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Mana from Heaven

Big Island, Hawaii

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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 energy!

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!

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