Crashing waves lulled me into a state of semi-consciousness. The salubrious strokes of the ancient Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage transported me to a realm of utter calm. It was utopia. Days earlier, I stumbled onto Hawaii’s Big Island, barely coherent after almost 48 hours with no sleep and facing a packed itinerary comprised of sporting activities typical to the Big Island — snorkeling, hiking the volcano park and ziplining. However, from my seaside cabana on a precipice overlooking the Pacific, my exhaustion melted away.
Kohala Spa at the Hilton Waikoloa Village is an expansive 25,000-square-foot facility. Built in 1988, Kohala Spa is both the first spa on the Big Island and the largest along the coastline. Spa-goers will be pleased with the abundant amenities, treatments and activities on offer.
My first experience with the spa was on a breezy Hawaiian afternoon. I had planned to enjoy a seaside massage but was told that, due to the heavy winds, I would have to change my appointment time. After successfully rescheduling, I opted to sample the Hawaiian Sea Salt Scrub, a signature treatment. The scrub is a homage to the island’s ancient ceremonies during which Alaea salt was used to cleanse and purify.
I’d only had one prior scrub, and it was quite different from the treatment I was set to experience. I cannot lie — when I first ventured into the room, I was intimidated. The red lighting and the Vichy shower’s multiple heads gave the room a bit of an eerie feel. I was a first-timer to the Vichy shower experience, but once I got over my initial qualms and the treatment began, my nervousness soon dissipated.
The treatment started with warm cascades of water rushing down my body. While certainly not gentle, the scrub felt rough but restorative. Another shower interlude followed by more scrubbing, and my 25 minutes were up far too quickly. As my fingertips grazed my skin I was shocked at its silky smoothness. Not only was I as soft as a baby’s bottom all over, but my skin was radiant, a perfect complement to a tropical wardrobe. Sun-seekers, take heed: The treatment does remove a layer of skin, leaving you more susceptible to that awful fun-killer, sunburn.
Two days later, I returned for my morning massage. Traipsing through the resort in my spa robe was a bit awkward; but once I reached the seaside cabana and took in the view, I realized a moment of discomfort was more than worth it. The outdoor treatment has recently reappeared following a three-year hiatus. Guests, singles or couples can opt for a Lomi Lomi or Kohala massage, both authentically Hawaiian.
Lomi Lomi, the loving hands massage, utilizes a holistic approach passed down from ancient Hawaiians. The treatment’s gentle and vigorous kneading eases tension, enhances circulation and, my personal favorite, promotes relaxation. My technician, Crystal, used her fingers, hands, forearms and elbows, working out all my muscle kinks.
I was tighter around my shoulder blades and lower right spine area. Throughout the 85-minute treatment, Crystal spent extra time focusing on those areas, the benefits of which I could feel for days to follow. While she really worked out my muscles, she also respected my request for medium pressure.
Occasional passersby shuffling past the seaside cabana briefly disturbed my reverie, but for the most part it was peaceful and quiet, with the music of nature — the lapping of the waves and the splashing of the water — providing the soundtrack. Crystal left the striped cabana open on two sides, facing the ocean and to my right. Bushes provided minimal coverage on the right side; for a more private experience, patrons can request three sides be closed. I was able to enjoy the slight breeze and take in some of the bright sun. The outdoor elements added something special to the treatment. All at once, my mind and body were in sync with nature.
As with most things in my life, the treatment turned a bit comical. Slowly, toward the end of my 85 blissful minutes, the wind started to pick up, blowing open the closed sides of the cabana. As the flaps drifted open and closed, I started to get distracted. At the end of my massage, Crystal stepped outside to hold the curtains closed as I put my robe and sandals back on. While discreetly trying to slip my robe on in between gusts of wind, I also had to keep an eye out for any guests coming from the right side. In my rush to remain covered, I became flustered. Then, in true island spirit, I just let myself relax. I took my time, savoring the after-massage glow, tied my robe and headed back to the spa. Save for the wind, the treatment was exceptional.
Since my afternoon was wide open, I decided to take advantage of the luxurious locker room facilities. Eager to sample everything, I spent some time in the open-air stone hot tub, the dry sauna and the steam room. I quickly jumped in the shower before venturing off to lazily start my afternoon, and even this was a treat. A large, round showerhead streamed down while six more flat heads, embedded in the wall, shot water straight at me. The showers were well stocked with Kohala Spa’s signature Coco-Mango products.
The Hilton Waikoloa Village is a massive, 62-acre playground. With nine dining options, more than 1,500 pieces of artwork, the on-site Dolphin Quest experience, three pools, Hawaiian-inspired events (I learned how to hula, salsa and make leis) and a snorkeling lagoon, guests never need to leave the resort to enjoy an action-packed vacation. My recommendation, however, is that a visit to the resort’s Kohala Spa be included on that itinerary. It’s not to be missed.
Hilton Waikoloa Village
69-425 Waikoloa Beach Drive
Waikoloa, HI 96738
tel 808 886 1234
Though air travel slowed as airports temporarily closed and borders shuttered to stifle the spread of coronavirus, the airline industry — led by oneworld alliance member airlines — enacted enhanced protective measures to reduce risk and protect passengers.
I had just taken off my sandals, stepping onto the white-sand beach for a late-morning walk to a secluded spot I heard about from a front desk clerk, when I glanced down and saw the time on my phone. It had just turned 11 a.m., which meant it was only 7 am back home, the perfect time to call and say good morning to by husband before he left for work. Not quite ready to head back to my room, I decided I’d test the WiFi signal and made the call as I continued walking toward the shoreline.
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