Kona Village, a cozy resort to come home to

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KONA, Hawaii - A couple prepared to sail through Kahuwai Bay on a small boat. One- and two-person kayaks shared a patch of shimmering black and white sand, waiting for potential paddlers, many of whom were busy reading under thatched awnings. And the beach attendant bid goodbye to a couple by name, then called out, "See you next year!"

In all my travels throughout Hawaii, I have never experienced a place quite like Kona Village Resort on the Big Island.

Plenty of other hotels are as luxurious and relaxing. But none has the homey feel of the 125-hut Kona Village, with its thatched roof hale, dirt pathways and friendly staff.

Maybe that's why visitors return not just year after year, but decade after decade, generation after generation.

Indeed, Fred Duerr came to Kona Village as an executive assistant in 1966, one year after it opened, and has served as general manager since 1975.

At Kona Village, staff and guests know each other by name. Servers, managers and beach attendants don't just wait on you. They answer questions, offer suggestions. Yet they also know when to leave you alone.

The sale of the resort last month to Ty Warner Hotels & Resorts will bring no changes to staff, according to a spokeswoman for the hotel. Duerr will remain as general manager.

Kona Village is a throwback to the Hawaii of yesteryear. Dirt paths lead to comfortably elegant, generously separated huts.

Our large balcony, with a table and chairs, chaise lounge and full-size Jacuzzi, looked out over unmanicured brush, black sand, lava rocks and the ocean.

There are no phones, televisions or clocks in the rooms (cell phones work, but I didn't see a single person using one). Our bed was fluffy, and the bathroom had a glassed-in shower and a deep-soaking tub.

At lunchtime, we dined at the outdoor buffet on grilled shrimp kabobs, fresh fruit and coconut cookies. Dinner at the indoor/outdoor Hale Moana Dining Room is casual, suitable for families; evening meals at the Hale Samoa Dining Room are more elegant.

There is so much to do in Kona, but with all activities, such as kayaking and glass-bottom boat rides included at the resort, there is little reason to leave the property.

Situated on 82 acres of what was once a fishing village, it also is the location of 400 petroglyphs, or carvings etched in lava, that reveal the lives led by early Hawaiians in the area. Educational tours are offered several times per week.

But sometimes the best choice, especially at Kona Village, is to do absolutely nothing.

Rates include meals and activities and start at $515 per night, double. A two-room hale (triple) begins at $850 per night. All prices include use of the fitness center, the children's program, petroglyph tours, beach activities and three meals per day.

For reservations or information on packages, call (800) 367-5290 or visit www.konavillage.com.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].

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