Once a year Clay and I escape for a long weekend without the kids. We never did that with our first child, but our twins took a lot out of us in their first six months of existence. That year we learned the importance of pushing the reset button as a couple. Our first time away from the kids we didn’t go anywhere new. We went back to where we were married, Poipu Beach, Kauai. We didn’t feel obligated to do anything more than sleep and drink mai tais by the pool because we have explored the island many times before.
This year we decided to mix it up and return to the Big Island. It had been thirteen years since we had set foot on its volcanic landscape. Knowing that the island has been lagging a bit for tourism because of the volcanic eruptions last year, we thought it would be an interesting option to explore. As loyal Marriott Bonvoy members (still getting used to one of the worst invented names ever) we opted for the Westin Hapuna on the west side, as we could secure an ocean view room with cash and points while still having access to the iconic Mauna Kea.
We rented the convertible because there was always a possibility we would go do things (we didn’t). We arrived early on our Alaska Airlines flight and began heading out to our hotel. We anticipated that our room wouldn’t be ready, so we decided to stop off at Queen’s Marketplace in Waikoloa. Not wanting to dig through our bags for the sunscreen, I found some local, reef-safe sunscreens to try out on our convertible ride.
Our real reason for stopping there was to have lunch at the Kuleana Rum Shack. I had the pleasure of meeting someone involved with this venture a couple years ago when the sugar cane was being grown. Her family then relocated from the San Francisco Bay Area to help produce one of the first Big Island premium rums. Even though the lunch menu doesn’t highlight the rum flight, it is available if you ask.
The menu is original and has many delicious options to choose from. It was the one time I wished there was more than two of us so we could have sampled many more flavorful dishes.
Now we were ready to head to the Westin Hapuna. As we came near I at first panicked that I had booked us at a hotel that wasn’t beachfront. It’s a weird set-up, but you turn right into the hills and then go under the road to get to the property. We parked our car and made our way to the front desk. Even though it was 2pm by now, the room wasn’t ready yet as expected. It was slightly disappointing that we were directed to the lobby bathrooms to change into our swimsuits. I would have expected a hospitality lounge like most properties have.
We took ourselves down to the pool and, well, hardly left for the next seventy-two hours. Our travel consisted of little more than switching pools. Our first afternoon we spent by the family pool, looking directly over the beach and ocean. The next two days we preferred the quiet serenity of the adult-only pool.
The Westin Hapuna has a lovely lobby bar where we met island native Kawelina Gomes for a drink. I had met Kawelina a month ago at a conference on the mainland. She has the awesome job of being the PR manager for both the Mauna Kea and the Westin Hapuna. It was delightful to spend some time learning about life on the island. She told us about a path where we could get easy access to some great snorkeling from the hotel property.
One of the perks of being a platinum Bonvoy member is that you can choose to have free breakfast every morning. From the loco moco makings to the omelet bar, everything was delicious. I even tried some of the honey from the Mauna Kea hive. And, I was over the moon when some fresh island delights were delivered to our room for our anniversary celebration. Later in the weekend I’d have a chance to buy more of Steve’s Akaka Falls jams and butters at the artisan market at the resort. There I also discovered MoiMoi, who we will be featuring later this year in our box.
On Saturday we were too late to make dinner reservations at the Mauna Kea, but we climbed aboard the complimentary shuttle and headed down to the bar for Saturday night sunset. As we walked into the Mauna Kea, there was a loud rattling. It had been windy over the weekend [no umbrellas could be used], but I thought that was a bit disconcerting in an older hotel. Well, come to find out, there was an earthquake at that exact moment.
We really enjoyed our evening at the bar. Food, drink, and company were marvelous. The Sunset Roll is truly one of the best rolls I’ve ever eaten. Even though we like our together time, it is good to meet new people. During the course of the evening, we met a couple from the Bay Area as well as a local cattle rancher. We also met a woman from Panama who had been disappointed in her Hawaii time so far. She hadn’t fallen in love with paradise as so many of us do. However, their trip had started in Oahu and then had come to this barren side of the Big Island. She was headed to Maui next where I assured her she would find her Hawaii vibe. [And, if you are reading this, let me know if you did!]
We almost left the hotel on Sunday to get some Big Island Shave Ice, but they were closed. We did snorkel and found a honu. Seeing those creatures in the water is one of the most amazing things. We were using our reef-safe sunscreen when we snorkeled. We called it a day by 3pm as we had massages and dinner scheduled.
Did we find our vacation vibes? We did. A little sleep, a lot of conversation, and maybe some adult activities gave us a chance to be our relaxed, unhurried selves. Being in the sun and on the beach heals the soul. We enjoyed the Big Island, but we did find ourselves comparing it to Kauai. The next time we come to the Big Island will be with the kids. Then we will have to decide if we stay at the mega-resort like Lori did, or stay Marriott loyal. Either way, we plan to come back for at least ten days to ensure enough time to get to all parts of the island.