The Big Island is such a special place, full of natural beauty, classic Hawaiian charm, uncommercialized shores, and a certain mystique. Fondly referred to as “the Big Island” since it’s larger than all of the other Hawaiian Islands combined, the island of Hawaii is home to the world’s most active volcano and the tallest sea mountain on Earth. There’s no other place like it, with its black-sand beaches, turtle-filled waters, world-class diving sites, petroglyph fields, moon-like terrain, active eruptions, amazing fresh fish and produce, and serene pitch-black nights. You’ll either fall in love—or hop the first plane back to the action, nightlife, and more typical tropical surroundings of Oahu. As I was told, the volcano either likes you or it doesn’t. But don’t be fooled by the rustic environment. Peppered throughout the Kohala Coast of the western side of the island, often referred to as “the Gold Coast,” are some of the world’s finest resorts.
For the five-star experience, head to Four Seasons Hualalai for a mix of comfort and high-end luxury. This is where today’s movie stars vacation. While I was there, Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green were just married at the resort and were enjoying their honeymoon. But don’t be put off by the celebrity cachet; it’s as equally accommodating to a newly married couple from Jersey. The staff goes out of their way to make you feel important, no matter who you are. And the property’s newly renovated rooms, amazing golf, spa, beachfront restaurants, designer boutiques, and six pools, including the one-of-a-kind King’s Pond, carved out of lava rock where freshwater and saltwater combine to form a great snorkeling pool, come together to create an incomparable luxury honeymoon. Rates start at $500 per night. 888-340-5662.
The Fairmont Orchid, a 540-room traditional resort, is another favorite that boasts a wonderful sandy lagoon for water activities, along with a large pool just steps away. There are fabulous massages on the beach, snorkeling with the native green sea turtles, a fun luau, six restaurants, tennis, and 36 holes of golf. And be sure to book a room on the Fairmont Gold Floor, with complimentary beverages, continental breakfast, evening cocktails and canapés, and concierge services to plan all of your offsite trips, including helicopter tours of the volcano, ziplining, and sunset sails—all must-do honeymoon activities. Rates start at $335. 866-540-4474.
Right next door is the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows, another one of the island’s original luxury spots. This A-frame building with modern furnishings is a wonderful quiet resort with all of the island’s charm. Enjoy tennis, golf, the spa, fitness club, pool, snorkeling, biking throughout the property, wonderful gardens, educational turtle-feeding tours, hula lessons, and the renowned Canoe House restaurant—one of my all-time favorites. At Mauna Lani, most of the water activities are complimentary, which is a huge perk given how expensive Hawaii is. Most impressive are their beachfront bungalows, with your own private plunge pool, outdoor living area with gas grill, lanai surrounded by saltwater ponds and tropical fish, and a fully stocked kitchen upon request. Rates start at $455; 800-367-2323.
Hilton Waikoloa Village, with 1,240 rooms, is the largest resort on the island and is where you want to be if you crave action. With three pools, waterslides, ten restaurants, an interactive dolphin program, saltwater lagoon, spa, golf, tennis, and access to designer shopping just down the street, the Hilton is a destination unto itself. There’s even a motorized water taxi to escort you around the property, prompting many to nickname this the Disney World of Hawaii, but it’s really just the perfect place for those looking for all of their activities at one resort. Rates start at $179. 808-886-1234.
And at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, it’s all about the white sand. A long, expansive beach can be hard to find on the Big Island due to all of the black volcanic rock that makes up the shoreline, but Mauna Kea proudly boasts the title of the island’s best beach resort. This Prince Resort, originally founded by Laurence Rockefeller in 1965, has a loyal following—couples who honeymooned here forty years ago still return year after year with their families, and it’s easy to see why. Understated elegance is still the mantra. The newly remodeled rooms are perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean and offer more of a modern feel with their private lanais, bright orange and red décor, and L’Occitane toiletries. World-class golf at the Mauna Kea Golf Course is just steps away, and any sort of water sport that you’d imagine is found on the beach. Request a guided snorkeling tour so that you can spot all of the indigenous fish in the bay, and don’t miss the gourmet restaurants, including the fabulous Manta restaurant with its wine-pairing menu and views of the rays in the ocean. They also offer a great luau, tennis, spa treatments, a cliffside pool, Hawaiian cultural activities, and yoga classes. Rates start at $450. 866-977-4589.