimura Experience ($12,000) includes forging a knife from recycled metal in Kamimura’s blacksmith shop on a scenic coffee farm, a bento lunch by chef Flora Kamimura and a knife skills class with a resort chef, using your new blade.

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Photo: Goop Facial at Mauna Lani

The beautifully reimagined Mauna Lani, now part of the Auberge Resorts Collection, had just opened when the pandemic forced it to close for eight months in 2020. Since then, a slew of discreet celebrities and more visible Instagrammers have gravitated to this stylish resort set amid historic fishponds and turtle-lined coves. 

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop caters to the new clientele with one of its handful of real-life stores tucked next to the hotel spa. The latter now offers the Goop Glow Facial, the brand’s first-ever spa treatment, which incorporates multiple “clean” products to exfoliate, detoxify, moisturize and brighten skin. Foodies will take a shine to exclusive events such as the recent “takeover” by New York hotspot Nami Nori, which included a temaki sushi-making class and dinner in the expansive Francis H. I‘i Brown suite. CanoeHouse, Mauna Lani’s fine-dining restaurant led by Nobu veterans Matt and Yuka Raso, has also launched a takeover series called “MY” Menu, which began with James Beard award-winner Michelle Bernstein. Contact the concierge at 808.885.6622 for details and pricing.

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