Hawaii’s rapidly growing master-planned community is on the cusp of fame – and there’s nowhere else on Oahu quite like it.
I knew this wasn’t going be a typical stay at a five-star resort the minute I saw Sooriya Kumar barrelling barefoot down a dirt path, beaming with buck-tooth vitality and looking an awful lot like Mahatma Gandhi in round, wire-framed spectacles and an orange sarong.
“Welcome! Welcome! Blessings to all. So pleased to see you, my brother,” the grey-haired elder exclaimed, embracing Sanjiv Hulugalle, general manager of the new Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina.
We had left the plush confines of the gated waterfront resort to visit Mouna Farm Arts and Cultural Village, an off-grid hippie commune of sorts, where our host, a Sri Lankan-born copper artist (who was last year named one of Hawaii’s Living Treasures), offers free campsites to spiritual seekers in exchange for their help working the land and feeding the poor.
“Can you feel the mana?” Hulugalle marvelled, as we wandered around a wild maze of solar-powered outdoor kitchens, vine-draped studios, tents and temples (Buddhist, Hindu and Shinto), all tucked under a verdant canopy of fruit trees in the Waianae Valley.
Mana means spiritual energy or healing power. Hawaiians believe that there are opportunities to gain or lose mana in every action a person takes. And, as I was slowly discovering, it can also change the course of a leisurely luxury vacation.
Earlier at the hotel, Hulugalle had explained that he doesn’t normally introduce guests to his “guru.” But he had felt a “connection” with me (connections are a big deal in Hawaii) and he wanted me to better understand “the soul and spirit” of what he’s trying to accomplish. “For me, this is not just about running a Four Seasons resort,” he said, explaining how he has made it his mission to embed all aspects of the hotel – from artwork to excursions – in the culture of the place.
As we sat down to a rustic, candlelit dinner – various vegetarian curries (cooked by Kumar) washed down with French Sancerre and Italian Brunello (gifts from Hulugalle) – I had to confess that while honoured to visit the farm, it was pretty much the last place on earth I had imagined ending up when I touched down in Honolulu. Ko Olina, mind you, isn’t like anyplace else on Oahu.
The master-planned vacation and residence community lies on the western (leeward) coast of Oahu, about 30 kilometres north of the Honolulu International Airport.
Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina
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