Though I’ve visited and lived in many cities, home has always been one place: the island of Oahu, where I grew up and now raise my own family. It’s not four walls that call but the land itself – undulating sand, mountains outlined against a steadfast sky, forests bubbling with life and stories – places of endless natural wonder and history that never fail to anchor me.
To truly connect with Hawaii is to be a participant, student and wonderer, and these unforgettable deep dives – designed by Four Seasons – illuminate core elements of island life that are profoundly meaningful to all who call it home.
Of all Hawaii’s small wonders, from shells of adornment to plants of legend and love, the sea contains the purest of all. “The natural salt the ocean provided was a cornerstone of Hawaiian living,” says Uncle Earl Regidor, Kaʻūpūlehu Cultural Center Manager at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. Used in ceremony (alaea salt blessed my new home) and cooking (seasoning the pig that filled our last family imu), it’s also used to heal.
Hiking along the coast adjacent to Four Seasons Resort Hualalai leads guests to the centuries-old Kaʻūpūlehu salt flats. When seawater pools on black lava and dries in the sun, it forms salt that guests gently scoop with wooden spoons and collect in fabric bags.
This precious harvest is used during a private, interactive cooking class where guests explore varieties and their use in traditional Hawaiian cooking and in dishes prepared for the occasion. Seven Hawaiian sea salt varieties are also used in the Salts of the Ocean body treatment at the Spa to promote detoxification and healing.
Stories percolate throughout Hawaii’s landscapes, and the story of sugar is one important part of island history that visitors don’t often experience.
In the Fire & Wine adventure at Four Seasons Resort Maui, guests are invited to do so after arriving by helicopter at historic Haiku House estate on Maui’s north shore. After a wine tasting to determine the evening’s food pairings, guests embark on a private tour led by the director of the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, who shares stories about the history of the land, estate owners and sugar itself – brought on voyaging canoes millennia ago and Hawaii’s dominant industry from its beginnings in 1835 until 1959.
Later, hand-selected local ingredients are cooked over an open kiawe (mesquite) fire and served by Maui chef and Advanced Sommelier Yeshua Goodman. A special dessert prepared at the fire provides a sweet finish.
“Guests are able to connect deeply to a part of the island not easily accessed but so rich in history,” says Executive Pastry Chef Riccardo Menicucci. “I get to tell part of the story through doing what I love best, expressing myself through food to delight others.”
Just stepping onto the 140-square-mile island of Lanai transports you back in time to an enduring way of life.
“On Lanai, the majority of the local community still sustains traditionally through ocean gathering and hunting,” says Jay Ballesteros, Cultural Guide at Four Seasons Resort Lanai.
The Resort’s cultural fishing expedition allows guests to understand this important lifestyle first-hand by gathering directly from the sea themselves. “The guides are all local and culturally connected, and go between the lines to personalize the experience,” Ballesteros says, including hands-on practice with different types of coastal fishing, accompanied by a beach picnic and tales of history, culture and authentic island life.
The experience deepens with stops at the old Keomoku fishing village and 800-year-old Waia‘ōpae Fishpond, being rebuilt today to revive the unique Hawaiian aquaculture system that was based on it. At day’s end, if a guest’s catch is big enough, it can be prepared for dinner back at the Resort for a truly sea-to-table experience.
Heading out for a day at sea has been ingrained in island life since Hawaiians first arrived in voyaging canoes using the stars to find their way.
This ancient art of voyaging comes to life at Four Seasons Resort O‘ahu at Ko Olina as guests climb from the sand and into the wa‘a (canoe) Ka‘aumoana, hand-built by experienced navigator Nakoa Prejean.
“Being in a traditionally styled Hawaiian sailing canoe is completely different from any type of adventure,” Prejean says. “It gives guests a cultural connection to some of the ancient ways prevalent in our culture for thousands of years.” As the Ka‘aumoana sails out of the lagoon along the west coast of Oahu, the the ocean’s pure intimacy and thrill unfold while Prejean’s team shares stories of voyaging and wahi pana (storied places).
The canoe then heads to private snorkelling spots so guests can dive in and explore pristine marine environments abundant with sea turtles and spinner dolphins. “Out there in the wa‘a,” Prejean says, “they feel connected with the ocean and make unforgettable memories.”