Visit to the Kohala Spa

True confession time: I’ve never actually been to a spa before, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect for my appointment at the 25,000-square-foot Kohala Spa at the Waikoloa Beach Resort. I’d been encouraged to show up at least a half-hour earlier than my appointed time, so I checked in extra early and was escorted into the private women's locker room with its own steam room, sauna, outdoor garden Jacuzzi and lounge area.

Kohala Spa

The Kohala Spa

Since I’d spent the entire morning in water, I wasn’t too eager to soak in the outdoor Jacuzzi, although the group members who tried it sang its praises. Instead, I stepped into the steam room, hitting a button on the doorway as I entered. A large stone cauldron in the middle of the room began billowing lightly scented steam, and I leaned back and closed my eyes, breathing in deeply. When I opened my eyes again a few moments later, the entire room had become shrouded in mist. I could barely see a foot in front of my face. It was eerie and soothing at the same time, and the sounds of condensed steam dripping from the ceiling, the warmth, the enveloping mist, and the scent all combined for a wonderfully relaxing experience.

After enjoying the steam room for a while, and enjoying some fresh air by the Jacuzzi, I was taken to a private room by massage therapist Tonia Thomas, a specialist in Lomi Lomi massages, the spa’s most popular treatment. Using constant motion and gentle pressure, Tonia worked out a bunch of this perpetually tense New Yorker’s tight muscles, relaxing me to the point of nearly falling asleep. (I also have to praise her deft avoidance of my sunburn, which couldn’t have been easy.) Tonia has studied numerous massage techniques around the country, and is also an expert in sports massage and the spa's Kohala massage. (Although I promised not to reveal names, Tonia demurely acknowledged that she has treated celebrities and earned very favorable feedback from them.)

Feeling very chill and relaxed after the massage, I went back to the steam room to breathe in some more of that wonderful mist before rinsing off in a five-head shower. Before returning to my room, I chatted with Michele Wilkin, the director of Kohala Spa. The Lomi Lomi massage, she told me, is a Hawaiian tradition taught by elders. Among the spa's more popular offerings are mother/daughter treatments that, she says, encourage bonding and teach the next generation to enjoy the spa experience. The enormous facility has more 23 treatment rooms (three are for couples) and employs a staff of between 50 and 55 among the spa, the cardio room, weight room, yoga room and other areas. Wilkin said that no one therapist was more requested than any of the others, but from my own experience, I highly recommend Tonia Thomas.