Visiting the Mauna Lani Resort in the South Kohala is one of Hawaii's major freebies. From the highway you look across a vast, sun-scorched slag heap of jagged lava: hardly a vision of paradise. But drive in to find a mile-long seacoast with white-sand coves, a 30-acre history park, tranquil freshwater ponds, and a path that connects with the fabulous Fairmont Orchid Resort. The historic Queen's Pond, pictured above, is tucked away behind Beach Club Beach, and next to a series of larger ponds.
Waipuhi Iki Pond (above) is one of several at the backshore of the beaches, used in ancient times to raise mullet and other fish. A footbridge spans the water to a little-island hut that is one of the most serene places on earth. Near the footbridge is the small Eva Parker Woods Cottage Museum, where, when the moon is full, a free 'Talk Story,' performance is presented by Danny Kaniela Akaka, Jr. (son of Hawaii senator). Song, dance, and Island-style story-telling blend into a memorable experience. Each show is a little different.
Along the coast are three or four safe and spectacular coves for swimming and snorkeling. Adventure hikers can continue north of the resorts to the Puako Petroglyph Park and the reefs in Paniau, or south along a golf course to 49 Black Sand Beach. Check it out in Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer, pages 56 to 59.