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Green Guy’s Perfect Day: Kohala Coast

by Jason Kessler

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Every Hawaiian island has its own specific vibe which makes it easy to pick the perfect place for you, as long as you know what you're looking for. If you want laid-back, rustic charm, head to Molokai; luxury hotels with the hustle and bustle (and traffic) of a city? Go to Oahu. For calm relaxation in style, though, you want to be on The Big Island. More specifically, you want to be on the Kohala Coast, the northwestern part of the island just north of Kona. Here you'll find seven different resorts, each as individual as the Hawaiian Islands themselves. I was just hosted on a trip down there, and now that I'm back with a perfect tan, I can share with you my Green Guy's Perfect Day:

Wake up at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. It's the oldest on the Kohala Coast at almost 50, but a room refresh a few years back means clean, modern design and the largest bathrooms I've ever seen. Just make sure you like the color orange because it's everywhere at the Mauna Kea. While their breakfast buffet is quite nice, you're better off heading out early to the (relatively) nearby Waikoloa Beach Marriott for their Chef Shuttle” program where newly appointed Executive Chef Jayson Kanekoa gives you the lay of the land—quite literally—from the eyes of a local.

If you're lucky, he'll start the tour by taking you to Hawaiian Style Cafe where you can feast on massive plates of loco moco and pancakes the size of an entire island. On the Chef Shuttle, you'll go to local farmers markets, farms and seafood shops to find the freshest ingredients on the island, and then take them back to the hotel where the chef gets to play a personal game of “Chopped” and turns those ingredients into a full meal. It's designed to create dinner, but I opted for lunch instead.

If you're like me, then you'll want to use the afternoon to relax. Head back to the Mauna Kea and take advantage of their beautiful beach, or, even better, go to the Hualālai Spa for their coffee mocha scrub, in which salt from Molokai is infused with local coffee, cacao nibs, dried hibiscus flowers and cocoa butter to slough away old skin and leave you feeling completely refreshed. After the treatment, revel in the horizontal Vichy shower that rinses away the scrub while you lie down. Honestly, there's very little that feels more luxurious to me than the feeling of warm jets splashing away the scrub while you lie back and enjoy.

If you can muster the energy to move after the treatment, drive to the gorgeous Fairmont Orchid just before sunset and get a table at Brown's Beach House overlooking the ocean. You'll listen to live Hawaiian music and watch the sun set right in front of you as you dig into really elegant island fare like a Kona coffee-braised short rib with shiitake mushrooms and edamame purée or, my favorite, the crab-crusted kampachi on top of a roasted corn mash with a sauce made from local poha berries.

The island winds down pretty early, so don't expect to have many late-night options available, but that's okay. Just head back to Mauna Kea and sit out on your private lanai (patio). Listening to the ocean roll in and out from the beach should be entertainment enough for anyone.

Connect with Jason @FlyDine

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