Journal Entry on January 21st, 2013
Today I rose with the sun and a choir of birds; I ate a farm-fresh breakfast overlooking the ocean; walked to an ancient circle of stones; heard inspiring stories of faith and spirit; took the best yoga class of my life with the doors wide open to the sea and trees; ate a healthy lunch; walked through thick brush on a narrow path to the dramatic cliffs of the sea; had a massage in an outdoor cabana overlooking the sacred valley below (which I walked back to before sunset for more meditation); dined on an organic feast set on a covered patio with the scent of gardenia rushing past on gusts of wind while a native Hawaiian singer told historical stories about music, her ukulele and traditional dancing; then fell asleep to the sounds of ocean wind on a bed covered with soft organic sheets. Bliss.
Having never been to Hawaii, I used my 35th birthday as the excuse to treat myself to a trip to the land of Aloha. Of course I couldn’t just stay at just any resort, I needed a place that was truly inline with my holistic, green and peace-seeking side. If you are like me in what you consider to be a vacation, something that nurtures the inner and outer Self, then this could very well be the kind of heaven for you that it was for me.
The criteria for my holistic retreat had to include the following:
- A hotel committed to natural, organic, eco-friendly practices
- A beautiful spa with massage treatments available
- Healthy, organic meals three times a day
- A serene environment (aka no screaming kids wooshing down waterslides at the pool built for 100 people)
It turned out that was quite a tall order! So after a very in-depth search, the one place that kept coming up was Hawaii Island Retreat.
This off-the-grid, purportedly eco, fully sustainable resort, offered all of what I was looking for (and more) in their all-inclusive spa package. Powered almost 100 percent by their onsite windmill and solar panels, Hawaii Island Retreat truly embodies every virtue of being connected to and respectful of the earth.
Their love for Hawaii and the land led Jeanne and her husband Robert to build a retreat center in a way which honors the environment, takes nothing from it without giving back, and offers a place for spiritual nourishment to anyone who visits.
The entire facility is very well cared for and clean (not an easy feat surrounded by so many natural elements). It had the warmth of a bed and breakfast, but the luxury of a boutique hotel. Jeanne said that the intention was to create something that felt like a palace, because everyone should have the experience of being able to live in a palace — even if only once in their life.
In an effort to make the luxuries of a healing retreat available to people at various prices, they have also build a small family of yurts, just a stone’s throw from the main lodging, that are semi-permanent tent structures at about half the nightly price of the main hotel.
Delicious Farm-to-Table Organic Food
The food for breakfast, lunch and dinner was organic, farm-to-table fare created by their chef Mo, who is inventive and carefully honors all dietary restrictions with panache! Gluten-free, dairy-free, nut allergy? No problem. There was truly something delicious to accommodate everyone. I loved that 24 hours a day I could wander downstairs to get a hot cup of organic tea, too. (P.S. They have no bar and only sell wine by the bottle.)
I would have taken more pictures of the food, but I was too busy eating it! Here’s a nice one of some basmati rice and a fresh salad.
As a part of their commitment to organic sustainability, they “harvest” their own grass-fed, cage-free meat, eggs and sometimes dairy. [Below are photos of the animals I encountered on my walks through their property.]
Here’s a video of how excited the chickens got when I pulled up in a golf cart with the owner. They assumed it meant they were getting food. So cute!
My room was spacious and very quiet. Being that I’m super sensitive to noise, it was a delight that I never heard the people in the room next to mine, though occasionally I heard voices from the courtyard. Everyone seems to respect going to bed at an early hour, as being there just puts one into the natural sync of sunset and sunrise.
Being someone who is not typically a cheerful morning riser, rather a night owl, it was amazing to see how quickly I slipped into this rhythm, too. I left the doors of my terrace open at night, so the birds’ chirping — to welcome the newly lit sky — was the delightful soundtrack that acted as my alarm clock. Though awake early, I lingered in the very comfortable bed, with its soft organic sheets (free of harsh detergent smells), while gazing out at a forest of trees with the ocean as its backdrop. When leaving or entering my room, I was greeted by the pleasant aroma of a gardenia-scented tree in the courtyard.
Now let me tell you about the bathroom
It was clean and so spacious! The shower had two shower heads and would have easily fit four people at a time. I absolutely love taking baths and though it’s a luxurious use of water, I couldn’t resist the oversized bathtub, which accommodated my long legs comfortably — not something that happens at home in New York. The shelves were well-stocked with large, fluffy white towels and the most incredible smelling all-natural, locally made bath products. Sheer delight! I emerged from each shower with a pleasant scent of tropical fruit wafting around my body.
[I snagged this photo of the cleaning cart as proof that they really did use all eco bath products!]
When I finally managed to exit the bed, I ate a nourishing breakfast in blissful solitude on a patio, while the strong ocean wind tossed my hair, and the sun kissed my forehead.
Not long after breakfast, I took semi-private yoga lessons with Jamie. Honestly, I have never loved a yoga class — until then. In the grand, yet cozy room, Jamie guided us into poses and spiritual centering with the sliding doors open to the sea.
After connecting into some inner peace, I meandered through paths and hillsides to solitary, sacred spots around the property to commune with the lush valley and sea. I laid in the grass under the most lovely trees, sat on ancient stones and allowed my soul room to expand and breathe.
Jeanne led a group of us on guided walk where she explained both the history of the hotel and the sacred grounds it is build on. Her story is truly inspiring as she recounts the uncovering of a sacred circle of stones, which are immensely important to Hawaii’s history. They were used for the council area where King Kamehameha sat and pondered as he made the historical decision that he would bring unification and peace to Hawaii.
She spoke about that same sacred, spiritual guidance which kept them moving forward with a vision bigger than they ever had dreamed. Their 50 acres of land was purchased, cleared and built on with absolutely no investors! A healer herself, Jeanne’s light and energy fills the grounds.
One night during dinner we had a wonderful surprise. Jeanne’s friend came to play various Hawaiian instruments, sing, dance and offer some history into the Hawaiian culture. Jeanne even got up to do the hula.
Here are a couple of a short videos of the performance:
By now you may be wondering how this place could get any better.
I’m going to tell you in three words…
Outdoor cabana massages.
Can it really get better than daily massages, surrounded by nature? I took this quick photo as Renee, a very sweet native Hawaiian, prepared the massage table overlooking a sacred valley. I think it goes without saying that the oils she used were also natural and organic.
The spa facility is short walk up the gravel road from the main hotel. Marked by a white gate, one enters in to find a mini sanctuary of various glass-enclosed buildings, an infinity pool and a lovely locker room.
On the third and final massage I had with Renee, she presented me with a huge hibiscus flower. She had plucked it from a nearby tree and was convinced that it just might make the 10-hour trip back to New York with me. Such beauty and innocence.
Instead of trying to stuff it in my suitcase, I enjoyed it as decor for my last night and on the tray of my final breakfast that I was lucky enough to have in bed.
If it all seems too good to be true and you think I’m writing this article because they paid me to, let me tell you dear reader, I paid full sticker price for my four nights here and I would do it again in a heartbeat. There were so many “extras” that really made me see how much care was put into every aspect of the guest experience; from the glass bottles of filtered water on the dresser, to night light in the bathroom, to a printed itinerary detailing all the activities for the day.
I almost hesitated to write about this special place for fear that it becomes “too popular,” but then I decided I do want to share it — to help make sure their doors stay open. Also I hope to inspire and/or guide those of you who are seeking the “perfect eco soulful vacation” -– at least, my version of perfect.
Hawaii Island Retreat is a true respite for the soul looking to connect to the more spiritual side of Hawaii.
Photos by Kristen Arnett