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The Anara Spa. And, no, that's not me in the pool.

When I went to the front desk this morning to ask for a late check-out, explaining that I had a red-eye flight back to the mainland this evening, they told me no problem. “Would 2 o’clock be okay?”

Well, that was very nice, I said, but I wonder what I’ll do between two and ten when my flight leaves. “Would 6 o’clock be better?” she asked me.

God love ‘em. There aren’t a lot of hotels that will give you a 6pm late check-out.

That problem solved, I then decided that what I’d do on my last day at the Grand Hyatt Kauai was treat myself to a massage. Maybe a special massage. Something thoroughly Hawaiian. So I perused the spa brochure in my room. There was something called the lokahi which began with a Hawaiian ritual bath (that sounded naughty) followed by a lomilomi massage, volcanic foot scrub, and a coconut scalp massage. Very Hawaiian. Also very pricey ($695; I wasn’t feeling that generous about myself). Plus it would take the entire day (they threw in lunch for the seven-hundred bucks).

There was the pohaku (warm stones), a coco mango rain massage (a body polish), and a hapai massage, which sounded kind of good (until I read the last line which said it was for “moms-to-be”). And then there was the Traditional Hawaiian Healing Escape: “a profound experience that releases the mind, eases the body’s tension, and lightens the spirit.”

Oh my god…yes! Release my mind! Lighten my spirit! Certainly something with that description also had to include a cocktail or two, didn’t it?

So around noon I checked in at the front desk of the ANARA spa where a guy showed me the showers and where to find the free combs soaking in alcohol, just like at the barber I used to go to when I was a kid, and gave me some slippers and a robe. Then he took me to the spa hale, an open-sided pavilion, where I sat naked (except for my robe) trying to look at ease with the half-dozen other naked people sitting around staring into the near distance and sipping cold water with slices of cucumbers floating in it. After awhile, a very tall, elegant woman in a sarong came out and introduced herself as Yohana. She sat at my feet like a maiden and carefully washed my feet while I focused on keeping my somewhat small terry-cloth robe closed between my legs (I’ve never been to a spa where they issued robes of suitable size for men who are six-feet-three).

When that rather embarrassing bit was done (I kept thinking how horrified Jesus must have been when Mary Magdalene washed his feet with her hair), Yohana took me back to a garden room with shutter doors open on to the garden and, after having me get naked on the table, told me to take three deep breaths “inhaling the ha, the breath of life, and exhaling anything that does not serve you,” and then she placed a palm on my back and chanted some Hawaiian prayer over me. I have no idea what she said but I liked it. It was like when I was a child and my mother would grab my hand just before we crossed the street. Certainly no harm would come to me while I was under the protection of Yohana.

Then there was the lomilomi massage which was probably wonderful although, to tell the truth, I sort of zoned out (and maybe even fell asleep) through the whole thing. After that Yohana gave me a warm coconut oil scalp massage which really did put me to sleep. And then it was over. I hate it when a massage is over. It’s like when you’ve opened the very last Christmas present and there’s nothing left. Now what?

Yohana left the room and I sat up and got dressed and when she came back in I was sitting on the edge of the massage table facing the tropical garden full of bright green palms and deep red ti plants. I was feeling groggy as hell. Yohana asked me if there was anything else she could do for me today. “I wonder,” I said, “if you’d mind giving me your blessing.”

“You mean the Hawaiian blessing I gave you at the beginning of the massage?”

“No,” I told her, “your personal blessing.”

She seemed to understand what I was getting at. She held both of my hands in hers and looked very deeply into my eyes and the two of us were silent for a minute of two. Then she smiled and patted my arm. And that was that. My traditional Hawaiian healing massage was over. And so was my time on Kauai.

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A busy day at the pool

What did I do today? Nothing, really. One minute I was finishing up my coffee and thinking about maybe hanging out at the Hyatt’s big honkin’ pool and the next thing I knew it was late in the afternoon and everyone in the lounges on either side of me had left their wet towels and departed.

Maybe the most active thing I did was just walk in a long circuit around the pool. Which takes at least an hour if you do it right. Because first you have to play a few minutes of pool hoops with whoever has the ball and then slide under the volleyball net strung just inches over the water and bounce your way along the bottom of the pool beneath a bridge and around the corner to the waterfall where, if you’re smart, you’ll take a break and order a cocktail from one of the pool girls.

Then you bounce along a bit further to the island in the middle of the pool and climb out and go soak in the Jacuzzi for a few minutes, chatting it up with whoever else is in there, and when that gets to be a little too toasty you get back in the pool and circle your way around to the waterslide and try to decide if you’re going to climb out and stand in line with the kids waiting to bomb their way down to the bottom (probably not) or just sit on the far side of the pool away from the slide and watch the madness.

The first time you watch a young woman almost loses her top when she hits the water hard you realize that you might as well stick around to see if anything else exciting happens. And it does. So this takes up a fair amount of time.

By the time you get back to your chaise lounge you realize that it’s way past noon and you’re starving so you get some sashimi and a beer and because it’s hot and you’ve been doing all that exercise floating around the pool you order a second beer and then you fall asleep. And the sound of kids laughing and diving into the pool mixes with the conversations going on all around you so that you have some Hunter S. Thompson-esque dreams until you finally wake up, clammy and slightly sunburned, and realize that the afternoon is over. And maybe you should go back to your room and take a shower and freshen up. Or maybe take another nap. Probably another nap.

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Better than the real thing

The saltwater lagoon at the Grand Hyatt Kauai.

This is sad to say. In fact, it’s downright embarrassing. The whole time I’ve been on Kauai I’ve yet to get into the ocean. It’s not completely my fault. First of all, at the other two resorts I stayed at—the Waimea Plantation Cottages and the Hanalei Colony Resort—you couldn’t really get in the ocean because the beaches were dangerous. And, sure, I could have gotten in my car and driven to one of the dozens of nice beaches on the island but you know what? I didn’t.

So now I’m down to my last couple of days on Kauai and I’m thinking I really need to go for a swim in the ocean. So this morning I slathered on the sunscreen, got into my board shorts, and headed for the beach in front of my room. And guess what? There was nobody in the water. Not one single person. Which is kind of strange, don’t you think? So I found someone who worked at the resort and asked them if it was safe to go swimming off the beach.

Not really, he said. “People do it. But they’re crazy. We usually have the paramedics out here at least once or twice a week.”

Paramedics? Really?

The way I looked at it, I had two options: I could go back to my room, put some stuff together, make the 15 minute hike to the self-parking lot and then drive a few miles down to Poipu Beach, look for a spot to park, cart my crap down to the sand, and go for a swim in the ocean. Or I could just stay at the resort.

Guess what I decided to do?

So I walked down to the pool. Except the Grand Hyatt doesn’t just have a “pool.” They have like a water park. With faux-lava boulders and a winding stream and waterfalls and a slide. It’s huge. And amazing.

But it gets better. I also discovered that between the enormous freshwater pool and the beach they have a saltwater lagoon. With a sand beach and reef fish and kayaks that you can paddle around. Plus there are no sharks or stingrays in the lagoon. And you can order a mai tai from your lounge chair in the sand. Who needs the ocean?

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The Marine at the bar

The Stevenson's Library bar in the Grand Hyatt Kauai.

The other thing I asked the bellman, besides how to get back to the lobby, was where I should have dinner. You know, the thing about a big resort like the Grand Hyatt is that the property is so sprawling and it takes so long to get your car that you’re kind of held hostage to the resort. Not that I was likely my first night to go off-property even if my car was parked directly below me. I was tired and I was hungry and I wanted a drink. Now.

Anyway, the bellman suggested I go to Tidepools, which is the resort’s high-end restaurant. It’s a series of thatched huts, called hale pilis, that sits over a koi-filled lagoon. Very nice, very romantic, and very expensive. But I wasn’t sure I had any truly clean clothes and I was on my own so eating at someplace chic by myself didn’t sound too appealing.

Then the guy suggested their bar, Stevenson’s Library. “Martinis and sushi,” he said. That sounded like just what I was looking for.

You know, you go to a bar in a beach resort and you sort of assume everyone is going to be in shorts and sarongs or something, so after showering, I’d changed into a relatively clean polo shirt and navy shorts. But Stevenson’s Library isn’t exactly your typical resort bar. It’s more like a Victorian-era gentleman’s club. Lots of dark wood paneling, low lights, and a beautiful 27-foot handcrafted koa wood bar. Most of the people there looked like they were going to a fancy cocktail party. Still, I wasn’t the only one is shorts and a polo shirt.

Normally this bar only serves pupus—shrimp cocktail, tempura poke roll, coconut chicken strips—but Fridays through Mondays they offer sushi from 6 to 9. So I ordered a lychee martini (vodka, lychee liqueur, and lychee juice) while looking over the sushi menu. While I was sitting there a young Marine, in dress uniform, came in and sat at the far end of the bar by himself. He didn’t look happy. He looked tense and uncomfortable and in need of a drink. So while the bartender was standing in front of me waiting for my order, I told him I wanted to buy the Marine a drink. The bartender went over to the soldier and asked him what he wanted to drink and then pointed towards me and said I was buying. The Marine was very polite. He got up off his stool and came over and said he appreciated it, he really did, but he didn’t want me to buy him a drink. He’d just come in to be alone and have a drink and he’d buy his own. I told him it was my pleasure to get the first one but he insisted once again that he was going to buy his own drink.

I don’t know what was going on here. He was sweating like it was a hundred degrees out and we were standing out in the hot sun and his face was kind of gray and clammy. If I didn’t know better I’d of said he was in shock. And maybe he was. Who knows what his story was? There had been a wedding on the lawn earlier in the day and I was thinking that since he was in his dress uniform, maybe he’d been in that. Maybe a buddy of his had gotten married. Maybe he’d come straight from Iraq or Afghanistan to be in this wedding and he was thinking of buddies that weren’t over at the Grand Hyatt in Kauai ordering a drink at a Hawaiian gentleman’s bar. I just don’t know. But I felt for him. And I wish he would have let me buy him a drink.

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Finding the lobby

The view from my room at the Grand Hyatt Kauai. Photo by David Lansing.

Over the weekend I moved from the Hanalei Colony Resort on the North Shore to the Grand Hyatt in Poipu. It was kind of a shocking transition. Sort of like moving from your college dorm back into Donald Trump’s house. The Hanalei Colony Resort is funky and small and very laid back. The Grand Hyatt is glitzy and sprawling and buttoned-up. Hanalei Colony Resort’s motto is Unspoiled, Unplugged, Unforgettable. The Grand Hyatt’s is “A Hawaiian Classic.”

I’m not pushing one over the other. I’m just saying They’re very different. And I had a difficult time, at first, adjusting to my new digs beginning with just getting to my room which was a two day walk from the front desk. No, I’m kidding. It wasn’t that far. It just seemed that way after staying at a resort where I could actually see my car from my bedroom window. Here, when the bell man (he definitely wasn’t a boy) showed me how to operate the air-conditioning (something I’ve gladly done without for the last couple of weeks) by making sure my sliding glass doors were closed, I had just one question for him as he stood at the door: How do I find my way back to the lobby?


But I have to tell you it feels kind of cool to be here. Like staying in a very elegant Vegas resort like the Bellagio. Except there’s an ocean just outside my door. And I don’t have to pass by a thousand slot machines in the lobby on my way to dinner. If I can find my way back to the lobby.

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