Great Southern Ontario golf ... Four Seasons Resorts rock the Pacific
Had a chance to take in (most of) a round of golf at King Valley in Aurora on a rather blustery Sunday. It's one of the many ClubLink courses in southern Ontario and it's certainly one of the top courses I've played in our fair province.
There are plenty of elevation changes and swooping fairways and interesting greens. Several holes are lined with majestic rows of towering pine trees, giving the place a bit of an Augusta (I imagine) feel. There are lots of small ponds and generous, ball-swallowing bunkers. But it's not unfair by any means, and it was in great condition on Sunday.
Too bad about the lousy weather, but that's hardly their fault. And at least we didn't have any trees come tumbling down on our golf cart. It gave us a chance to have lunch in the lovely clubhouse, where they make some pretty decent spring rolls and a generous plate of nachos, too.
FOUR SEASONS HUALALAI, HAWAII AND BORA BORA, TAHITI
I had a drink a few months back with the head of a major hotel in Asia, and we got to talking about the status of various international hotels. I don't remember the exact words, but he said something about how he thought Four Seasons wasn't what it used to be.
Them's fightin' words where I come from. More importantly, I don't know how anyone would come to that conclusion. A couple days after our conversation, I checked into the Four Seasons Hong Kong and found it an absolute stunner; great views, an incredibly elegant, soaring lobby, one of the top swimming pools I've seen anywhere and a great bar and breakfast spot.
I also keep noticing Four Seasons resorts at the top of those magazine lists that come out on a regular basis. The Four Seasons Whistler is the only hotel in Canada with a five-diamond rating from the Canadian Automobile Association. In the latest Travel + Leisure ratings, nine of the top 100 hotels in the world were Four Seasons properties, more than any other hotel group I spotted by a good amount. Which has to be worth something.
I haven't stayed at either of these properties, but I had a meeting last week with Brad Packer, who represents the Four Seasons Hualalai on the Big Island of Hawaii and also represents (lucky him) the Four Seasons Bora Bora. Both look beyond exquisite. The Four Seasons Hualalai was rated the top hotel in Hawaii by Travel + Leisure and the 38th best hotel in the world.
All the buildings top out at two stories at Hualalai, and there's a large beach and tide pools where folks who are leery of the ocean can snorkel amongst thousands of colourful fish. Fifty one of the 243 units are suits and there was a $40 million renovation a couple years ago.
There also are two stunning golf courses laid out amongst the jagged black lava and, I believe, seven swimming pools. One of them is adults-only, and they'll give you coconut water, thermal mud hand and body lotion and "organic eye pillows with essential oils," just in case you were having trouble relaxing.
Alternately, you can sit on a beach blanket late in the day and watch the sun go down with a bottle of champagne at your side, not that that would impress your wife or girlfriend very much. And they have a cultural centre where you can learn the hula or try a ukelele - a great, little instrument.
SPEAKING OF WHICH, the terrific Hawaiian group The Makaha Sons will be playing in Toronto in a few weeks. More on that in Wednesday's blog.
The spa at Hualalai looks luscious, and they've got an apothecary where you can line up whatever ingredients might help you the most. The outdoor relaxation room has a waterfall (see photo at left), and they also have basketball, tennis, yoga, nighttime frisbee golf, a rock-climbing wall and a ton of other activities. You could, of course, also simply go for a walk on the beach or a dip in the blue Pacific, which is more what I'd have in mind on a trip to Hawaii.
The resort is on the dry, Kona side of the island of Hawaii, quite close to the airport. It's a short drive to the north end of the Big Island, which has enormous ranches and jungle-like landscapes and wild beaches. The volcanoes and wild lands on the south part of the island also are close by. Or you can make a side-trip to the fun town of Hilo.
As beautiful as the property looks, it's hard to compare with the setting of the Four Seasons Bora Bora. Situated on one of the outlying circles of land that form the lagoon, the property has incredible views of Otemanu mountain on the main island.
It opened just three years ago after a long battle to get the property they wanted. There are 100 overwater bungalows and seven villas on the beach, all with Polynesian-styled rooms. You can sit in your bathtub and open a window and be overlooking the crystal-clear lagoon, and all the overwater bungalows have private decks with a ladder that takes you directly to the lagoon. (A word to the wise; the lagoons are lovely but there aren't as many fish as you might expect).
They have a spa suite with twin massage tables with glass floors looking down into the water, which sounds awfully sweet. They do a Polynesian dinner show on Monday nights, and you can arrange to have your breakfast brought to you in a canoe.
I was in Bora Bora for a night a couple years ago but stayed on the land, not in an overwater bungalow. I was, however, in an overwater unit in Moorea and also on the island of Tahaa. It's an experience everyone deserves to have at least once in their life. I just wish there were some closer to home. Tobermory would be great, although I suspect the environmentalists might not agree. The issue of winter also poses a thorny problem, I guess....
The Four Seasons Bora Bora also has kayaking, snorkeling and a kids camp. And there's a marine biologist on site.
Weddings and honeymoons, naturally, are big business in such a romantic spot, and they have lots of packages....