By Roger Cox, Editor
The Four Seasons Resort at Hualalai guaranteed it would get the attention of tennis players by becoming the first resort in the U.S. to utilize Rebound Ace throughout its entire court complex. Rebound Ace is, of course, the same rubbery surface the pros used to play on at the Australian Open, but here the courts have been attractively surrounded with lava-rock walls and tropical ferns and flowers. Between points players can settle into an unfinished teak chair in the shade of a latticework ramada and gaze up at the dormant volcano. Yellow flowered galphimia vines (also know as the "shower of gold climber") partly envelope the courtside fences. There a small but well-stocked pro shop with a breezeway and flatscreen television. It's all just steps away from full-service European spa with treatment rooms, an outdoor lap pool, a series of well-equipped workout rooms open to the tropical breezes, and even a climbing wall and sand volleyball court.
A personable New Zealander and former satellite player Mark Willman runs the operation. "Our claim to fame is we've always had fantastic coaches," says Willman, including at times his brother Daniel, who ranked as high as 285, and head pro Aussie Jim Murray. "Over the holidays and in summer we get a lot of families, so I started a 'Magic Tennis World' program." It awards plastic gold coins for things like hitting soft targets and those coins are then redeemable for candy, cookies, and even logo shirts and junior racquets. "The demand for kids tennis is increasing," Willman says of his evolving program. That now also includes a Hawaiian version of Cardio tennis, with hula stretch and upbeat Jawaian (Jamaican-Hawaiian) music. "It's a great workout," Willman says. Otherwise, those adults who come to play or take lessons are treated to chilled spearmint-scented towels, ice water, and Gatorade.
Tennis aside, there is much to love about this resort, adult or child. Its 243 spacious and exceptionally tasteful rooms have been scattered around the property in low-rise bungalows. Some accommodations have their own outdoor gardens with private lava-rock showers. There are several swimming pools, the largest a rimless version next to the lava-rock coast, as well as two unusual man-made lava-rock ponds filled with a mix of fresh and saltwater and stocked with tropical fish or small red Hawaiian. Great cuisine is as close as Pahu i'a, a waterfront restaurant known for its ocean-inspired contemporary Pacific cuisine and breeze-wafted setting.
Spa & Fitness
Beach. A white-sand beach borders calm waters of the Pacific.
Golf Courses. Jack Nicklaus designed Hualalai's 18-hole golf course, laying its 7,117 yards out through a black-lava landscape, at once daunting and uncommonly beautiful. Its par-3 17th hole perches on a black-lava promontory that juts into the Pacific, and can be even more dramatic when waves crash against the shore.
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General Tourist Information. For information about the resorts along this corridor, visit the Kohala Coast Resort Association website or the Big Island Visitors Bureau website or contact them at 68-1330 Mauna Lani Dr., Ste. 109B, Kohala Coast, HI 96743. Phone: 800-648-2441. Or for information about Hawaii as a whole, visit the Hawaii Visitors Bureau website or contact them at 2270 Kalakaua Ave., Suite 801, Honolulu, HI 96815. Phone: 800-464-2924.