Rick and Marla's Visit to Waikoloa
Story Written by Rick Archer
Can you spot
Marla hiding in the shadows? Marla and I visited
Waikoloa Village on the second port stop of our
Hawaii 2013 cruise. Waikoloa
is a fascinating man-made oasis amid the barren lava fields
created by the nearby Mauna Kea volcano. We all know
the Arabs are making islands out in the Persian Gulf, but
this reclamation project is pretty impressive in its own
I admire any man
who can observe a wasteland and visualize a garden.
I admire a man even more if he can somehow create that
garden! Sure enough, right in the
middle of the most desolate moonscape area imaginable, lush
golf courses explode from the ashes like a phoenix rising.
Nor are they
done yet. New golf courses are being created as I
type. And when the newest golf course is finished,
another multi-million dollar set of resort homes and more lavish
malls will surely spring up alongside.
is such an amazing gift. This picture taken from space
reveals the enormous extent of the damage done to the
environment by the lava flow from Mauna Kea.
eruption of this volcano took place between 4,000 and 6,000
years ago. One would imagine that in 6,000 years,
surely vegetation would take hold again.
sea of brown indicates nothing exists in this barren no
man's land... except for those two mysterious green spots on
the coast. What could those green spots represent??
Earth, here is an enlargement of the smaller picture above
it. Nine holes of a new golf course development have been carved out of the lava fields.
What you see is topsoil laid atop crushed lava beneath.
In fact, those
patterns contain a hint of green. This means they have
already begun to grow grass. How cool is that?
that shows up are the future roads. And what about all
that empty space?
I imagine that is
where the new homes, the malls and the rest of the
infrastructure is scheduled to be built.
So while the
golf course slowly turns green, a new resort
community will come to life alongside.
neither you nor I can afford these sort of homes or
exclusive club memberships, but it is still fun to know they
exist and that someone is having the time of their life
chipping, putting and driving
their way to golf happiness.
honesty wonder if golf courses are part of the Divine Plan.
Mauna Kea's last
eruption was at least 4,000 years ago. When you
compare the progress of Mother Nature to the Gods of Golf,
one has to assume the Gods of Golf are getting it done a lot
tons of dirt in, added plenty of grass seed, planted some
trees and look at it now.
The entire area around Waikola is nothing but
barren lava rocks. To see a green carpet laid over this
desolation is very impressive.
Rockefeller is the pioneer given credit for bringing the
resorts to the Big Island. He hired Robert Trent Jones
to build the first golf courses in the area in 1965
as part of his new Mauna Kea Resort (7 miles north of
credited with developing the technique of first crushing and
compressing the jagged lava rocks, then covering the surface
with a thick layer of topsoil.
With proof that
these artificial playgrounds were indeed possible to create
and sustain, other developers flocked to the same area.
The Hilton at Waikoloa
was opened in 1988. It became a Hilton property in
1993. I wrote a fairly extensive
of Waikoloa prior to our trip.
Waikoloa's design wraps it around a
picturesque ocean inlet. There are four separate
hotel areas. Those three circles at the top are the Ocean
Towers. That odd Y-shaped building is the
Palace Tower. Then comes the Grand Promenade
overlooking the lagoon. That is the Lagoon
Tower overlooking the swimming pool area.
was there first, but since its opening an extensive amount
of extremely valuable real estate has risen around the
resort including a mall and private homes.
Now that I have
actually visited the place, I suspect that someone had the
clever idea to build a long 500-yard breakwater landmass
across the inlet. Study the two pictures. I
cannot imagine an area blasted by eons of huge Pacific waves
would have a narrow, fragile tongue of sand and rock
extending across the inlet. Surely that would have
eroded away long ago. In fact, that barrier is
so convenient that I cannot believe is a marvelous
accident of nature. I am fairly sure it is man-made.
I imagine one
reason to create that barrier would be to perhaps calm
the ocean waters and to protect the buildings from water
damage. Another reason would be to create protected
Count them -
there are three separate protected areas. 1 - The light blue areas are swimming pools.
2 - The area directly in front of the Lagoon Tower is a dolphin
enclosure. 3 - The larger area to the right of the Lagoon Tower
is the lagoon itself complete with saltwater from the
Note how calm the waters are.
Thanks to the artificial barrier, the lagoon area has a marvelous
beach and protected waters perfect for paddleboats and
kayaks. Best of all, dozens of giant sea turtles visit
this area all day long. They have access to the
Pacific Ocean if they wish, but these turtles seem perfectly
happy to hang out in the lagoon. Don't tell anyone,
but I suspect that someone feeds them. That would be
one very good reason to hang around.
In my opinion,
that artificial barrier adds immense quality to the overall
design. By cutting the inlet down to size, the barrier
creates a beautiful walkway and several protected water
sections while preserving the overall natural beauty of the
That sandy beach
in the picture rests on the inside portion of the 500-yard
artificial sea barrier. With it, one has a perfectly
landscaped private lagoon complete with fish and sea
turtles. Without it, there are huge waves, rough
waters, and no sandy beach. Someone was a genius to create this
The Lagoon and the
Rick and Marla's Long
The main objective of our day was to visit the Waikoloa
Hilton and see how well it matched up with the
Atlantis Resort in the
Back in December
2012, I visited with the Clark family over the Christmas
Holidays. Allen and Polly Clark were a second
family to me when I was growing up. Back when I was a
kid, I spent many wonderful days at their home playing
Risk with Shari, Margaret, and Jimmy. Considering
Allen had been a conscientious objector during World War II
and the Clark family were peace-loving Quakers, it never
even dawned on me just how tolerant the Clarks were to allow
their children to play this goofy war game over and over again.
Now you can
guess why I love Allen and Polly so much. Despite my
flaws, they both had a
huge heart for a lost kid like me who really needed a family.
oldest daughter, is the closest person I have to a sister.
Shari is an flight attendant for United (formerly
Continental) who calls Hawaii her home base. Shari had
read my story about Atlantis. She commented to me that
there was a place on the Big Island known as "Waikoloa"
that was very similar to Atlantis. Maybe I should visit
Waikoloa on my upcoming Hawaii Cruise.
And that's how
it started. I took one look at the
pictures of Waikoloa on the Internet and
readily agreed it was very beautiful. Marla was
impressed as well. We agreed to use our port stop in
Kona to make a visit.
The Waikoloa Lagoon
and the Grand Promenade
So how far did we walk?? Using the Ruler Tool in
Google Earth, I retraced our path as best I could.
I estimate we covered about two and a half miles over a
three hour span. Since
and I walk three miles a day in Memorial Park in slightly
less than an hour, by our standards this particular walk was not much of a
To be honest, we
had planned to walk further. There was a great
deal of development outside the Waikoloa Village that
invited exploration. For example, I would have enjoyed
walking along one of the nearby golf courses to take a look at
the magnificent Trophy Homes overlooking the course.
In fact, that was my plan when I finally reached the golf
course next to the Ocean Tower. Unfortunately, I was nursing a giant throbbing
toothache which greatly reduced my ambition.
By the time we
made it to the golf course, I was in so much pain that I
looked at Marla and said we should probably head back.
If it hadn't
been for the magic of Alka Seltzer Cold Medicine, I can't
imagine how I would have accomplished as much as I did.
That said, even
in my diminished state, I was able to scoff at the commuter
train and the water taxis that connected the far-flung
structures. The walking distance between the four main
structures was just barely over half a mile.
reminded me not everyone is lucky enough to be able to walk
like we do. I frowned. Good point, Marla.
that I think back, we did spend a considerable amount of
time with extra walking. However, it wasn't 'fun'.
In order to save time, we walked a mile from where the
cruise ship tender dropped us off to the car rental place.
This is a trick
that Marla developed to beat the crowds at car rental
places. We have learned that we are hardly the only
people who desire to rent a car. Marla had discovered
a taxi ride to Waikoloa would cost $90 plus tip = $100.
That would be $200 round trip. On the other hand, a
rental car would cost $50. This was such an obvious
no-brainer that Marla assumed lots of cruise passengers
would reach a similar conclusion.
advantage to taking a taxi would be to save a considerable
amount of time. We figured if we waited for the
shuttle, then we would also have to stand in line at the
rental place. Typically one person slowly fills out
the paperwork for ten to fifteen different waiting
customers. Waiting for a shuttle and waiting in line
at the car rental office can take up to an hour's time. (Note:
we confirmed this one day later in Maui. At 5 miles, it was
too far to walk.)
Since we didn't
have any time to spare, Marla suggested we beat the crowd by
walking. Sure enough, when we got off the tender,
there was a huge crowd at the pier waiting for the shuttles
to arrive to transport them to the car rental spots.
So Marla and I hoofed one mile. It took us 15 minutes.
We were out of there before anyone else even showed up.
Nice move, Marla.
It took us about 30
minutes to drive to Waikoloa. After parking and
wandering onto the grounds, the first interesting spot we
visited was Area 1, the swimming pools. It took
about one instant to
reach the conclusion the swimming pool area was very attractive.
Those palm trees
are planted into the artificial barrier I wrote about.
The Pacific Ocean is just beyond those trees.
I believe where
Marla is standing marks the edge of the original coastline.
I think there used to be seawater where that pool is.
By placing the artificial barrier on the other side and
draining the seawater, they were able to install these
swimming pools between the barrier and the original
We crossed that
rope bridge to the other side of the swimming pool area.
We are now standing on the "artificial barrier".
This was my
first look at the ocean. That is not
white sand. Those are white rocks. They are
clearly there for decoration, not for walking on.
Marla wanted to
take a swim. However, I didn't join her because I was
starting to feel bad from the toothache. Instead I
pulled a lawn chair under a palm tree and stared out at the
ocean. Then I saw movement in the shrubbery.
It turned out to
be a mongoose. I thought I had witnessed something
special, but I ended about seeing six more of
animals that day. They love hiding in the thick
shrubbery that covers the resort
The Mongoose was
introduced to Hawaii in 1883 in order to control the rat
population on sugarcane plantations. There were no
rats in Hawaii until the European ships began to arrive on a
regular basis. Now the damn rats were multiplying like
crazy and destroying
the valuable sugarcane crops.
the addition of the mongoose to the ecosystem backfired
badly. For starters, the rat population was barely
affected. The rats operated at night and the mongooses
operated by day. Their paths almost never crossed.
mongoose population exploded. The introduction of the
mongoose came to haunt the islands. Now the island had
not one, but two scavengers on its hands. The mongoose
threatened the survival of various native species,
particularly the birds.
chase the rats, the mongoose scavenged by day for whatever
food it could find. Meanwhile the nene,
Hawaii's state bird, lays its eggs on the ground.
Guess who ate all the bird eggs? And why do you
suppose the nene is stupid enough to lay its eggs on
Because there was
not a single egg predator on the islands until the mongoose
was introduced and the nene was too slow to adapt.
Not surprisingly, today the nene
is practically extinct while the rat and mongoose
populations flourish. (read
more about it)
The time had
come to leave the swimming pool area. Now we entered
Area 2, the dolphin pond in front of the Lagoon
Tower. We were curious about the dolphins, but were
more interested in seeing the rest of the resort first, so
we kept going. We would catch the dolphins on the way
Here is a good
look at the Lagoon Tower and a dolphin crossing the pool.
I took this picture of
the ocean inlet and the Ocean Tower across the water from the artificial barrier. I was standing
where the Red 2
is marked on the map above.
So what are we seeing in the picture above?
These are the waters of the ocean inlet. This is known
as "Waiulua Bay". These waters are
fairly shallow, but no one likes to swim because the bottom
is extremely rocky.
shoes, the chances of cutting your feet are very high.
Most people prefer to swim in the resort's man-made
sandy bottom lagoon nearby.
So how wide is
this bay? It is approximately 100 yards across.
I was standing
where the Red 2
when I took this picture. The building on the hill in
the very center of the picture is known as the Palace
Tower. I marked the Palace Tower with the
Try to identify
in the photo the spot I have marked with the
That spot is the "secret passage" where the saltwater of the
Bay merges with the saltwater of the Lagoon. That
opening is very narrow... only 20 yards wide.
Earlier I spoke
of how the artificial barrier extends deep into the bay to
create protected waters. This is what I was referring
to. I believe the "man-made lagoon" and the bay were
once a single body of water.
My guess is the
configuration of the bay in the days before the artificial
barrier was created looked something like the picture on the
right. Using the artificial barrier, they were able to
extend land deep into the bay, fill the bottom in with sand
and create an artificial sandy beach in the process.
When the process
was complete, the resort now had a beautiful lagoon with
calm waters, a sandy bottom perfect for swimming and
snorkeling, and a sandy beach for the sun bathers to relax
on. Then they landscaped the entire surrounding area
to create the area in the picture below. Well done!
Compare the two pictures. I believe the
original bay was much wider.
As I took
pictures, Marla suddenly got very excited about something
and told me to hurry over. Lo and behold, a sea
turtle!! Little did I know at the time, but this
lagoon was teeming with these green sea turtles.
a few feet away, I noticed a young girl had gotten in
trouble for trying to play with one of the turtles.
The life guard came over and chewed that little girl out
something fierce. Don't touch the turtles!!
across the way covers the "secret passage" where the
saltwater from Waiulua Bay merges with the saltwater
of the protected lagoon. That bridge connects the
artificial barrier to the mainland.
One of the very
attractive features of the resort is are the double bridges
that connect everything together. I am standing at
as I take these pictures. Note the water canal that
carries the water taxi. I think that water canal was
man-made, but I think they had to dig a trench to create it.
Here is the
second bridge. Behind that bridge is the Hidden Cove.
I suppose this would be a good time to admit I got a real
kick studying how sometimes the designers
worked with what Mother Nature gave them and other times
manipulating the landscape to their own will.
Here is a Google
Earth view of the complicated Double Bridge set-up.
Note what a
difference there is in the water inside the secret passage
and outside the secret passage.
gives a very good view of the man-made artificial barrier
that juts across the bay to seal off the lagoon area. That
barrier protects the lagoon from giant waves.
also gives an idea how the monorail and the water taxi
system work. The two paths run side by side.
out they could cross the entire resort on foot in 15 minutes
or less if they put their mind to it, but when you consider
the babies, all the small children and the elderly, these
travel conveniences begin to make more sense.
The Hidden Cove
This is part of
the Grand Staircase which is part of the Main Lobby.
It overlooks the Lagoon just twenty yards or so from the
"mainland" side of the secret passage bridge resides a
lovely wedding chapel. Marla is taking a picture of
Waiulua Bay from the side of that chapel.
Chapel is small and very elegant. And one certainly
could not ask for a prettier view!!
At this point,
Marla and I are standing at
Red Area 5. We have
just crossed the "Second Bridge" and visited the Wedding
Now we are on
the other side of the bay close to the
distinctive three-rings of the Ocean Tower.
Here we begin to
encounter all sorts of statues and lots of mongooses... or
is the plural of mongoose 'mongeese'? If I get
it wrong, please forgive me.
Ocean Tower is a series of shallow pools perfect for small
children. I called this area "Kiddieland".
There were all
kinds of statues celebrating some mouse. I never quite
figured out the significance of those mouse statues, but
there were about a dozen of them.
suggested they were statues commemorating each of the
animals representing a Chinese year. I will take their
word for it.
Once we reached
Red Area 6,
I was able to get a good shot of the artificial barrier on
the other side of Waiulua Bay. This gives us a
pretty good look at the decorative white rocks that help
prevent erosion from the barrier.
As I said before, the
distance to the other side is about 100 yards, the length of
a football field.
No matter which
tower one stays in, the views are pretty amazing.
There is immense beauty in every single part of the resort.
Where we were
standing now gave us our best look at the Pacific Ocean so
far. Very beautiful indeed.
I wondered what
was on the other side of the Ocean Tower, so I wandered over
That is when I
spotted what must surely be Shangri-la for some people -
Trophy homes situated on a golf course amidst the most
beautiful scenery in the world.
I had to cross
that lava field on my way to the golf course. It was
first lava rock I had been near all day. I was glad I
saw it because it served as a grim reminder what the rest of
this place once looked like. As beautiful as Waikoloa
is, the truth is that Waikoloa is a small pearl in a vast
sea of barren, practically useless land. 99% of the
surrounding area is still little more than wasteland.
I passed right
by this delicate shrub that had been planted inside the lava
field. If you look closely, you will see that the
shrub has a circle of rocks around it. In addition
someone has also added topsoil. Since rain is so scarce
in this region, I wondered if this plant could survive on
its own. This area is very arid; hopefully this plant
has a friend who comes to water it.
me, Marla documented my trip to the nearest golf green.
Here I am taking
pictures of the golf course. So what did I see?
I saw stunning
trophy homes with perfect views of the Pacific. I saw
a beautiful green golf course surrounded by elegant palatial
One day in 2008
my son-in-law Glenn politely encouraged me to try me a round of golf.
Heck, why not? I'll try anything once. I hit one
incredible drive on my first try and everyone thought I had
been sandbagging them. No, just got lucky.
I didn't hit another decent shot the entire day. I was
so aggravated I haven't tried again. I suppose if I put my mind to it, I
could learn to play golf. However, everyone I know
tells me the game is very addictive. Since I have far
too many unfinished goals to risk the distraction, I do my
best to resist its charms.
That said, I
definitely respect the people who love to play golf. I met
several people on our Hawaii Trip who are absolute nuts
about golf. To them, the chance to play some rounds in
Hawaii was high on their bucket list. I wasn't
surprised; I have heard everyone say that Hawaii has some of
the finest golf courses in the world. Looking around
at this place, I would have to agree.
As I snapped my
pictures, I noticed no one was out today. What a
waste. I don't know where my friends on the trip
played, but they told me they enjoyed their rounds of golf
immensely. As they should... after all, golf in Hawaii
is part of the Divine Plan. In the beginning,
volcanoes created the islands and eons later golf came along
to make everything pretty.
I placed a
Red X to mark where I was standing when I took my
golf course pictures. This overview really strikes
home the fact how the green grass creates a carpet-like
effect as it stretches across the ugly, jagged black rock
While others might be envious of me that I
get to take these exciting ocean cruises, I have my envies
too. It was hard not to be envious of the kind of
wealth that is necessary to afford a lifestyle like this.
I have a great life, yes, but today I was merely on onlooker
to a way of life that I barely have comprehension of.
No one I know has access to the lifestyles of the rich and
the super-rich. Instead all I get is this brief peak.
Trust me, in a way it is a good thing I am not interested in
wish to live in this strange paradise would have driven me
insane with desire.
At this point I
had to stop. My aching tooth was killing me. I
had more medicine in the car, but that wasn't going to do
me much good over here on the wrong side of the resort. I
asked Marla to give me ten minutes. I actually fell asleep.
While I napped,
Marla snapped... snapped pictures that is. Here are a couple of cute
little yellow bird
friends Marla discovered.
I wasn't quite
sure why they had a statue of a tiger on this end of
Or a moose for
that matter. Maybe these were some of the animals who
represented a Chinese year. That was the only
explanation I could think of.
When I awoke, it
was time to head back. However, I was very drawn to
the statue of a lonely Buddha stationed on an outcropping
above the ocean.
I was fascinated
by this marvelous statue of the Buddha
overlooking the ocean. I noticed
someone had put some roses in his hands to keep him company.
Buddhists believe in the twin concepts of karma and
reincarnation. I have no idea if these ideas are true,
but I will say I am much more comfortable with the thought
that we have many lives to get it right concept than the
Christian "one and done" theory.
As we headed
back to our starting point, I took more pictures of my
favorite spots from a new perspective. For example, here is another
look at the lagoon from a different direction. Can you
see the waterfall far in the distance? That spot is
250 yards away. I sure wish I had
felt better. I really wanted to see if I could paddle
on a surfboard like that lady and her son.
This place had
more statues than any place I have ever been with one
exception - the
Tuleries Garden in Paris, France.
Wherever I looked, there was another statue of something.
This was really quite a place.
As I was saying,
wherever I turned there were more statues.
bad I felt, it took every ounce of self-control not to collapse
on that bed or another one like it. I was certain a root canal was the only
solution to this degree of pain. Oddly enough, the
pain was gone the next day. Furthermore, the pain
never came back. I asked my dentist to explain.
He shrugged his shoulders and replied, "Teeth are weird".
Good grief. Is that the best explanation he can come
This is a
picture of the far side of the resort. We are back at
the spot where I had seen the mongoose earlier in the day.
Looking across, can you spot the white statue of the lonely
Buddha? He is between two palms out in the open.
At this point,
Marla and I were walking the pink route back to our car.
I wasn't particularly hungry due to the pain, but Marla was
starving. We stopped for lunch in
Red Area 7
at an outdoor restaurant overlooking the lagoon.
While we waited
for lunch to be served, I stared at those boats. Gosh,
I wish I had felt better. I really wanted to rent one
and paddle around the lagoon. It is difficult to judge
size through photos, but that lagoon was a lot bigger than
the pictures might indicate. It would been fun to row
a kayak and stare at the sea turtles. Besides the
turtles, there were a lot of fish to see in those waters.
During our meal,
I gave one little French fry to a bird who had been watching
me politely. Bad mistake!! Out of nowhere
another dozen birds joined him! Those goofy
birds kept me company for the rest of the meal. I
could not take a bite without the birds tracking every move
I made. Marla giggled. She said this could be a
sequel to Hitchcock's The Birds.
After lunch, we
stopped by the nearby dolphin enclosure. Waikoloa has
a dozen or so dolphins who live there. The dolphins
were definitely in a playful mood. They put on quite a
show, but here's the deal - it wasn't Showtime! No one
was feeding them any fish. They were playing around
for the fun of it! I couldn't believe how happy there
were. The dolphins were a real joy to watch.
Later that night
at dinner some of our friends exclaimed glumly that they had
paid big bucks to take a "Dolphin Sighting" tour, but they
hadn't seen a single dolphin. They spent All Day Long
on that catamaran and not one darn dolphin swam by!! Marla and
I listened sympathetically, but said nothing. We
didn't the heart to tell our friends the amazing show we had seen
without even trying.
I stared at this
picture in confusion. Why was the water a different
color? Finally I asked Marla to explain. Earlier
she had gone swimming in this pool while I stared at a
mongoose. Maybe she knew the answer. Marla said
the bottom of the pool was colored differently. I frowned.
Why didn't I think of that?
This rope bridge
crossing the swimming pool was pretty neat.
I crossed the
rope bridge to take a couple more pictures. You can
see the rope in the bottom left corner. That waterfall
sure looked inviting. For the umpteenth time that day
I wished I felt better. It would have fun to swim
under those waterfalls.
wherever we went was simply wonderful. Someone who
possessed great skill had gone to a lot of trouble to make
this resort a true Pacific paradise. I completely
agree with my kid sister Shari Clark - for sheer beauty,
Waikoloa is a definite match for Atlantis.
Marla and I had
just climbed those stairs. This was the end of our
meandering 2.5 mile walk. I
stopped to take one last picture of the Pacific Ocean before
I left. My last thought was of the Buddha statue
sitting on that jetty staring at the ocean for eternity.
I looked for him, but my view was blocked.
learned that the resort has a
small nature preserve next to the Lagoon Tower. Here
is the nene, Hawaii's nearly extinct state bird.
And there's a sea turtle too.
While we walked
through the Lagoon Tower, a train passed by. I was
surprised at how big it was.
This shows how
the train tracks and the water taxi canal run parallel.
Here is the
turnaround spot for the water taxi inside the Lagoon Tower.
Another look at
the water canal.
parrots were making quite a ruckus. Obviously they
wanted some attention, so I found them by tracking their
screeches and took their picture. Now they were happy.
From the Lagoon
Tower, we made our way over the Main Lobby. This is
one of the many parrots who reside in the open air
environment. None of them seemed to be tethered.
I guess when you live in Paradise, who wants to leave?
Right before we
left, I noticed this picture hanging on the wall in a corner
of the Main Lobby. This was surely
how things looked in this area to the Hawaiians before the
first coming of James Cook and the Europeans in 1778.
No matter where
one went, there was a vast sea of jagged black lava rock and
little else with the giant Mauna Kea looming in
the distance 25 miles away. Very few if any people
There was no game, no wood to build
a shelter, no fresh water and no way to grow anything.
Other than fishing the Pacific waters, there was little reason
to visit this barren, desolate and very lonely place.
Nor were the fish any incentive.
The nearest people lived on the
north shore of the island 10-15 miles away. They had
plenty of fish to catch off their own north coast. Why bother with fishing
As for the
Hawaiian native in the picture, it took a real effort to get
to this deserted spot. There were no horses in those days.
had to reach this spot either on foot or by boat.
studied the man staring off into the ocean, I was reminded
of the Buddha statue again. This man
might easily be standing in the same spot where the Buddha
statue now spends its eternity.
Except that now
in our modern times thick green grass carpets have replaced those
lava rocks. What a difference a few centuries have
made thanks to a strange game called golf.