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

Sensei Lanai Soothe body, mind, and soul on the lush grounds of Sensei Lāna'i. | Photo by Robb Gordon/Four Seasons Resorts and Hotels

As Hawai‘i works to regain its famous hang-loose vibe after a difficult past few years, we can take comfort in knowing big and small ways to relax, rest, and recharge. 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

Sensei Lanai

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 3 interconnected paths to good health: rest, movement, and nourishment. With some packages, a personal Sensei guide (many have graduate degrees in their fields) can help you create a customized itinerary. Those 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.

Wellness Room

Photo by Robb Gordon/Four Seasons Resorts and Hotels

During one-on-one sessions with your Sensei guide, you can explore nutrition, mindfulness, stress management, and other topics on a deeper level. Healthful, 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.

Info: Nightly rates for the Guided Sensei Experience begin at $1,320 single occupancy and $1,760 double. 1 Keomoku Highway, Lāna‘i City. (808) 565-4500.

2. Kaua‘i: Get into nature

National Tropical Botanical Garden

Kaua'i

Photo courtesy National Tropical Botanical Garden

Nature is a powerful healer, and the National Tropical Botanical Garden’s 3 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, and 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 one of the largest collections 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.

Kaua'i National Tropical Botanical Garden

Photo courtesy National Tropical Botanical Garden

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 the native plants are rare and endangered.

Info: Allerton Garden guided tour: adults, $60 (kama‘āina, $48). McBryde Garden self-guided tour: adults, $30, (kama‘āina, $20). Limahuli Garden and Preserve self-guided tour: adults, $25 (kama‘āina, $10). For up-to-date information about the limited access to Kaua‘i’s north shore, where Limahuli is located, check gohaena.com. Allerton and McBryde gardens, 4425 Lāwa‘i Road, Kōloa; (808) 742-2623. Limahuli Garden and Preserve, 5-8291 Kūhiō Highway, Hanalei; (808) 826-1053.

3. Hawai‘i Island: Eat nourishing food

Laulima Food Patch

Don's Chinese Kitchen Green Bowls

A greens bowl with garlic crispy chicken, green goddess sauce, and seasonal root vegetables. | Photo courtesy Lao Group

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 “many hands 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). Top 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 pickled cabbage, shoyu egg, avocado, and applewood bacon.

Be sure to try the crispy chocolate chip cookies and walnut tea cookies, Lao’s sole surrender to decadence. Grab-and-go items include pickled cabbage, assorted sauces, and side salads.

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

4. O‘ahu: Find your balance

Still & Moving Center

Aerial yoga

Photo by Marta Czajkowska

“Move your body. Still your mind. Find center. Find joy!” That’s the motto of the Still & 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 1 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.

Meditation Yoga

Photo by Marta Czajkowska

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.

Info: Individual classes, $17 (online drop-in); $23 (in-person drop-in). 1024 Queen Street, Honolulu. (808) 397-7678.

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

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