Ready, Reset, Go

Reconsider how you define “living well” with the experts at Hi‘ilani Spa.
By Jasmine Lombardi

There’s just something about the quintessential, laid-back Hawai‘i lifestyle that entices people from all over the world to find serenity and seclusion on the Garden Isle. At a time when many of us are conditioned to work harder and better; be faster and stronger; do more and be more; finding balance is key. At Kukui‘ula, it is possible to slow down, to be present and live in the moment. In fact, it’s encouraged. Kukui‘ula is a place that puts emphasis on living well—in every facet of your life.

Perhaps one of the most spectacular aspects of the Kukui‘ula community is Hi‘ilani Spa + Fitness. This half-acre of tranquility is where the real magic happens. The fitness facilities and spa programs emphasize the mind-body connection, while the friendly and highly skilled staff shares their knowledge of health and wellness with
the community on a daily basis. After all, this group of individuals is but an extension of the residents’ and guests’ ‘ohana. “Not only is the spa a beautiful place to come and relax, or have a spa day with some friends and family, but our spa helps members create a healthy mind, body and spirit,” shares Mandy Gordines, the spa’s Principal Massage Therapist. Not content with offering the typical menu of treatments offered, Hi‘ilani expands the envelope with more exotic offerings such as cupping and acupuncture.

Arrival at the spa is a many-layered experience. The spa is behind a discreet gate with no sign—one either knows where this sanctuary is or doesn’t—but after experiencing it even just once, guests certainly won’t need guidance back to return. The gate leads to an intimate, flower-surrounded courtyard and meditation garden. The path meanders around a fountain’s cascading drops—a precursor of the ways in which water gets featured later on. Guests are encouraged to arrive at least an hour early to indulge in Hi‘ilani’s signature Wet Ritual. The refreshing, rejuvenating ritual is very much designed to help spagoers shift gears and slow down so they can fully benefit from the therapies and treatments to follow. First, you’ll sip on a purifying ginger tea before sweating out toxins in the lava rock dry sauna. Next, you’ll enjoy a deluge shower and conditioning hair treatment. Then, you receive a shell filled with Hawaiian sea salt and kukui nut oil that serves as an intoxicating body scrub before it’s time to fully unwind in the glass-walled steam room. Last but certainly not least is the cold plunge and hot dip (best if done three times each), to relieve tension and improve circulation. Finally, you’re free to bask in the island sun next to a 20-foot water feature and lap-pool for some Vitamin D while awaiting your treatment.

Not surprisingly, customizable spa treatments are among the most popular, since each guest receives a one-on-one with a therapist to target their individual needs. “We are really blessed to have healers working in the spa. There is a lot of heart here, and you can feel it when our therapists put their hands on you. What we do is an art form,” adds Gordines. Another popular treatment is the Scrub Mask Massage—which begins with a full body scrub and face-mask application, using customized ingredients depending on your desired results. (Think a tropical concoction of papaya and pineapple and a hydrating mineral mask or a soy chai detox mask.) Not surprisingly, the Hawaiian-style lomi lomi massage, a style of bodywork derived from Polynesian healing practices, is a top choice as well. The ancient technique is known for releasing physical tension, but also emotional and spiritual blocks as well. No matter which massage is chosen, the sense of serenityand seclusion are truly echoed down to the smallest details, leaving no hot stone unturned.

Following one’s chosen treatment, every guest is encouraged to linger in the private treatment rooms, which open out onto a private garden with a day-bed equipped cottage, and “the car wash” shower: the spa’s unique take on the Vichy shower, reimagined vertically with 360-degree coverage.

Also within the spa area are the indoor/outdoor fitness studios that look out onto verdant expanses of rolling hills and ocean views. The center hosts a wide range of fitness classes and feature state-of-the-art strength and cardio equipment. Regardless of your skill level, both residents and also resort guests can choose from group and individual classes that rotate on a weekly basis—from barre to BOSU, circuit training to water aerobics.

“We have a really great, well-rounded program, offering different classes based on your body’s unique needs,” says Jeff Kennedy, personal trainer and fitness instructor at Kukui‘ula. As one of the original trainers on property, Kennedy brings years of experience to the Kukui‘ula family. Kennedy has lived on island for more than 25 years and served as a senior health educator at a leading health and wellness company for years before going back to group and individual training. Education is at the very core of his classes.

Kennedy’s personal favorite class is Fascial Fitness, which involves pulling and stretching the postural muscles, helping to extend the body and create strength. He believes it’s one
of the most practical and beneficial practices. “It’s classes like Fascial Fitness that transfer to your everyday life and improve your overall health,” he adds. In short, the better your body moves the better it will function.

Many yoga and Pilates classes at the spa also tap into both your mind and body to enhance well-being. Instructor Theresa Ouano says the benefits of Pilates are immediately felt. “Pilates enhances our mind-body connection, which improves our agility and performance. It also improves posture and deep core strength, while sculpting and strengthening the entire body from the inside out,” Ouano explains. The studio’s view across the property’s golf fairways that extend to the deep cerulean ocean, and its well-stocked prop room are what take this club to the next level.

For yoga’s devout students, practicing it in the right environment is key—regular sessions not only improve one’s physical fitness, but also help relieve stress and anxiety. For yoga instructor Liz Smithers, quality is everything, and it’s one of the aspects she appreciates most about Kukui‘ula.

“One of the most important ways to create a healthy working and spa environment is to never skimp on quality. When I go into work, I feel super relaxed, which makes it easier to move right into my flow state. The spa totally fosters creativity within my classes and improves my overall deliverance to my students,” says Smithers. For her, yoga is a deeply spiritual and cathartic practice. “Being able to wring out the blockages through mindful movement is so refreshing. Yoga has taught me how to create spirit from within,” she explains. Through her popular classes such as Ashtanga Vinyasa, Liz welcomes both amateur and also seasoned yogis to experience this ancient practice, in the most beautiful of settings.

Here, every day can be a new experience, and would-be spa patrons are encouraged to pave their own paths to wellness. Choose from the myriad spa and fitness offerings, as well outdoor activities like surfing, outrigger-canoe-sailing, tennis, golf, hiking, mountain biking and more—which the outfitter guides can tailor to anyone’s ability or comfort level. There’s nothing like going from zero- to-hero on a surfboard in a few one-on-one sessions, or learning how the ancient Hawaiians harnessed the wind to speed across the waves.

Whichever path(s) you choose, every aspect of Kukui‘ula is committed to restoring your mind, body and spirit—one peaceful day at a time. From the tony spa facilities, to the unabashedly friendly staff that are never short on sharing the spirit of aloha, one doesn’t need any more of a reason to escape to this little slice of heavenly paradise.