Visiting the Big Island of Hawaii is a once-in-lifetime experience for many people. Whether you are visiting for your only time or you are a Big Island regular, treat yourself to the Mauna Lani Resort, one of the grand dames of the hotel strip along the Kohala Coast, north of the Kona airport.
This oasis of ponds, shrouded by vegetation, borders lava fields and the life-giving sea. Through a program of enlightened stewardship, the Mauna Lani Report is protecting, preserving, and bringing life to the many cultural, natural and historic sites.
The hotel complements the royal water gardens with an elegant entrance and open-air atrium. Be sure to check out the ponds in the atrium and on either of the lower level entrances. As you stroll around “your” royal gardens, notice the wonderful variety of fish, shown in a spectacular setting. The Mauna Lani sponsors a honu (sea turtle) hatch and release program. If you are here on July 4th, you can be part of Turtle Independence Day, when the hotel releases this year’s turtles into the wild.
BTW, drink as much water as you can and salt your food more than normal. The breezes feel wonderful because you are sweating like crazy and don’t know it. Kidney stones are common here, and will quite frankly ruin your vacation. You can also limit dehydration by drinking alcohol and caffeinated drinks in moderation.
Our room was one of the 90% of the rooms that have an ocean view. The other 10% have a spectacular view of Mauna Kea, especially beautiful in winter, when it is capped in snow. Our room sported a comfy bed, entertaining local TV, and a bathroom that struck me as European in flavor. The toilet was in a separate room, and the shower/tub was tucked into a cozy corner. Marble floors kept our tootsies nice and cool.
Of course, the Mauna Lani faces one of the most beautiful white sand beaches on the Big Island. Like all Hawaiian beaches, this one is open to the public and accessible through the state park entrance. But since you are a hotel guest, you’ll just stroll from your room to take in the snorkeling and to see the honu.
The hotel provides many wonderful eating establishments, and we decided on sushi since we wanted a light dinner. The fish was exceptionally fresh and the flight of Japanese sakes was an education in itself.
During the conference, we ate lunches at the Ocean Grill, poolside. All the food is incredibly fresh. I highly recommend the salads, and the fries are out of this world. If you are on a low-carb diet, the kitchen can make any sandwich into a salad by leaving off the bread. Just ask.
Ke Kumu History and Tradition Kept Alive
Throughout history, island people revered and cherished the nourishing spirit of the grounds of the Mauna Lani. Known then as Kalahuipua’a, one could only come to this land by an invitation from the ali’i, the Hawaiian royalty. With the rich history of spiritual healing, the Mauna Lani serves as a natural venue for their annual conference on Hawaiian healing and spirituality, “Ke Kumu ‘O Mauna Lani” or Ke Kumu for short.
Each year, the Mauna Lani invites guests to learn about Hawaiian and world healing at Ke Kumu (which means “the source”), an event that creates unique Hawaiian experiences and personal interaction with Hawaiian masters and lifestyle experts from around the world. Both kama’aina (locals) and visitors sample the festivities, workshops, interactive seminars, and spa cuisine.
Sylvia: Quiet Powerhouse of Ke Kumu
Just a few years ago Sylvia Sepielli couldn’t imagine that she’d be hosting healing seminars. Sylvia is an internationally recognized spa designer and operator, and she designed the sumptuous spa at the Mauna Lani. She’s always invited her friends in the healing world to visit her spas and teach her staff and guests. Eventually, someone suggested that she get all her friends together and put on a conference.
This diminutive, soft-spoken powerhouse is surprised to find herself at the center of an integral healing program. She rattles off a long list of names, including Danny Kaniela Akaka, who have helped her bring Ke Kumu to life, and who will help develop it into the future.
Co-conspirator in the creation of Ke Kumu is Danny Kaniela Akaka, Mauna Lani’s resident Hawaiian historian, cultural director, and kahu (spiritual leader). Danny is a living link to ancient Hawaii, and well worth your time to get to know. As part of his degree in Hawaiian studies, he lived with the last family to live on the Mauna Lani lands before the hotel was built. Danny lived in the old Hawaiian way with this family, learned to speak fluent Hawaiian, and developed a kindly way of delivering the Hawaiian message.
Danny’s office is at the Eva Parker Woods cottage, on the other side of the royal fishponds. With a view of the beach and pools, it’s better than any corner office.
Ke Kumu “The Source, The Teachers”
Our weekend started off with a traditional Hawaiian purification ceremony. We gathered on the beach and Danny Kaniela Akaka explained that Hawaiians would often immerse themselves in the ocean to purify their thoughts and spirits before beginning on an arduous journey or task. He offered a Hawaiian prayer for the weekend, and blew the conch shell in the four cardinal directions. About 50 of us dared to brave the early morning ceremony and attempted to release our worries into the ocean.
Other speakers throughout the conference included Dr. Bertice Berry (www.berticeberry.com), sociologist, author, lecturer and educator; Robert Heiman, founder of the Epicuren medical spa and salon treatments and creator of a inner knowledge process called SAIOE www.epicuren.com/symposium05.htm as well as noted Hawaiian mythology expert Linda Ching and Tai Chi master Rafael Anteby. Mauna Lani staff physician Dr. William Cervantes discussed non-surgical methods for skin rejuvenation, and hotel fitness coach Tim Powers led us through morning exercises.
One highlight of the conference was Dr. Lori Arviso Alvord, who is the first woman Navajo surgeon and Associate Dean of Student and Multicultural Affairs at Dartmouth Medical School. She talked at length about the need of the medical establishment to honor and incorporate patients’ spiritual needs into their overall medical treatment.
Even if you can’t get to the Mauna Lani next year for Ke Kumu, be sure to plan your trip around the full moon. Each month on the Saturday closest to the full moon, the Mauna Lani hosts an evening of Hawaiian stories, hula, music and fun, called “Twilight.” This event is not advertised, and is open to anyone, so you’re likely to mingle with local folks with lawn chairs, coolers and big hearts. Watching the moonrise over
The Mauna Lani Spa
The Mauna Lani Spa offers a unique Hawaiian sense of space with nearby ancient Hawaiian fishponds, petroglyph fields, and Hawaiian preservation sites. Reflecting the resort’s commitment to preserve the cultural and spiritual environment, the spa is built among lava tubes and designed in a way that both takes advantage of, a honors, the natural habitat.
The spa features healing gardens and Hale Nahenahe relaxation pavilion. The centerpiece of the spa is the Kahi Kikaha (the place of soaring), which is a 1,000 square foot watsu pool. Watsu is an aquatic bodywork technique that incorporates the best of shiatsu massage in a warm salt-water pool. I’ve have a number of watsu treatments over the years and can best describe them as flying in water. You must try it.
Then I retreated to the air-conditioned indoors for a traditional Hawaiian lomilomi massage. Robert, my massage therapist, is reputed to be the best at the spa. He started the massage in the traditional way, with a Hawaiian spirituality healing prayer. Lomilomi is not a deep muscle massage, but focuses instead on long strokes covering large muscle groups, and is designed to get your energy moving gently. Elegant and restful.
The Mauna Lani Hotel and the royal fish ponds and retreat, Kalahuipua’a, sit in a basin, ringed by five spiritually important mountains Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Hualalai, Kohala, which are all on the Big Island, and Haleakala, which is on Maui, just across the water from the hotel. These mountains are a source of great power in the Hawaiian belief system, and the tops of these mountains are where the gods live. It’s a bit like having five Mount
These mountains are revered as holy places that, in ancient times, could be climbed only at certain times of year, and special preparations and rituals had to be made before ascending. Because of the reverence for the mountains, Hawaiian spirituality objects to the telescopes that sit on Mauna Kea.
Another key symbol of Hawaiian spirituality is the “calabash” bowl, which is a small basket woven from coconut fronds. Hawaiian spirituality imagines that each one of our worries is a stone that we carry around in our calabash, and that we must continually empty our basket of stones. If we don’t take time to release our stones, we feel a sense of heavy burden, a great weight of distrust, lack of love, and troubles. We can restore ourselves to harmony and health by emptying our bowls.
Another way to empty the calabash bowl is to walk into the ocean and let the sea carry your worries away. Ancient Hawaiians often prepared for important activities such as travel, fishing, hunting, marriage, etc., by taking a ritual swim. This ritual bathing is common to many religions.
Hawaiian spirituality teaches that everything has a meaning, and we must learn how to experience those messages.
By Cymber Quinn, Jetsetters Magazine Hawaii Correspondent.