I tend to be a budget traveler, cheap on food and hotels so I have money to spend on experiences. Since I wanted to attend the Twilight at Kalahuipua'a event held at the Mauni Lana resort, though, I splurged to spend one night there. I LOVED it. It. Was. Worth. Every. Penny.
Thinking back on my arrival makes me laugh: I had been hiking and swimming in waterfalls that day, so I was still wearing my swimming suit under muddy clothing when I arrived at the gorgeous resort entrance, and felt quite awkward and under-dressed to be so dirty in such a grand place.
Despite my dirt, the employees warmly welcomed me with a lei and offered to take my luggage, which I was embarrassed about because it was also a mess after the day's activities. They were kind, though, and put cute little stickers on my various plastic shopping bags full of dirty laundry, canned chicken, and other budget-traveler stuff to make sure it was routed to the right room. I was just too embarrassed to put my jar of pickles on their shiny luggage cart, though, so I left it in the car and retrieved it later under cover of darkness!
One employee escorted me through this beautiful entranceway to a comfortable chair at a desk, where they offered me fruit juice as I checked in. When he noticed that I was only staying one day and that I was muddy, he kindly told me about the free laundry room and offered to extend my checkout time till 6 p.m. the next day so I could have more time to enjoy the resort. He also kindly upgraded me to a room with an ocean view. He did it in such a way that I didn't feel judged or looked down upon, but where I felt highly valued. All the people were that way...I love that place.
When I reached my room, I was delighted to see a plate of exotic fruit beautifully arranged and waiting for me. Even though it wasn't on my diet, I ate it, and savored every bite. I was also tickled to see the "his" and "her" sections of the bathroom, with a chair and makeup mirror on "her" side, and shaving-type stuff on "his" side.
Here's the view from my room
At night, I enjoyed opening the big balcony doors so I could relax to the rhythmic, gentle sounds of the waves lapping up on the beach. As I drifted to sleep, I thought to myself "Maybe this is what it's like to sleep on the beach, except in a totally comfortable bed, minus all that pesky sand getting in your shoes and clothes!"
They have tons of activities going on there, and I'd like to stay there again sometime, so I can participate in their classes on snorkeling, coconut husking, lei making, ukelele playing, hula, and throw net fishing. Here's an image of a yoga class I happened to walk by:
I enjoyed seeing the torch lighting ceremony, which is held each evening as a man in traditional dress blows his conch, and then spends about 15 minutes running through the resort, lighting all the torches. Here's a little video of the start of the ceremony:
I ran after him so I could get my photo with him, but the photo didn't turn out well. Not only did I run after him, but lots of children also followed him around like a Polynesian Pied Piper. Here's an image I captured of them all:
Here's the main atrium at the hotel. One of the things I loved it was that the entire hotel was open, so you would feel the gentle ocean breezes as you walked through the hallways and interior areas of the hotel (except your room, which you could choose to close completely, or keep open).
Here's a closeup on some of the beautiful plants they had in the atrium:
Here's a view of the Koi pond they have at the hotel entrance:
Here's what the resort entrance looks like from the highway
I was surprised to see that once you turn off the highway, you still must drive a mile through barren black lava fields, before you finally arrive at the seaside resort.
I loved the contrast of the bright green golf courses built on top of the black lava.
They have surfboards and snorkeling equipment you can use during your stay.
Here's a photo of an employee using the traditional blow-torch method of lighting a fire for the S'mores making party:
They also have lots of hammocks around, in case you just feel like chilling out at the beach.
I met these young boys as I was out enjoying the sunset. They were concerned about the turtle, saying "Either it's really old, or it's giving birth", because it wasn't moving, which I had to smile at.
Here's an image of the sunset I captured there:
Here are the freshwater fishponds, which once belonged to the king, and have fish that like to jump several feet into the air.
When I looked to the west, I saw the big orange sun sink, and when I turned back to the east, I saw the big full moon rise over the palms:
In Hawaiian, the name "Mauna Lani" mean "Heavenly Mountain", and I had to agree--it was heavenly there!