The largest of the Hawaiian Islands is the original home of King Kamehameha, the landing spot of the first Portuguese explorers and the island for which the chain is named. You could call it the island that started everything. (Just don’t call it the Big Island.)
Author Jacqueline Detwiler Photography Marco Garcia
DAY TWO | After another considerable breakfast at the Palms Cliff House, you hit the road for the North Coast. A few miles in, the rain forests on the island’s eastern flank give way to high prairies carpeted in grass that looks softer than the down pillows you slept on last night. Horses graze by the shoulders, and the radio begins to play only country music. You’ve reached Waimea, home of the legendary Hawaiian cowboys known as paniolos.
The road on which you plan to hike into Waipi‘o Valley (1) is so steep that car rental agency representatives grimace at the valley’s very name, so even though you’re not hungry yet, you stop at Tex Drive-In (2) for portable sustenance in the form of sugar-coated malasadas, donutlike pastries brought to Hawaii by Portuguese settlers. Once they’re safely stowed in your backpack, you start the hike — and immediately have to pause to take in the view (again).
Waipi‘o, which begins with a crescent-shaped black sand beach and arcs back into a gorge striped with 2,000-foot waterfalls, is the former home of King Kamehameha, the Hawaiian leader who united the islands in 1810. Gazing down into it, you can’t imagine a more regal natural palace. That said, they weren’t kidding about the road: You shoulder your bag, turn sideways and begin the descent toward the pea-green taro fields on the valley’s floor.
By the time you return to your car, you’re feeling pleasantly exhausted, and just a little delirious, so you drive back to Village Burger (3) in Waimea. There, you order an inch-thick Hawaiian ranch burger made of beef from the farms you’ve been driving past all day. It’s so juicy that you work your way through a dozen napkins by the end, but it’s absolutely worth the mess.
Thus sated, you make a visit to the spa at your new accommodations, Four Seasons Resort Hualalai (4), for additional delirium in the form of a 50-minute lomi lomi massage. Afterward, you feel you have no choice but to cap it off with a thyme and berry shave-ice cocktail the size of your head in the resort’s oceanfront infinity pool.
In Hawaii, when the sun nears the water it’s time for dinner, so you wander across the Four Seasons to Pahu i‘a (5) to take in the sunset, stopping at a pile of lava rocks to spot the resort’s resident sea turtles lounging on the beach. Once seated, you watch your waitress craft ahi poke at your table out of tiny bowls of fish, seaweed, sesame oil and spices; small beads of condensation appear on your chilled glass of riesling. To your right, the torches stuck deep in the sand flicker in the trade winds. You start to suspect you’ve never been anywhere this romantic in your life. You are probably right.