WAIKOLOA RESORT - On Hawaii's Big Island, there are lava beds that stretch from the Kona-Keahole Airport for almost 30 miles up the Kona-Kohala Coast. The old Hawaiians considered these lava beds sacred and powerful. Accordingly, the King's Trail, which runs through the heart of the lava from Kona, up the coast to Pu'ukohola Heiau, contains several areas which were most powerful and sacred of all.
One of the most powerful sites of all is a petroglyph field at what is now Waikoloa Resort. A golf course runs next to it, but when you're in the middle of the lava field, viewing the stone carvings, you can feel how special a place it is.
It is one of the unique things about visiting this coast - that such varied forces are at work. On the one hand, you have magnificent new resorts such as Hilton Waikoloa Village right at the waterfront, and on the other hand, you have reminders of the original Hawaiians. Combined, such diversity makes for a memorable visit.
Golfers are most happy here, in fact they are treated as if they were modern day kings. Some of the best resort courses in the U.S. are found along this stretch of coast, from Mauna Kea on the north to Hualalai on the south, with Waikoloa right in the middle.
Two courses, a shopping village, private condominiums and several hotels make up Waikoloa Resort. The golf courses are called the Beach Course and the Kings' Course, and both are memorable.
The Beach Course is best remembered for the dramatic beauty and challenge of the 12th hole. A par-5, your tee shot plays straight at the Pacific, with lava bordering both sides of the fairway. Long hitters may feel like shortening the hole by cutting the corner of the dogleg left. But it better be good, because lava awaits the ball that drifts left or comes up short, and you never know what bounce you'll get out of the lava. It may come straight back at you, it may go farther into the lava, or it might get ricocheted back to the fairway. One thing is guaranteed: It'll be scarred.
A mid-iron shot to the left middle is a smart second shot, leaving a wedge to the putting surface which is framed by coconut trees and rests on an outcropping above the water. It is a fun and memorable hole.
The Kings' Course plays inland from the water. It is a solid, strategic layout that requires a golfer to think his way around the course. One of the favorite holes is No. 5, a classic risk/reward par-4. The hole is exceedingly short at only 277 yards from the resort tees, but therein lies the risk. The wind is generally at your back and you just feel like having a rip at the green.
The reward, if you make it, is a putt at eagle, but the penalty if you miss short is that you will be in a vast sand bunker left, with a very difficult shot. You may even be behind a lava boulder. So, what started off as a short hole just became a black mark on your scorecard. Of course, you can always play right to the fairway and have a short wedge in for birdie or par.
No. 18 is a strong finishing hole, playing to a green protected by water. This hole requires two strong shots to reach the green and a deft touch with the putter.
Both courses are now managed by Troon Golf, which is known for superior service levels and impeccable maintenance. They are sure to continue the fine tradition of excellence at Waikoloa set by longtime Director of Golf Dennis Rose, who has now moved to Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu.
The best accommodations choice at Waikoloa is Hilton Waikoloa Village, which features several swimming pools, dolphin interaction pools, good restaurants and monorail or boat rides from one end of this sprawling resort to the other. In many ways, it's as if Disney World was transported to Hawaii.
Other activities at Waikoloa include exploration of the petroglyph fields, shopping at the 75,000-square-foot Kings' Shops - a shopping, dining and entertainment center, a visit to the spa, or a go at miniature golf, which is fun for the entire family.
Waikoloa is set up to make you feel like kings and queens while you're there, just like the Hawaiians of old.
425 Waikoloa Beach Drive
Waikoloa, HI 96738
Phone: (808) 886-1234
600 Waikoloa Beach Drive
Waikoloa, HI 96738
Phone: (808) 886-7888