I’m not sure it gets much better than the Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. We’re lucky on the east coast to have quick, easy flights to the Caribbean and I’d been to Maui several times before, so I was a little blasé about another trip to Hawaii, but as soon as we landed in Kona, I realized that the Big Island was my kind of paradise.

Recently, the Big Island has been in the news because of the eruption of Kilauea, which has actually been erupting since the 1980s, and has long been the main attraction at Volcano National Park. The eruptions recently accelerated, with fissures cutting through neighborhoods on the extreme southern coast of the island. The thing is… that’s 70 to 100 miles from the beautiful resorts on the Kohala Coast. The Kohala region has been unaffected and so has Kona Airport.

I travelled to the Big Island to manage a large group incentive program. On arrival, we drove through miles of black lava fields, dotted with yellow grass, with the mountains rising beyond them. This dramatic landscape is a sharp contrast to the lushness and tranquility of the Fairmont Orchid with its sweeping views over the Pacific and intimate cove beach. Along the shore, green sea turtles rest on the rocks, just steps from hammocks strung between palms. There’s no better place to watch a sunset.

Hawaii beach with turtle

Each day, as our program unfolded, participants posted on the event mobile app and on Instagram, as they explored the island. Dolphins swam alongside their boats on the snorkel sail. Guests rented cars and went off road to pristine, empty beaches with green sand. Helicopters soared above waterfalls and made landings next to private natural pools. And we heard tales of night swims near submerged lights, where manta rays rose up from the dark depths to feed on plankton, just inches from swimmers. Other guests snorkeled off of the hotel beach or settled in by the pool for relaxing days in the sun. At night, we celebrated with gala events on the hotel’s lawn at Turtle Pointe and hula-ed with the entertainers.

On our last lava-themed night, the volcano erupted. And since we were so far from the eruption, it only added to the excitement of being there, although we did feel a few tremors.  The hotel provided reassuring information in the lobby for anyone concerned and our departure flights went off without a hitch.

The Big Island has leapt to the top of my wish list, and so has the resort. I look forward to the opportunity to return with friends and family, and to hit the road for days of adventure, followed by plumeria-scented evenings at the Fairmont Orchid.  I’ve never been anywhere quite like it … Have you?

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About the author

As Vice President of Engagement at Next Level Performance, Susan serves on the board of the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), and chairs the IRF Research Committee. She has also served on the board of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) and is a past president of the Recognition Council, and a past member of the Performance Improvement Council and the Incentive and Engagement Solution Providers (IESP). She is interested in the strategies and benefits of employee engagement, incentive, and recognition programs. An avid traveler, she is also passionate about the art and science of incentive travel. Favorite travel destinations: Costa Rica, Iceland, Switzerland, and Maine.

Susan Adams
Vice President of Engagement
sadams@nxlperformance.com