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Travel: Hawaii’s Big Island

The youngest of the Hawaiian chain, with active volcanoes, The Big Island is a profoundly spiritual and magical place—a garden of Eden blanketed in soft tropical heat, lush with exotic flora and fauna, astounding vistas, pounding surf, the air redolent of plumeria and ringing with birdsong. A vibrant life force exists here tied to the power of creation as lava flows and forms new land. A welcoming spirit of aloha invites visitors to share the wonders of this exotic island.

Imagine yourself standing under a canopy of leaves, lulled by the rhythm of waves and the hypnotic cerulean blues of sea melding with sky. Whether it’s a renewal of vows for two or a sit-down soirée for 300, Four Seasons Hualalai at Historic Ka’upulehu is an idyllic setting for a destination wedding. From its powder white sand beaches and its black lava bluffs to its verdant tropical gardens and tranquil ponds, the resort boasts myriad dramatic environments for nuptials, receptions, and dancing the night away. While most couples opt to marry under the coastal “Wedding Tree” or on the sand at Waiakauhi Beach, there’s also the Hoku Theatre, a terraced lava and lawn amphitheatre carved out of the lava beds, replete with a stage for elevated nuptials and an imu (underground oven) for an authentic lu’au and traditional pig roast reception. Brides can also say “I do” at Palm Grove next to an ancient pond filled with Hawaiian fish and lily pads, or take over the Beach Tree Lawn for a larger party by the stunning pool with the signature heliotrope trees, Pacific Ocean, and cloud-shrouded Maui in the distance—the towering Hualalai volcano behind you.

So what is the recipe for a perfect destination wedding? A breathtaking setting? Outstanding cuisine? Stellar service? A ceremony organic to the environs?  Hualalai has all of these ingredients, and more. From the moment you set foot on property, you enter a cocoon of comfort, style, and luxury. The pervasive attention to detail and superlative service will put brides-to-be at ease in the knowledge that their wedding will be a seamless event.

Local historian “Uncle” Earl Regidor oversees the cultural center and serves as a charismatic officiant if a Hawaiian-style wedding infused with some true aloha seems appropriate. Regidor, dressed either in an aloha shirt or traditional Hawaiian malo (loin cloth) and kehei (wrap), starts the service with the blowing of a conch shell and a soulful Hawaiian chant. “I begin with a ‘Love is Found’ oli (chant), and then explain about the items that I will I use for the ceremony, just as they were used in the old days. A simple ceremony follows, which usually lasts for about 20 to 30 minutes. It’s a very special place to marry because the spirits of our ancestors still move on this island. Many of those whom I’ve had the honor of marrying feel this. And I invite the spirits of the couple’s ancestors to be here, too.”

His favorite part about marrying a couple? “The smile on their faces from being pronounced husband and wife in this beautiful place. It doesn’t matter if it’s just the three of us, or 500 family and friends,” he grins.

A cast of on-site experts makes planning your wedding that much easier, as well. The resident florist makes magic with the local tropical flowers—think orchids like cymbidiums or dendrobiums surrounded by tropical ginger, bird of paradise, and tuberose, or a delicate haku (head garland) or sweet-scented his-and-her leis to be exchanged during the ceremony.

The executive chef James Babian and his astute culinary team source fresh-from-the-ground local produce, line-caught fish, grass fed beef, and the finest seafood, to create innovative menus with the tastes of Italy, the Mediterranean, Hawaii, and Asia. At your tiki torch-lit reception, dazzle guests with Hawaiian ahi poke, ono abalone with coconut, Kona coffee-crusted prime steak, or velvety hapu’upu’u (Hawaiian sea bass). Seasoned pastry chef Linda Rodriquez, a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and The French Pastry School, is on hand to design your dream wedding cake whether you want show-stopping, four-tiered beauty with fondant or a more rustic-style cake bedecked with delicate flowers. The wedding planners also have access to compelling local music, officiants of any denomination, hula dancers, and keen photographers.

For pre-wedding relaxation, Hualalai’s spa is a pampering wonder. While expansive, with 28 treatment rooms, the spa feels intimate with its private indoor/outdoor hales set in lush gardens with outdoor showers, fountains, and tubs. Ladies should indulge in their Bride’s Ritual with cleansing sandalwood that exfoliates and hydrates the skin to add to your bridal glow. A soothing wrap is followed by herbal milk, rose and jasmine bath, and then a kukui nut oil and cocoa butter massage. For a romantic interlude, couples will love their treatments in a private hale with dual showers, a Japanese soaking tub, and private garden. Create a signature wedding scent for the two of you from their onsite apothecary with choice of 40 natural ingredients for a custom blend. And of course, the salon is prepared to deliver divine mani/pedis and innovative up-do’s for the bride and her bridal party.

Couples and their guests will enjoy the resort’s aquatic playground as you can paddle an outrigger canoe, following the traditions of the Polynesians who traveled the seas guided by stars; snorkel with the docile sea turtles; and feed the eagle rays in the lava-rock King’s Pond. Adventurers can opt for zipline tours, helicopter trips over percolating volcanoes, horseback rides through ancient valleys, or hikes to secret waterfalls. Golfers will be elated by the seaside course designed by Jack Nicklaus. For lounging, seven “pools” await, tucked throughout the property, ranging from an adults-only beauty to an ocean-front seawater pool carved out of lava rock for excellent snorkeling.

As you lay comfortably in your cabana sipping a Mai Tai, the warm wind, pregnant with humidity, feels like a soft kiss on the cheek.

Whether it’s the energy from the active volcanoes, Pele’s magic, or the kindness of the aloha spirit, you will discover that Hualalai is truly a heart-stirring place.

“Some people fall so in love with the property that it’s led to spontaneous weddings,” chimes Shea Cochran, the resort’s wedding manager.

And we can see why.

By Ann Wycoff

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