The Mauna Lani Bay Resort and Bungalows: A Rewarding Return

Oct 1, 2012 by

My friends warned me that when our daughter left for college it would be a really hard adjustment. So, in my take charge manner, I decided that what my husband and I needed was a trip to our favorite outer island Hawaiian resort, The Mauna Lani Bay Resort and Bungalows. I worried that it would make me lonesome for our daughter, who we had spent so many fun summers with us there. Good thing Mauna Lani Kids Camp was over for the season. I figured we would get over empty nest sadness once we hit our favorite snorkeling spot at The Beach Club where there is a clubhouse and quiet beach reserved for resort residents and condominium dwellers.

And guess what?  We discovered that the empty nest isn’t so bad after all. We arrived at the hotel in late September. The kids were all back in school. The weather was perfect, not too humid or hot. And best of all, the beach was so quiet we had our pick of any cabana we wanted. I chose our favorite spot, number 41, right on the point in front of the hotel between 2 palm trees. We were perfectly positioned to watch the surf come in and close enough to see the sea turtles that congregate near the rocks just off shore.

Each morning our day began with a brisk walk down to our quiet snorkeling spot, about 1/2 mile down the beach, where we were rewarded with a vast array of fish as we swam around the bay. This protected area provides a calm environment for the different fish species. I wondered how all these varieties of fish were created with such intricate designs of bright corals, yellows and psychedelic blues. I couldn’t get enough of it.

To break up our “busy” day I visited the Mauna Lani Spa on a few occasions. I hopped the shuttle to the spa that takes just a couple of minutes. In the locker room I was given a tropical covered sarong to wear during my visit that put me in a Hawaiian state of mind. I began my experience with a sudsy foot bath in a common waiting room. My feet were softened by the warm bath along with the local smooth rocks on the bottom of the footbath.

 

I was then escorted to an outside waiting area with a thatched roof. I sat on a wooden swing, slowly swinging back and forth. I really felt like I was a million miles away from the stresses of daily life. There are Tiki huts spread out where the massages are given. I opted for a Lomi Lomi Hula massage. This massage form invites you to enter into the ancient Hawaiian music where your masseuse performs a sort of hula dance on your body, with long sweeping strokes with her hands and elbows. The warm breeze, the music and the outdoor setting all converge to bring you to that place of nirvana. You can take advantage of other facilities like the steam and sauna and finish your experience with an outside shower using the spas shampoos and gel.

My next visit to the spa was for a Lava Watsu Water Experience. Alain, my therapist invited me to step into a saltwater pool built around vintage lava tubes. The goal of this modality is to allow you to totally relax by being moved around in water in a safe environment. You quickly develop a sense of trust with your therapist as you allow him to move you around the water. I found this to be both excellent for my back as well as my mental state of mind. As I lay in the pool and was swept into different positions, I found that the music under the water played a large part in helping me to relax. Would I recommend this slightly new age treatment? Absolutely. If you are having trouble with your back this session is easy on your body and very helpful in reducing tight muscles.

Back at the hotel we really liked the morning breakfast buffet at the Bay Terrace. Anything you could imagine was just waiting for you to enjoy.  Crispy waffles with macadamia nuts, French toast, colorful omelets made to order, sweet chicken mango sausages, a vast array of sweet morning breads and fruits, and even bagels and lox all added up to a first class resort experience.

The Canoe House was in a culinary transition on my visit but it is well worth a visit for some pupus and a house Mai Tai. We watched the sun set and later the waves glisten in the moonlight under spotlights.  I really enjoyed the local Kona Lobster, sweet and moist, cooked just perfectly on a bed of fried rice.
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The rooms at the Mauna Lani have just received a facelift including new beds, duvets, carpet and televisions. Happily the original open air Mauna Lani feeling remains untouched.  The Mauna Lani Hotel stands alone. It is a unique property with beautiful grounds that are easy to get around. No matter where you are staying, your room may well be a few steps from the beach of the pool. I am already booking my return for next year.

Dining Around
Norio’s at the Fairmont Orchid 
Just next door on the Mauna Lani resort property you’ll find the Fairmont Orchid Hotel. One evening we ventured there for a Japanese dinner. If you are looking for a first rate sushi experience Norio’s at The Fairmont Orchid is it. Norio creates exciting variations on classic sushi. Try the oyster Martini for a refreshing appetizer. Plump, juicy Seattle oysters are made especially piquant with his sesame ponzu sauce. I particularly enjoyed the supremely fresh Tuna Tataki, seared tuna on a bed of seaweed and shredded Maui onions drizzled with a fine aioli sauce, a nice twist on a classic Japanese dish. You can’t go wrong with any of the sushi or sashimi offerings. Tempura is cooked in rice oil that keeps it very crisp and non-oily.
Make sure to ask your waiter to recommend a flight of sakes. I really enjoyed the different flavors and found it  fun to compare them-a nice change from wine or beer accompaniments. The Sake martini is a take-off on the very popular Cosmopolitan and will delight the mixed-drink crowd.
For dessert don’t miss the green tea cheesecake, much lighter in texture and subtle in flavor than a traditional New York style Cheesecake. Make sure to plan ahead because Norio’s is booked far in advance.

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