Hilton Waikoloa Village

The Big Island, Hawaii

Hawaii conjures up images of romance, a uniquely exotic paradise. In reality, it is comprised of seven islands, each with its own distinct character. The largest is The Big Island, which is not overly developed. The natural beauty is unsullied, there are no throngs in thongs, and the pace is tropically mellow.

The exquisite Hilton Waikoloa Beach Resort is a short drive from Kona International Airport. The trip introduced me to lava in an almost surreal landscape formed by volcanoes, emblematic of the fury and beauty of the natural world. (Don’t even think of taking some home.) The resort sits atop tamed lava on the western coast, replete with its own lagoon, beaches and perches for unobstructed sunsets.

I was greeted by scarlet macaws in the lobby, and rode a water taxi to my room. The spa was close and the restaurants superb, especially a Mexican eatery called The Boat Landing Catina, where avocados were transformed into guacamole right at my table. Not to miss—the dolphin encounters at the hotel and whale watching at its best.

Waikoloa Beach Resort boasts two fine courses—dramatic, beautiful, and incorporating lava all along the fairways. The Kings course offers distant views throughout, and the Beach course has a signature 7th hole, bordered by the Pacific, that anointed me with ocean spray. Mongoose and mynah birds joined me for the challenge.

When I left my clubs in the bag for a day to explore the island, I discovered that the western portion is lava desert, while to the east is lava rain forest and the extraordinary Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Some volcanoes are active, and at night the orange glow of molten emissions, set against a starry sky, is unforgettable.