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New Hotel Heavy on Hawaiian Heritage

September 29, 1996|SUSAN ESSOYAN

The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, with 36 buildings sprinkled along a stretch of Big Island beach, this weekend became the third luxury hotel to open on the Kona-Kohala coast since 1990--despite a lukewarm tourism climate.

Although it is the island's first hotel in decades to feature dispersed rooms rather than one large building, it follows a trend of focusing on Hawaiian culture.

"There's a real emphasis on the simplicity of old Hawaii," said General Manager Kathleen Horrigan.

Of course there's a price for that simplicity: Rooms generally rent for $400 and up per night.

Each shake-roofed building has four to eight guest rooms that include slate floors, sea grass mats and hand-painted natural fabrics. The 243-room resort has an 18-hole golf course, an official PGA tour facility; several swimming pools; restaurant; and a Hawaiian history and culture center. The extensive art collection on the property is exclusively Hawaiian.

To provide safe swimming, the developers dredged three coves on a beach, a move that drew the ire of some environmentalists and native Hawaiians, and prompted a lawsuit that has temporarily halted further dredging. The resort is owned by Ka'upulehu Makai Ventures, whose managing general partner is an affiliate of Kajima Corp. of Japan.

Various discount packages are available. Reservations: (800) 332-3442.

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