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Mālama āina, Mālama Kai means: “Take care of the land. Take care of the sea.” It’s something Hawaiians have been practicing for centuries, and what Mauna Lani guests can experience and enjoy each day. And night.
It’s a brand-new day in a timeless paradise. You’re standing on the beach looking out at the Pacific Ocean which, you can just feel, is looking back at you – with a smile. Because you are in a very special place, one of the must-see, must-experience destinations on the Big Island. Mauna Lani. Or, “mountain reaching heaven.”
You close your eyes and envision the ancient, mystical fish ponds that once graced these spiritual grounds. No, wait. The Kalahuipua’a ponds are still here, unchanged by the centuries. From where you stand, you can even hear a mullet, milkfish or two splashing away. With eyes still closed, you imagine a time when children learned the Hawaiian way to toss a fishnet or weave a coconut frond under the watchful eye of an elder. Wait, again, you actually did that. Yesterday.
And today, just this moment, you see, in in your mind’s eye, a splendid procession of canoes approaching on the surf, bearing a Hawaiian King, the great Kamehameha I. You open your eyes and, yes, the canoes are gone. But the royal landing site remains. Right here where you stand. Because here, you have a foot in both worlds. Make that 2 feet, in the same warm sands that greeted Kamehameha I.
Welcome to Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows, a magical family resort on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island, where old Hawaii flows into new. Just as the salt water of the ocean merges with the spring-fed waters of the legendary ponds.
“This is the piko, the sacred center of five mountains, a source of great strength,” Danny Kaniela Akaka explains. A Native Hawaiian, Danny has been the Mauna Lani Resort’s cultural historian for three decades.
“Hawaii was known as a healing center,” he continues. “It’s powerful. We have active volcanos still giving birth to new lands.”
Diving into the culture and history of Hawaii comes with the territory at Mauna Lani Resort, along with the white sand beach, its private cabanas, and every guest activity and service to treat you and your own descendants royally.
“We are passionate about sharing the culture of Hawaii with our guests,” says Susan Bredo, marketing manager at Mauna Lani. “It’s an experiential vacation. The culture activities are complimentary for our hotel guests. They don’t need to register or sign up. They can just drop by and take part in the activity.”
So, dive right in. Learn to weave a floral lei, play ukulele, hula dance, or even learn to speak Hawaiian. Enjoy a fascinating walk through Hawaii’s largest petroglyph field. Or keep right on hiking to Mauna Kea, the tallest of Hawaii’s peaks. And, of course, spend as much time as you like exploring the Kalahuipua’a ponds. At your first visit, take a moment to read the educational plaque, including these words:
“By modifying them and managing them wisely, the prehistoric Hawaiians were able to raise a variety of fish in these ponds. These ponds are among the few anywhere that are still being managed in much the same way as they were in ancient times.”
Historic preservation and stewardship of the land go hand in hand at Mauna Lani, along with celebrating the area’s natural and physical beauty. So, too, should you celebrate. Take a catamaran excursion on the Pacific. A sunset cruise. Go snorkeling. Learn to dive or surf from experts. Play a gorgeous round of golf. Or surround yourself in the soothing sensations of Mauna Lani Spa.
The food is exceptional as well. Just ask Travel & Leisure or Condé Nast. Offerings include seasonal farm-to-table delights, locally caught wild fish, daily fresh pastries and legendary “malasadas” (Portuguese doughnuts).
As long as you’re unwinding in a timeless paradise, it’s a perfect time to put the phones and devices away. A time to sit back, relax and immerse yourself in the good vibes and sweet harmony of Mauna Lani.
Speaking of harmony, all 350 of the resort’s elegant guest rooms and luxury bungalows face west. Which means a spectacular ocean view, especially at that magic time when day and night reach perfect balance in a glorious Mauna Lani sunset.
After that, the stars and moon put on an unforgettable performance as well. And each month, on the Saturday closest to the full moon, Mauna Lani offers a one-of-a-kind experience you and your loved ones will share forever. Twilight at Kalahuipua’a.
On these special evenings, hotel guests and locals join Danny Akaka for a night of storytelling, music, dance and sharing of Hawaiian culture at the Eva Parker Wood Cottage right on the beach. “Twilight” is perhaps the most glowing example of the Mauna Lani experience, a unique opportunity to meet, learn and share stories in the true – and truly timeless – Aloha Spirit.
“It’s a fun experience when families or couples learn something new together,” Susan Bredo offers with a smile. “That shared experience is what makes Mauna Lani memories so sweet.”