KONA, A ROSEWOOD RESORT, HAWAII'S BIG ISLAND
Along the sacred shores of Kahuwai Bay, Kona Village, A Rosewood Resort is an iconic Big Island hideaway rooted in the legacy and moʻolelo (stories) of the native Hawaiians who came before.
Along the mystic shores of Kahuwai Bay, explore a restorative island hideaway with a magical past.
My first visit to Hawaii’s Big Island, my second to the state, was in 2005, and I stayed at Kona Village. The resort seemed laid-back and magical, at once identifying and satisfying a desire I never knew I had, with the remarkable convenience of being just 15 minutes from the airport but in a totally different world. One day I started chatting with other guests, and they told me they were on their 12th and 14th visits to the resort. I didn’t know that was possible. I barely understood that people would visit the same place twice. But I was younger then and voracious, and I wanted to see the world, which left no time for repeats, because I wanted every experience to be new. I never imagined that nine years later my wife and I would buy a parcel of land on this same island, hire an architect, and build our own house. But Hawaii turned into a forever place for me, one that seeped in through my skin and has always seemed strangely magical in ways that other ones don’t.
Some people talk about Pele, the goddess of volcanoes and fire. To see lava gushing into the ocean and accreting—forming land which in that very second is the newest on earth—and spewing some larger chunks of it into the surf, rocks that actually float, is a mind-bending kind of wonderful that sticks with you forever. I’ve seen moonbows over the ocean, a nighttime anomaly that still makes me shiver, and I suppose I’ve had my dreams of pots of gold at the end of rainbows dashed, because there are so many rainbows in Hawaii (go Rainbow Warriors and Wahine!) that you see where they start and end, both of them goldlessly, leaving only a sense of amazement wrapped in wellbeing.
An island this alive has its share of disasters (even Kona’s airport is named after local hero Ellison Onizuka, who died in the space shuttle Challenger explosion), and one of them is earthquakes, even ones that occur far away. As everyone on Hawaii Island knows, the original Kona Village, built on the site of a fishing village destroyed by lava in 1801, was itself destroyed in 2011 by a tsunami. It took until July 2023, after delay upon delay, for Kona Village to reopen as a Rosewood Resort on 81 oceanfront acres leased from Kamehameha Schools, which the first king’s great-granddaughter endowed and is today the largest private landowner in the state. Among the surprises in Hawaii is to see homes and hotels, and ohia trees and tree ferns, rise from plots where once there was only razor-sharp lava.
The facts of the hotel are stunning: 150 freestanding, thatched-roof bungalows, or hales, ranging from one to four bedrooms, with giant bathrooms, lanais, outdoor rain showers, black concrete soaking tubs, and cutesy coconuts to leave by your door, instead of a “Do Not Disturb” sign. There’s also the original Shipwreck Bar, fashioned from the schooner the resort’s first owners sailed in on when they “found” the abandoned Kaʻūpūlehu village in 1961. But more important is the Asaya Spa, the first Hawaiian and North American outpost of Rosewood’s “integrative wellness concept”—encompassing journeys that address emotional balance, fitness and nutrition, physical therapies, skin health, and community. Treatment rooms feature retractable walls that open onto breezes. Signature therapies include a Mana Awakening Journey, promising to “immerse guests in the unique earth, fire, water, and wind of Kona Village” and a Kahuwai Journey, named after the resort’s jaw-dropping bay, which includes a hydrotherapy foot ritual and restorative massage, along with a gratitude ritual on shore to provide safe harbor for a subsequent canoe excursion.
I grew up in New York City to the descendants of eastern European immigrants, which means I can be a Hawaiian resident, but I’ll never be Hawaiian. And yet this land means so much to me, as do its waters. I wrote my new novel Underjungle here, which is set entirely underwater, and I researched it off the island’s coast, including on dives that took off from the original Kona Village. We adopt what’s important. I’m not going to say I adopted any of the fish I saw on that visit. That would be silly. But may I suggest I knew their great-great-great-great-grandparents, and they launched me in a new direction, one of discovery, ocean, meditative journeys, and permanence? rosewoodhotels.com
James Sturz is author of the novel Underjungle, out August 1, and set entirely underwater.