Monday, January 16, 2017

A Kona Village Remembrance

The MacKenzies at Kona Village Resort, 2001

The Big Island of Hawaii…just writing those words makes me take a deep, relaxing breath and pretend a gentle trade wind has brushed my cheek. The island has long been a favorite vacation spot for my family. We spent 5 spring breaks at Kona Village Resort, a throwback of sorts - no phones, radios or TV’s in the individual bungalows, or hales; no swimming pools with multitudes of water slides, grottos or swim up bars. Kona Village provided a feeling of welcome, of ‘Ohana (the Hawaiian word for family) from the staff who had become friends; a refuge from Silicon Valley for our sons to explore tide pools, fish in ancient Hawaiian ponds (catch and release, of course), snorkel through waters filled with a diverse and colorful array of sea life and just enjoy being kids in a very family-friendly environment.

 The boys wore their surf trunks on the plane so they could hop out of the car before it even rolled up to the reception area and race to the beach to find their friends who also always came this same week. Bill and I, in turn, became with friends with the parents of the boys’ friends. That’s what Kona Village was all about – friendship. We’d check in with the daytime bartenders, Sid or Rusty, about how many Cookie Monsters or Lava Flows the boys had ordered; they were limited to 3 of each. “Sometimes it's hard to say no”, Sid or Rusty would tell us if the boys has exceeded their limit. No worries, the boys were not tracking our Mai Tais or Kona Lagers!

Bill and I would catch glimpses of Ian and Alec throughout the day while we sat on the beach and read copious amounts of books. The boys would join us at the bountiful luncheon buffet (they both developed an affinity for sashimi here). We’d watch as they jumped off the diving raft anchored in Kahuwai Bay with half a dozen other kids and I would joined them for snorkeling with green sea turtles that called the bay and beach home. 

Bill kayaked with Ian and captained a sailfish with Alec. The three of them - Bill, Ian and Alec - completed their SCUBA certification at Kona Village.

Fishing in the pond off our hale

Bill and I would collect the boys after “keiki” dinner – a time spent playing totally low tech games like capture the flag or dodge ball with all the other keikis (kids) in the village – at the manta ray grotto at 8:30. We would then watch the mantas who, attracted by the lights aimed at the water, came into the bay to feed and provide us with a graceful farewell to the day, waving to us with their own special form of aloha. For seven days, we were content with living in a thatched roof hale, listening to the lap of waves on the black sand shore as we went to sleep and a cacophony of birdsong as we awoke, and then savoring all the simple pleasures that Kona Village presented.

We had hoped to return with the boys for our 30th wedding anniversary this year, but that won’t happen. Sadly, Kona Village was a victim of the 2011 tsunami that swept across the Pacific from Japan and has been closed since then. 2005 was our last visit to the village.

During a stay on the Big Island this past October, Bill and I walked the KVR beach. We saw the rusted keel of the New Moon, the boat piloted by KVR founder Johnno Jackson, moored on the coral and lava since the early 1960’s. Honu (sea turtle) are still sunning on the black sand and thriving in Kahuwai Bay. The bones of the village are there and all the memories are still alive, all the smiling welcoming people who embraced us as ‘Ohana. It was the same and yet different.

The keel of the New Moon
KVR is rebuilding and hopes to reopen in 2019. Will we ever capture the special feeling we had there for 5 spring breaks? 

Our eldest Ian died in July 2016 at the age of 24. I don’t know what a stay at a renewed Kona Village would be like without him. Bill, Alec and I will build a new relationship with the Big Island, and Ian will always be with us. 

Bill and I tossed a lei into Kahuwai Bay at the manta ray grotto on October 16, 2016, on what would have been Ian's 25th birthday.  He will always swim in those waters.

1 comment: