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(That’s me, with my Virgin Mary.)

Copyright Notice, David Cram © 2011. Use of this material without the express permission of David Cram is prohibited.   All rights reserved

Now Kona Village is closed.

I've given a lot of thought to the village, trying to figure out exactly what the magic was. Like an orchestra, it was a collection of individual elements that resulted in something greater than the parts, something that could attract and hold a host of different people in its embrace.

The landscaping had an unkempt, jungle-like charm and beauty, yet the insects were not intrusive. The lagoon was a placid scene, and enchanting, particularly at night, when lit by the tiki torches. All the hale seemed to grow out of the jungle, yet inside they were perfectly adequate to the needs of the guests. There were no massive, multistoried structures to dominate and thus diminish the human being. There were no outsize pools or other structures, no signs of ostentation or builder ego. The bars were intimate and suited to conversation, whale watching, and listening to the live music. Once in the village, people walked to their destination on the fine gravel paths. Cars were not to be seen or heard, and the parking lot was even hidden from view. What we did hear were the ocean, the breezes rustling the palms above, and the birds--lots of them.

The food was delicious, first class, and unlimited. Most of the non-motorized water things like snorkel gear and kayaks, as well as the beach chairs, towels, and sand toys for the keiki were free for the asking. When there were  charges, we signed for everything, and therefore had no need to carry money.

The staff was warm, welcoming, and friendly. They knew our first names and used them because we insisted on it.  They remembered us from visit to visit, and the greeting was always, "Welcome home..." and thus Kona Village became "home" to many of us.  Newcomers were welcomed, and returning guests and the staff delighted in making them feel comfortable and included. The sense of ‘ohana was pervasive, and the staff and guests were partners in a wonderful experience--they were the hosts, and we were the honored guests.   One employee said, “You never treated us like servants or workers, you treated us like friends,” and another said, “If you’d wanted a conventional resort you could have had it, but you insisted that it be the way it was.” We insisted, and to their eternal credit, the management allowed it to happen. 

The ambience was laid back, informal, and unpretentious. There was a minimal dress code, and guests didn't go there to show off expensive jewelry or high fashion. "Comfortable," was the word to describe the wardrobe.  It was a place of safety, where the hale were left unlocked, where the children were safe, where a camera could be left on the beach while the owner went kayaking. Everyone from gardener to manager was part of the ‘ohana, the family. When we met others on the path, we said "Good morning," or “Hi.” The gardeners gave us a friendly wave. Someone said, "Kona Village is different--the guests talk to each other," and I thought, "Of course we do--we're all family." When we arrived, and stepped out of the cab after a long journey, the hurry was over, the world was left outside, the tension began to ease--and for the next few days we moved in the Soft Lane.

Who were we? What made the Kona Villager different from those who gravitated toward the more traditional upper end resorts? What kind of folks were attracted to this place where the absence of TV, radio, and air conditioning were considered features, not negatives, where cell phones and laptops were confined to the hale? Who were these folks who would pick up a scrap of paper on the path and put it in the trash? The hale, many of them, had become shop-worn and scuffed, but the villagers were a special breed.  We didn’t come to the village for granite counters, we came for a serene, decision-free break from the tension of the world. We came for the Hawai’i of our imagination, for the smiles and aloha from the kind of people we’d grown to love. We came to bask in a high comfort zone, and we overlooked the occasional signs of age in the village. This was our village, and when we were in its embrace, we were home.

How about the future? The village will be rebuilt, and it's likely that it will physically resemble the village we lost.  That will take time and require a very large investment, which will have to be recouped with higher prices.  That's reasonable and understandable.

What about that special ambience, the unique flavor that was Kona Village? I originally created this website as an attempt to bring it to life, so that people would be able to imagine themselves there, and possibly decide that it would be a haven for them.  My hope now is that it can serve as a way to keep Kona Village alive in memory, so that new managers and employees could look in, if they wished, and imagine the spirit of the village, and maybe, just maybe, if they’re willing, recreate it...

Whatever happens, it was a helluva ride!  Here’s to you, Kona Village-- R.I.P., for now.

If you’re interested in what’s going on, what people are thinking, what’s being discussed, there are two Facebook pages that are worth looking in on. You don’t have to have an account to read the posts, although if you want to comment, it’s necessary to sign in.