By Hank & Elaine Levy
THE BIG ISLAND (HAWAII)
Exploration was on our agenda as we took a thirty-five minute plane ride to the Big Island, also known as Hawaii. We stayed at the amazing Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort which the locals call "Disneyland". The facility consists of sixty-two acres of sprawling land, three swimming pools, tennis courts, two golf courses, a European style Kohala Sports Club and Spa, tropical gardens, lagoons, waterfalls, and a $6 million display of Asian and Pacific Art. The grounds were so large, that in order to get to our room, we had to take either a tram or water taxi. We were amazed that in spite of its grandeur, there was no compromise in the service and friendliness of the staff.
How can one go to Hawaii without attending a Luau? We were invited to attend one hosted by the Marriott Outrigger Hotel, which was a short distance from the Hilton. Before the entertainment, there was a buffet style dinner with a variety of fish, vegetables, salads, assorted fruits and desserts. Although commercialized, the Luau presented the elements of an Hawaiian celebration including the hula and fire dances, and the enchanting music of the region.
We were told not to miss playing golf at the Waikola Beach Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. This course was like no other areas of black lava beds, and the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean made a spectacular sight. The signature twelfth hole lies at the edge of the Ocean where one can observe breathtaking views of breaching whales and vistas of neighboring Hawaiian Islands. On the course were areas of petroglyphs, which are ancient Hawaiian picture writings on rocks, many dating back to prehistoric times! The fairway is configured around an ancient Hawaiian fishing shelter; golfers receive a free drop if a shot lands in one of these historic ruins! For information visit their website at: www.waikoloagolf.com
There is always something interesting planned at the Hilton. We were invited to partake in a "culinary" experience. The hotel's executive chef, Wilhelm Pirngruber, who was trained in Vienna, was on hand to discuss the various wines and dishes which were being served. As a courtesy, Chef Pirngruber will furnish the recipe for any dish served at the hotel which is requested by a guest.
The Kohala Sports Club and Spa at the Hilton has a very extensive fitness and spa program. Program advisors are available to assist in choosing the treatments that will promote health as well as spiritual well being. The 25,000 square foot facility includes a weight room, fitness classes, sauna, steam room, a mechanical climbing wall, and relaxation lounges. Treatments and services include herbal wraps, nutrition education, aromatherapy, and more. www.kohalaspa.com.
Donatoni's, Hilton's formal northern Italian restaurant, was rated by Zagat as Hawaii's top Italian Restaurant, and we can vouch for its excellent cuisine as well as charming atmosphere. The Japanese restaurant, Imari, offers mouth watering selections plus a variety of wines and saki to complement the food.
One activity that is so special it must be booked in advance is Dolphin Quest. Participants enter a beautiful natural lagoon for a thirty minute face to face, and hand to flipper experience with these highly intelligent and fun creatures. Children especially enjoy the touching and interaction with these bottlenose dolphins. The admission fee of $125.00 per person is allocated toward research and care of the dolphins.
Our snorkeling adventure on the Big Island was one of the highlights of our trip. We traveled on a raft to two spectacular sites, one of which is rated among the best in the world. Not only were magnificent fish and plant life visible below the crystal clear waters, but we also encountered turtles and a school of dolphins! Seaquest took us on this six hour adventure. You can visit them on the web at: www.seaquesthawaii.com.
No trip to Hawaii is complete without a visit to one of the active volcanoes. There are tours by bus in which you can hike to the site, or you can go on a helicopter ride to get an aerial view. We opted to book a trip on Hawaiian Blue's newest helicopter, the Eco Star. This incredible aircraft is significantly quieter than the other helicopters on the Island, and incorporates the latest cutting edge technologies, systems and avionics. In addition, it offers greater interior space, "business-class" seats, and more cockpit glass for fantastic viewing. Not only did we have a great view of the firey flames emanating from the erupting volcano, but we had an up-close view of several waterfalls, the rainforests, and the island of Hilo. We were told that Hawaiian Blue has an impeccable safety record; it is interesting to note that all of the earlier flights that day were cancelled as weather conditions were not favorable.
Our final days on the Big Island were spent at the Oha Keauhoa Beach Resort, about an hour south of the Hilton. This property is part of the Outrigger Hotel chain, and is owned by three Jewish men. The rates are reasonable, and it is just a short drive to the town of Kailua-Kona, which has a wide assortment of shops and restaurants.
The hotel is also the host of the Jewish community in Kona. Barry Blum, the president of the Congregation, met us at the hotel the last evening of our stay. He took us on a short tour, showing us the sacred places where the congregants pray as well as where the Passover Seders and weddings are held. It is a tight knit Jewish community that is supportive of one another. You can visit them on the web at: www.konabethshalom.org.
In addition to being an orthopedic surgeon, Barry, and his wife Gloria, are musicians, and have formed a Klezmer band which performs at Jewish weddings and other events. They have recorded a CD titled, Shaloha Oy, which includes twelve Yiddish classics, including Rumania, Rumania, Rozhenkes Mit Mandlen, and Hava Nagila. It is Jewish soul music, and, depending on the selection, will either make you want to dance, or bring tears to your eyes. Proceeds of the sale of this CD go toward a building fund so that one day the community of Kona may have its own synagogue. Anyone interested in purchasing one or more can do so by emailing Barry Blum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, the congregation of Kona has published a cookbook composed of some of the favorite recipes of the congregants. The New York Times, in its February 5, 2003 Food Section, gave it a rave review. The proceeds of the sale of this book also go toward the building fund; and orders can be placed by going to the website of the congregation.
Being with the Blums the last evening in Hawaii, sharing in their warmth and hospitality, and experiencing the Jewish connection in a place far away from home, was the final link to an amazing and memorable Hawaiian vacation.
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