Mana from Heaven
Big Island, Hawaii
Mana is an ancient Hawaiian word. It’s hard to translate exactly, but it means
something like ‘peace’ or ‘serenity’. According to the locals it’s the feeling
you get when all seems right with the world, there’s nothing tedious to do and
no clouds on the horizon.
The Paniolo Greens resort on Hawaii’s Big Island claims that an all-pervading
mana is its prime selling point. The Big Island must be one of the very few
places in the world where it’s possible to surf in the morning and ski in the
afternoon, and not all the resorts on the island are perfectly positioned for
both activities. The Paniolo Greens most certainly is, being situated in the
Big Island’s beautiful Highlands area, roughly halfway between some of the best
beaches in Hawaii and the snow slopes of the famous Mauna Kea.
All accommodation at the Paniolo Greens resort is in two-storey
villas and condos, each with two bedrooms, its own kitchen, sundeck and lawn.
If you’re traveling in a group or with your family, each lounge contains a
convertible sofa bed, so a pleasingly large number of people can be made to fit
into each villa. The accommodation amenities are great, too: both bedrooms have
color TV, the kitchens (unlike many resort ‘kitchens’ which just contain a
microwave and a coffee maker) are fully equipped to cook even the most
sophisticated meal. There’s a video and DVD player, and a stereo system. All
the clothes you get messed up during the course of your day’s activities can be
quickly and easily dealt with in the built-in washer/dryer. All accommodation
is fitted with air conditioning, for which there is a small daily surcharge on
the days when you use it. However, the climate of the island and the location
of the Paniolo Greens right next to the sea mean that you shouldn’t feel
uncomfortably hot too often.
The Paniolo Greens offers great vacation accommodation at a
relatively low price. One of the ways it does this is to limit the number of
activities available and run by the resort itself – guests are expected to pay
for their activities offsite from third party providers, though the resort will
be more than happy to recommend what’s worth seeing and doing, and who’s best
to do it with! Apart from the surfing and skiing activities already mentioned,
the Paniolo Greens resort is also relatively close to a number of good golf
courses. If you don’t want to stray too far from the resort itself, there are a
number of things you can do within the grounds, helped and advised by the
onsite activity staff – who are especially good with kids! There’s a large pool
and spa, plus a separate gym and exercise area that’s open for use by all
guests. There’s a fully equipped playground for kids, as well as tennis courts
– and, unusually, a horseshoe pit – for bigger kids who want to wear off some
The presence of the horseshoe pit is a reminder that this was –
and, in places, still is – cattle country. A ‘paniolo’ is a Hawaiian cowboy,
and the resort is built on the site of one of the cattle ranches which used to
dominate the whole area.
If you’d like to seek out some activities that are a little less
high-octane than surfing and skiing (or even golf) you could visit one of the
many local sites of interest. This part of the Big Island, as well as being a
cattle area, is also famed for its coffee. Several coffee plantations offer
guided tours of their premises, so you can find out exactly how the stuff you
drink with your breakfast every morning actually arrives in your cup. If you’ve
hired a car – which is an excellent idea, by the way, as you’ll struggle
without one – then one of the best plantations to visit is the Holualoa Kona
Coffee Company, which is around thirty-four miles’ drive from the resort
through some beautifully scenic countryside.
The Paniolo Greens does not have its own restaurant – most
guests either eat off-site or prepare food in the kitchen sections of their
accommodation. Just a few minutes drive down the road is the Highlands Shopping
Center. The Center is a great place for buying fresh food, and also sports a
number of cafés and restaurants if you feel like eating out. Fine dining can
also be had down the road at Walmea. Real connoisseurs might like to drive a
little further and visit Kailua Kona. The drive isn’t short, but it’s very
beautiful, and once you arrive you’ll have a wide array of eating
establishments from which to choose from.
If you’re in search of value and flexibility on one of the most
beautiful of the Pacific’s many islands, the Paniolo Greens could well be the
resort for you!