From Mauna Kea’s winter snow-capped mountaintop to the flowing lava of Kilauea Volcano to tropical rainforests and a teeming undersea world, the Big Island of Hawaii has much to offer the spirited adventure seeker.
After you’ve had a chance to roam around the Big Island it’s best to spend the last few days of your vacation soaking up the sun! The Fairmont Orchid is a 32-acre luxury oceanfront resort located along the beautiful Kohala Coast. The postcard perfect property features sugar-white sandy lagoon and cool aquamarine waters making it an ideal place to rest and relax in Polynesian paradise.
The area is home to the ancient land of Kalāhuipua‘a, now called Mauna Lani (heavenly mountain) and is known as a spiritual, historical land. Kalāhuipua‘a was named by Hawaiian elders more than 300 years ago and its ancient history lives on through a treasure trove of archaeological sites, early Hawaiian footpaths, royal fishponds and lava formations.
Here are the Top 12 Things to Do at the Fairmont Orchid in Hawaii:
1) Suite Life with Fairmont Gold
The Fairmont Gold experience begins the moment you arrive at the front door and are escorted directly to the private Fairmont Gold reception area on the 6th floor of the resort’s North Tower. The exclusive “hotel within a hotel” features 45 recently renovated guest rooms and suites, an exclusive Gold lounge and outdoor patio and heartfelt Hawaiian hospitality provided by attentive Fairmont Gold staff.
Warmed for your arrival with soft Hawaiian music, Fairmont Gold rooms offer all the comforts of home. Residential in style, Fairmont Gold rooms boast 500 thread count bed linens, plush carpeting, sleek marble bathrooms and a view of the beautiful Pacific from your own pretty patio perch.
2) Spa Without Walls
Enjoy Hawaiian inspired treatments and massages in an oceanfront hale (hut), or near a cascading waterfall at Fairmont Orchid’s award-winning al fresco Spa Without Walls. You’ll instantly nod off for a blissful nap as the essences of sandalwood, frankincense and myrrh liven your senses. Tropical day dreams find bliss as wind whistles through dancing palms above and cool creek croons below.
3) Luana Lounge
Your best bet for enjoying serious sundowner sips is on the balcony at Luana Lounge. The bars skilled tenders do a great job at crafting tropical cocktails, so much so that you may find yourself here every evening, ticking off each of their creative libations. Tequila fans swoon for the Lilikoi Margarita while macadamia nut lovers fall head over heels into a frothy glass dubbed the Big Island Trio featuring macadamia nut liquor, banana liquor, coconut creme and creme anglaise.
4) Sunrise Canoe Voyage
There are only two reasons to wake up at the crack of dawn at the Fairmont Orchid and we managed to indulge in both activities before even sipping a drop of morning brew! On our first morning we rose before the sun, skipping over to the beach for a sunrise canoe voyage.
We were paired with a friendly Hui Holokai Ambassador who spent the early hours of the morning paddling us out to sea in a traditional Hawaiian canoe. Just as the sun shot across the horizon he lifted a conch shell to his lips, offering a powerful “good morning” to the whales and turtles which swirled below.
5) Floating Yoga
The following morning we were back on the beach ready to wake up to the world during a one hour floating yoga class. Practised on an anchored stand up paddle board, Flo-yo connects the mind, body and breath: building strength through balance and resistance.
Nicola (who claims to be a novice yogi) wildly impressed me with his downward dogs and pretty planks as I ran around the beach snapping photos of the class at sunrise. I was amazed to see that each participant remained on their board throughout the duration of the class!
6) Petroglyphs of Puako
Along the Kohala Coast, the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve features more than a thousand petroglyphs, or kii pohaku, lava rock carvings etched into stone centuries ago by Native Hawaiians.
It’s just a short walk from the Fairmont Orchid, but feels a bit as though you are walking through a desert planet so be sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes and pack a bottle of water to quench your thirst along the way.
Although the true meanings of these etchings are unknown, it is generally thought the carvings act as records of birth and other significant events in the lives of the people who lived on Hawaii Island long ago. Can you spot ancient human forms, canoes and even turtles on the rocks below?
7) Hapuna Bay
An expanse of white sand, both broad and deep, makes Hapuna Bay the most popular beach on Hawaii’s Big Island. With its clean, sandy bottom, the bay offers excellent swimming, snorkeling, and diving conditions. When the waves are active, surfers and body-boarders flock here, and it is generally a good spot for beginners to acquire some wave-riding skills. It’s also a great place to just lay back and work on your tan!
8) Pololu Valley
At the end of Highway 270, a lookout focuses your gaze on idyllic Pololu Valley. Isolated by lush canyon walls, the valley’s wide floor meets the ocean at a black-sand beach. The journey from start to finish really makes you feel as though you’ve hiked through a Hollywood movie set, skipping through an untamed paradise where King Kong or one of those nasty critters from Jurassic Park might burst out of the bush at any moment.
While the trail down is relatively short (20-30 minutes depending on how gentle you jaunt) the overall hike experience is not for beginners. Be sure to wear sturdy hiking boots and carry a water bottle as on a hot day as the steep and precarious climb back up to your car will have you sweating, gasping and longing for ice cream. Even though I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to these sorts of rigorous ordeals it was all worth it for the spectacular views!
The small town of Kapa’au contains the original statue of Kamehameha the Great, a much-photographed replica of which stands in Honolulu. King Kalakaua commissioned the bronze sculpture in 1878 which was cast in Paris France and now sits at his birthplace.
A large boulder labeled Kamehameha Rock can be found on the roadside heading east of town. Legend has it that the big chief once carried it to prove his strength; whole road crews have failed to move it since!
The town of Hawi had its heyday during the era of “King Cane,” when five sugar plantations brought prosperity to Kohala, the island’s northern district. After the mills closed in 1975, Hawi was left to dwindle to its present size. These days it is a pleasant little town worth wondering through, with its wooden sidewalks and brightly painted storefronts. You’ll find plenty of cute cafes, restaurants and galleries along the way…
11) Cattle Country via Kohala Mountain Road
The 20 mile drive from Hawi to Waimea follows the western ridge of low, worn Kohala Mountain. It is a beautiful, cool and breezy drive. This narrow, twisting, tree-lined road provides breathtaking vistas and constantly changing scenery. The landscapes range from lush green hills and rolling pastures to black lava rock and distant beaches. This is ranch land, and the scenic drive offers views of elegant ranch houses and cattle grazing in deep grass.
12) Big Island Brewhaus in Waimea
Before heading back to the Fairmont Orchid, hop off the highway and pause for a proper thirst quenching at Waimea Big Island Brewhaus. It’s one of the few craft breweries on the island and much to my delight is also a wildly popular watering hole for locals. Hop up at the bar and sip through a hoppy sampler, on a hot day, the suds are sure to leave you satisfied!