I don’t often dedicate full posts to a single hotel—namely because this is my personal collection of stories and anecdotes, and not an online travel guide—but I’d be doing all future Hawaii goers a serious disservice if I didn’t pause to pay homage to the Fairmont Orchid on the Big Island.
We arrived in Kona a week ago from yesterday, and it was one of the most seamless travel experiences I’ve ever had. (Coming from me, that’s a novelty in itself.) Within five minutes of boarding, we were off the plane. Within 10, we had our checked bags. Within 25, we’d gotten our rental car from Dollar, had filled out the paperwork, inspected the vehicle and were speeding up Queen Kaahumanu Highway toward the Kohala Coast. An hour after landing, a bit of this was going on:
We were starving after a nine-hour trip from San Francisco (we stopped over at LAX) and were wondering where we’d get food at such an hour, but the Fairmont had already taken such things into consideration. Which is why there was a full plate of the most delicious sandwiches I’ve ever tasted awaiting us in the room. When we went to sleep shortly after our feast, we hadn’t even seen a bit of the grounds given that we arrived under darkness. So imagine our delight to wake up—at 5am, no less; thanks time zone change!—to this view from our balcony (excuse me, our lanai):
Makes you wish you played golf, doesn’t it? My only other trip to Hawaii was also to the Big Island, in January 2007 for SVV’s cousin’s wedding. We stayed for nearly two weeks and rented a vacation home for $180 a night on VRBO, along with his sister and her husband and his best friend and his wife. Six people in a self-catering, two-bedroom condo wasn’t bad—especially the $30 per person per night bit—but I’m only glad I did my Hawaii trips in that order: modest condo first, full-blown Hawaiian luxury resort experience second.
When we checked in, one of the employees asked if we’d been guests of the Fairmont before. I answered that yes, we stayed in a suite at the San Francisco property in Nob Hill for my birthday two years ago, but that was it. I lied (not on purpose). It didn’t even hit me until a couple days later that I actually did the Fairmont tour of northwestern Canada three summers ago when up that way for assignment, having stayed in the Fairmont Vancouver, dined and drank at the Fairmont Banff Springs and slept in pure luxury at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. And funny enough, the latter along with the Orchid have got to be my top two favorite resorts of all-time. There’s just something so classy and tasteful about the Fairmont properties—not to mention, they think of every little thing (like finger sandwiches after a late-ish flight).
The big problem with our stay is that we were fully booked with activities and tours elsewhere along the Kohala Coast and, thus, didn’t actually get to do a whole lot of lounging in front of the pool. Speaking of, can we just stop for a minute and take a look at this pool?
Blissful. You better believe anytime we could sneak an hour or two free, we pitched a tent of towels and camped right beside the water, as I sped my way through both Delta Girls and Room: A Novel on my Kindle. (Currently, I’m finishing up Swamplandia! on the North Shore of Oahu and then on to, oh I don’t know, Ape House of The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore in Honolulu…either way, I’ll be reading about primates.)
In an amazing twist that just made my day, the resort’s lovely public relations director, Jaisy, had read my site for awhile (hi, Jaisy!) and planned a dinner with us at the oceanfront restaurant, Brown’s Beach House, the first night. The food was fantastic—mahi mahi, seared ahi, lobster bisque, some sort of crab salad; we tried it all—and our server, Christian, was a riot. The view wasn’t shabby either.
As if that weren’t enough, Jaisy had read that I’m a huge fan of s’mores—really, anything with chocolate and/or marshmallows and/or graham crackers (my dessert habits show little bias)—and had a special dessert waiting for us! Talk about the royal treatment.
On the last day we were there, we finally had a chance to mosey around the grounds a bit—and they were even bigger than either of us expected. It’s funny how you can be secluded in your little corner of such a big resort and not even see half of it.
Aside from all the little restaurants and lounge areas, there’s a beautiful beach and protected cove from where all the surfers and kayakers depart. (We took a standup paddleboarding lesson at this spot, but more on that to come.)
While the area, like elsewhere on the Big Island, is rife with turtles, you needn’t even go in the water to find them—they climb right up on the rocky shore to sunbathe!
And need I stress the fact that this resort is pretty big, with a total of 540 rooms, and we still had large portions of it to ourselves (as these photos might suggest)? We even found our own little courtyard area with no one was around except for a few little red-headed birds splashing each other in the fountain.
Not to mention there were plenty of tucked-away spots to stop for a bit of a breather. You know, since life on an island is so hard and stressful and trying. Where’s my mai tai?!
Not surprisingly, the Orchid is a popular spot for weddings and vow renewals. I really wanted to get married on Hawaii; that was the original plan until we set down and did the guest list and realized how many people we just had to invite—not to mention the expense of everyone getting there, the expense of hiring a resort to plan it for you, etc. However, now that I have found out it’s actually much more affordable to throw a wedding on the Big Island than it is in California—who would have thought?—I’m seriously regretting that decision. I’ve always thought renewing vows was a bit of a silly concept—at least early on in your marriage—but I’ll tell you this: After stepping foot on this property, SVV and I have made a pact to come back here on our five-year anniversary and do just that. (If for nothing else, an excuse to return.)