Hawaii is a land of perpetual enchantment, and even for an island native, there are new ways to discover its secrets. That’s what Kauai-born Chelsea Yamase found when she dove into Hawaii by Four Seasons, which combines exclusive experiences on four Hawaiian islands into one 12-day itinerary. She and the equally intrepid Sam Kolder helicoptered through clouds of smoke over an active volcano, took a sunrise hike to Sweetheart Rock and picked exotic fruit on an organic farm with an executive chef. Flying high and diving deep, Yamase and Kolder immersed themselves in the rich culture and dramatic geography of this Polynesian paradise for an experience you won’t want to miss.
To devise a private aerial tour of the Big Island, Four Seasons turned to revered Hawaiian kumu (teacher) Kamakaonaona “Uncle Earl” Regidor, manager of Ka’upulehu Cultural Center, which is on the same site as Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. He designed the ride to showcase the sheer forces of nature still sculpting the Big Island. The helicopter picks up passengers on the 14th fairway of the Hualalai Golf Course and then flies them into the steamy sky above Mauna Loa, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. From there, guests touch down at a secluded black-sand beach and spend the afternoon exploring Halema‘uma‘u Crater, recently reshaped by the 2018 eruption of neighbouring Kilauea.
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
“We were very blessed to fly over Mauna Loa and the adjacent fissure when the flow was at the height of its activity last year,” Yamase says. “Seeing rivers of molten lava forming brand-new land gave me this overwhelming sense of awe. Even hundreds of feet away the heat hit us like a wall. We flew around columns of smoke, and you could smell the sulphur and hear the crackling and crunching of hot meeting cold. It’s a very primal experience. The colours and sights were stunning from the helicopter – it’s really the only way you can fully grasp what you’re seeing.”
The terrain on Hawaii’s secluded “pineapple island” is so diverse that guests invariably end up designing their own experience within the larger itinerary. Riding through upland trails and valleys on horseback, diving into Hulopo‘e Bay from the side of a luxurious catamaran that’s yours alone – there’s a thrill for every kind of adventurer. Kolder and Yamase kicked off their stay at Four Seasons Resort Lanai with a sunrise hike to Puʻupehe (Sweetheart Rock), an 80-foot (24-metre) rock formation rising from the waters that separate Mānele and Hulopoʻe bays.
Four Seasons Resort Lanai
“Mornings in Hawaii, particularly on Lanai, are so quiet and peaceful,” Yamase says. “We decided to do the short walk up the cliff. My favourite moment was when we were up high on the edge, watching the sun make its way over the distant Maui mountains. It transformed the ocean from a reflection of gold to a deep turquoise and painted Sweetheart Rock ochre red. Seeing these same cliffs, as well of the rest of the coastline, from the deck of the catamaran later that day was a delightful mix of luxurious, relaxing fun. We lazed in net hammocks in the sun and did a bit of cave diving near a rocky island that juts out from the water like a shark fin.”
A hallowed tradition older than the written word, hula keeps the history of ancient Hawaii alive. Through movement and chants, dancers – who train by climbing lofty palm trees and swimming with boulders – recount the stories of this divine land and its people. On Ka‘ena Point, the westernmost tip of Oahu’s wild western coast, guests at Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina experience a mesmerizing display of storytelling with physical strength. Here, Kumu hula La‘akea Perry shares the story of this spot, also known as Leaping Rock, a sacred setting where mortal souls jumped from earth into the realm of the gods.
Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina
“One of my favourite things about growing up in Hawaii is how meaningfully people engage with the land here,” says Yamase. “For me, it’s always been true that perception of a place can change with one’s knowledge of it. The myths and history of Ka‘ena Point added a layer of sacredness to the hike and to the trip overall. The chance to interact with a kumu hula as knowledgeable as La‘akea is a rarity even for someone like me who was born and raised in the islands. Hearing his oli [chant] gave me goose bumps.”
For this hands-on culinary adventure, Executive Chef Craig Dryhurst of Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea joins guests on a helicopter ride above Maui’s coast. The flight path sweeps over Haleakala and lands at ONO Organic Farms, where lifelong farmer Chuck Boerner blazes an edible trail on the verdant hillside. As Dryhurst returns to the kitchen to spin the fresh-picked ingredients into dinner, guests head to Hana, terminus of the scenic Road to Hana and site of many sought-after food trucks (think fish tacos and barbecue chicken). You’ll choose what’s next – floating through lava caves or hiking through a bamboo forest in search of serene waterfalls. Either way, you’ll make it back to the Resort in plenty of time to feast on an unforgettable meal prepared from the farm basket you picked only hours earlier.
Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
“The dinner on the beach was closer to a sumptuous feast, with ingredients collected primarily from that ahapua‘a [parcel of the island],” Yamase says. “That whole day was one delight after another. The thought put into that meal and experience is something I’ll cherish forever.”
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