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Jewel of the Isles

Kohala Coast Residence Manager divulges destination gems for a haute Hawaiian escape.

Though Maui and Kauai inspire mid-winter wanderlust, those in the know also flock to the Big Island of Hawaii for memorable experiences. Spiritual, serene, and home to the world's longest-erupting active volcano, Kilauea, the Big Island and its Kohala Coast are pearls of the Pacific. Whether on the hook of the deep-sea fishing, diving with manta rays, or boutique-hopping for authentic Hawaiian décor, longtime local Carol Edmonson's hit list of hot spots and happenings may find you booking that flight for an extended getaway.

In the Know: Kohala Coast

LOCAL FLAVOR |  My top two would be the Beach Tree restaurant and 'Ulu Bach Grill at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai — impeccable service and food with ocean views. Merriman's in Waimea features local fish, meat, and produce. And Napua at the Mauna Lani Beach Club serves amazing food and overlooks Mauna Lani Bay.

DID YOU KNOW? |  We organize full-day adventure trips including bicycle rides through Volcanos National Park. At the end, during the evening, you can see the glow of the flowing lava.

JUST ADD WATER |  The Kona Coast is home to over 200 resident manta rays and is unique to the Big Island. Known as the "gentle giant," witness these extraordinary manta rays gliding through the waters. Spectacular!

SPA SCENE | Mauna Lani Spa resembles a Hawaiian village, with thatched huts, natural lava saunas, a meditation hale, and Watsu pool. A must.

CHILD'S PLAY | Hula Kai at the Mauna Lani Bay Resort will take your keiki (children) on a canoe ride where you can fish.

LEGEND HAS IT |  Our parades feature Pau (Hawaiian horseback) riders, with colorful garments on horseback, each representing a Hawaiian island. This is an only-on-the-Big-Island travel experience.

COCKTAIL CULTURE |  The best sunset cocktail is at Lava Lava Beach Club at Anaeho’omalu. With an open-air ambiance, swaying coconut trees, stunning sunsets, and tropical trade winds, happy hour is heightened by authentic Hawaiian cuisine.

BEST CUP OF HAWAIIAN JOE | Hula Daddy's Coffee. This world-class Kona coffee farm produces one of the top six coffees in the world. They even hired a soil consultant from Napa Valley during the early days of production.

ALL'S A LU'AU | The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel Lu'au is set against the sound of surf and is the most authentic on the Kohala Coast, with an array of memorable foods and a hula show featuring a fire dance.

FARM-TO-TABLE |  The top farmers' market is located on the other side of the island, in Hilo. Held on Wednesdays and Saturdays, this market features over 200 local farmers and craftsmen, and is known as the best open market in the state of Hawaii.