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5 wonderful ways to de-stress and get healthy in Hawai‘i

Sensei Lana’i, A Four Seasons Resort
Enjoy the benefits of yoga in a beautiful setting at Sensei Lāna‘i, A Four Seasons Resort. | Photo by Robb Gordon/Four Seasons Resorts and Hotels

The past year may have dimmed our famous hang-loose vibe, but there are big and small ways to relax, rest, and recharge in Hawai‘i nei. It’s important to mālama (take care of) ourselves and our loved ones. From spa treatments to noodle bowls to sound therapy, here are stepping-stones on the Islands to lead us back to a feeling of well-being.

1. Lāna‘i: Indulge in luxury

Sensei Lāna‘i, A Four Seasons Resort

1 Keomoku Highway, Lāna‘i City. (800) 505-2624;

Nightly rates for the Guided Sensei Experience begin at $1,195 single occupancy and $1,675 double (includes round-trip air transportation from Honolulu).

sensei lanai spa

A massage can reduce muscle tension, anxiety, back pain, and other ailments. | Photo by Robb Gordon/Four Seasons Resorts and Hotels

Expect an intimate, transformational wellness journey at the luxury resort Sensei Lāna‘i. It has just 96 rooms, most open to lovely garden views. Ten onsen baths are hidden among lush greenery, and soaking in them in the evening, beneath the stars in torch-lit tranquility, is magical. Nearby are 10 spa hale—private, 1,000-square-foot sanctuaries with a sauna, steam room, ofuro bath, plunge pool, treatment and lounge areas, and indoor and outdoor showers. Two hale have watsu pools for aquatherapy.

The resort focuses on three interconnected paths to good health: rest, movement, and nourishment. A personal Sensei guide (many have graduate degrees in their fields) can help you create a customized itinerary that might include spa treatments, fitness classes, recreational activities such as archery or sporting clays, and a character-building obstacle course that, among other things, challenges you to climb 50 feet straight up a Cook pine tree.

During one-on-one sessions with your Sensei guide, you can explore nutrition, mindfulness, stress management, and other topics on a deeper level. Healthy, delicious meals incorporate harvests from the resort’s farm: Think flaxseed pancakes and house-made berry compote, roasted Kona lobster accompanied by a smoked tomato vinaigrette, and matcha green tea with coconut milk and organic agave.

2. Maui: Seek healing arts

Spa Grande, Grand Wailea Maui, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

3850 Wailea Alanui Drive, Wailea. (808) 875-1234, ext. 4949;

Massages start at $190.

spa grande in maui

The Healing Waters of Maui hydrotherapy circuit provides stress relief with water features such as Swiss jet showers; a Japanese ofuro; and five specialty baths, each infused with a different blend of minerals, botanicals, and essential oils. | Photo courtesy Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

Spa Grande, located at the AAA Four Diamond-designated Grand Wailea resort, lives up to its name in size and ambience. At 50,000 square feet, it’s Hawai‘i’s largest and most elegant spa: The lobby flaunts limestone floors, crystal chandeliers, pink marble columns, and hand-painted motifs on the walls and 30-foot ceilings.

Free with most treatments, the Healing Waters of Maui hydrotherapy circuit is a melt-your-stress-away respite that includes a whirlpool, Swiss jet showers, a redwood sauna, a eucalyptus steam room, Japanese ofuro with hot and cold plunges, 10-foot waterfall showers that massage your neck and shoulders, and five soaking baths scented with exclusive blends of essential oils and organic Hawaiian plants and spices.

The new wellness program Live Grande, set to launch in early 2021, integrates meditation; lomilomi massage and lāʻau lapaʻau (Hawaiian plant medicine); energy treatments such as reiki and chakra balancing; shiatsu, reflexology, and other healing arts; and metaphysical services, including tarot and astrology readings. Retreats, workshops, special events, and a menu of health-promoting food and beverages are also available—all designed to help participants Live Grande.

3. Kaua‘i: Get into nature

National Tropical Botanical Garden

Allerton and McBryde gardens, 425 Lāwa‘i Road, Kōloa; (808) 742-2623. Limahuli Garden and Preserve, 5-8291 Kūhiō Highway, Hanalei; (808) 826-1053.

Allerton Garden: adults, $60 (kama‘āina, $48). McBryde Garden: adults, $15, (kama‘āina, $10). Limahuli Garden and Preserve: adults, $25 (kama‘āina, $10). For up-to-date information about access to Kaua‘i’s north shore, where Limahuli is located, check

allerton gardens

Lawai Stream flows through Allerton Garden on the south shore of Kaua‘i. | Photo courtesy National Tropical Botanical Garden

Nature is a powerful healer, and the National Tropical Botanical Garden’s three spectacular gardens on Kaua‘i prove that.

Allerton Garden features alfresco “rooms” adorned with statuary, fountains, pools, and waterfalls. Ferns, palms, gingers, heliconias, cycads, bamboo, spider lilies flourish here in jungle-like abundance, along with towering Moreton Bay fig trees (seen in Jurassic Park), and much more.

Sugarcane once blanketed the nearly 200 acres that McBryde Garden occupies. Today, the garden is home to the largest collection of native Hawaiian plant species in existence, including the pua kala, an endemic poppy whose resilient seeds can sprout in areas devastated by fire. The Hawaiian Life Canoe Garden spotlights coconut, banana, sweet potato, and other plants brought to Hawai‘i by the first Polynesian settlers.

Lying in secluded splendor beneath verdant peaks, Limahuli Garden and Preserve is a vignette of old Hawai‘i that comprises a 985-acre preserve devoted to ecological restoration and a 17-acre garden, the only section of Limahuli that’s open to visitors. Note the taro terraces dating back some 800 years, rock arrangements believed to be remnants of ancient house sites, and dozens of native and Polynesian-introduced species. Nearly all of the native plants are rare and endangered.

limahuli gardens

Visitors explore the lush grounds of Limahuli Garden and Preserve on Kaua‘i’s north shore. | Photo courtesy National Tropical Botanical Garden

4. Hawai‘i Island: Eat nourishing food

Laulima Food Patch

75-1027 Henry Street, Suite 102B, Kailua-Kona. (808) 329-8378.

laulima food patch

Laulima Food Patch’s Kona Border Rice Bowl. | Photo by Abby Beard

Chef and owner Bonita Lao grew up in her family’s restaurant, Don’s Chinese Kitchen in Waimea, where her parents—immigrants from Canton, China—served humble, hearty fare such as ginger beef, chicken broccoli, and black bean shrimp. Lao graduated from the prestigious California Culinary Academy (a San Francisco affiliate of Le Cordon Bleu) and worked at high-end restaurants around the globe, yet her philosophy about the food at Laulima Food Patch is down to earth: Keep it simple, satisfying, and nourishing.

Laulima means “working together,” which honors Lao’s partnership with the local farmers, ranchers, and fishermen who stock her kitchen with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Lao’s rice, noodle, and greens bowls include “basics” such as avocado, cucumber, tomatoes, and mung bean sprouts plus your choice of protein (try the Hawaiian beef bulgogi). They’re drizzled with your choice of house-made sauces such as ginger peanut or liliko‘i barbecue, and you can up the flavor factor with add-ons like kimchi, shoyu egg, edamame hummus, and applewood bacon.

Be sure to try the ‘ulu (breadfruit) mochi fries (the recipe for the salt-and-pepper seasoning is a family secret) and the super-rich chocolate chip and Russian tea cookies, Lao’s sole surrender to decadence. Among the grab-and-go items is the Alika Burrito ($13.50), stuffed with two eggs, lemongrass sausage, kimchi fried rice, avocado, Gruyère, cilantro, and sambal.

5. O‘ahu: Find your balance

Still and Moving Center

1024 Queen Street, Honolulu. (808) 397-7678.

At press time, all classes were being held online. In-person classes will resume as the COVID-19 situation allows. Price for individual classes is $17.

still and moving center

Aerial restorative yoga is one of the unique offerings at the Still and Moving Center. | Photo by Marta Czajkowska

“Move your body. Still your mind. Find center. Find joy!” That’s the motto of the Still and Moving Center, which takes a holistic approach to fitness and health. Yes, yoga, tai chi, qigong, Pilates, and Feldenkrais classes are available. Yes, it offers scrubs, wraps, and massage (for one technique, the therapist primarily uses her feet instead of her hands). But you can also sign up for nutrition consultations, learn oli (Hawaiian chants) and how to play the ‘ukulele, and attend workshops on topics ranging from choreography to vegan cooking to healing sound therapy.

Practitioners of traditional meditation sit quietly to attain mindfulness, inner calm, and mental clarity. People in “moving meditation” hold that serenity of mind, heart, and spirit even as their bodies sway, turn, bend, jump, stretch, and glide—as with dance. Regular classes include hula, belly dance, ecstatic dance, and Afrofunk dance, and the 1,500-square-foot dance floor, constructed of beautiful Hawai‘i-grown mango wood, is considered to be the best in the state.

Whether you choose to be still or moving, you’ll be on a path to attain inner peace, balance, awareness, and unrestrained joie de vivre.

O‘ahu resident Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi enjoys writing about the people and places who make living in Hawai‘i special.

AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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