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From pristine beaches lined with volcanic rock and green sand, to lush tropical rainforests teeming with waterfalls and streams, the natural beauty of Hawaii’s Big Island is unsurpassed. But as I found out on my recent trip there, the island also has man-made wonders, such as the Hilton Waikoloa Village resort, where a friend and I spent the last day and night of our visit.
To get to the resort, we drove south around the island from Kona, stopping at Volcano National Park, the historic town of Hilo, and then at Akaka Falls State Park, where we encountered a two unforgettable waterfalls.
Located in a thick rainforest along the northeastern Hamakua Coast, Akaka Falls are Hawaii’s most famous. To reach them, we descended a staircase into a lost jungle and hiked in pouring rain through thick orchids, bamboo groves and draping ferns. Following a footpath into the forest, we past the 100-ft Kahuna Falls and then came to the massive and thunderous Akaka Falls, which plummets 442-feet into a stream-eroded gorge.
From the falls we finished our southern loop of the island and headed back towards Kona, where we discovered another Hawaiian wonder – the Hilton Waikoloa Village.
A destination all its own, this magical 1,240-room resort is nestled on 62 oceanfront acres, teeming with breathtaking tropical gardens, stunning artwork, pools and waterfalls, restaurants and shops and everything else to keep an entire family occupied for a week without leaving the property.
Our 6th-floor room was located in the Lagoon Tower. To get there we caught a tram near the colorful parrots in the lobby. We would have taken the boat, but it wasn’t running yet. The short ride was beautifully lined with resort shops on one side and a canal with tiny islands and bird-filled trees on the other.
Once in the room, we opened the curtains and were flabbergasted at the beauty before us. A hundred yards out was a volcanic beach, with waves crashing on white and black rocks. The view also included the resort pool and lawn, a salt water lagoon for snorkeling, a rope bridge, and a lagoon full of shiny grey and white dolphins, swimming in an interactive hotel exhibit called Dolphin Encounter.
After unpacking, we donned swimming gear and went exploring in the 80-degree weather. We started at the Kohala River Pool – a system of four pools interconnected by waterslides. Here we swam, played beneath a waterfall, soaked in the Jacuzzi and sipped margaritas.
For dinner we discovered the Hilton’s romantic Kamuela Provision Company (KPC), winner of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for 2005 and 2006. A sophisticated steak and seafood restaurant, the place looks over the water and offers memorable views of the Hawaiian sunset. Our meal was highlighted by lobster tempura, Jumbo Shrimp, Kalbi beef ribs, local beer, cheese cake, and the sun falling into the Pacific.
Other resort highlights include full-service spa, 2 championship golf courses, 8 tennis courts, a wedding chapel, $7 million in art speckled about the grounds and 20,000 sq-ft of retail shopping.
For more info on staying at Hilton Waikoloa Village, visit www.hiltonwaikoloavillage.com. For more info on the Big Island, visit: www.bigisland.org.
-Photo and Story by Greg Aragon