The best private resort in the world with prices that match the big-name guests

The best private resort in the world with prices that match the big-name guests
The best private resort in the world with prices that match the big-name guests

As we move into the summer months, I thought I would share with you my favourite vacation destination: Kukio, and the contiguous Hualalai Four Seasons Resort, on the Big Island of Hawaii. 

I was actually married in a ceremony on the beach at Kukio, which you can see in the picture immediately below. As my wife and I stood before a Hawaiian celebrant, turtles and whales (and possibly the odd tiger shark) frolicked in the clear blue waters behind us. The portents were certainly promising.

Kukio was the brainchild of Michael Meldman, founder of the Discovery Land Company, who you might have seen star in the TV show Entourage as a bidder for an NFL franchise. 

Another foundation investor in the project was the oil tycoon and philanthropist Billy Getty. I remember my brother-in-law bumping into Billy one day on Kukio’s golf course. He asked him what he did for a job. The billionaire’s response was, “Why son, I won the lottery of life.”

Kukio is not actually a hotel, but one of the world’s most exclusive private clubs with circa 350 members. Membership does not come easily: you need to buy a home, which can be priced anywhere from US$3.6 million to $US50 million plus. Two of Kukio’s properties are rumoured to be individually worth more than US$100 million. 

The members themselves comprise numerous billionaires, such as the computer pioneer Michael Dell, and US celebrities. When my wife and I visited Kukio earlier this year we were lazing by the pool (pictured below) alongside Leonardo de Caprio, Cameron Diaz, A-Rod, Naomi Campbell and Toby McGuire. On the same trip we were sipping cocktails at the bar next to Lance Armstrong and Kelly Slater.

Kukio is serviced by Kona’s small jet port, which is a 20-minute drive away. Landing over the harsh volcanic rock, which would make mincemeat of any unprepared aircraft, is a surreal experience. The airport itself is quite a sight, with the two tiny thatch huts (think a beach version of Cooma airport) typically enveloped by 50 to 60 private jets. 

At sea-level the Big Island of Hawaii resembles a moonscape with little flora able to survive among the very dry and ashen lava. Yet the island itself is massive (in fact, the so-called Big Island is larger than all the others combined). 

I took the following photo one morning on my BlackBerry. I was standing on the Four Seasons golf course, where it was about 30 degrees centigrade. Yet what you can see in the distance is a lava tube covered by white snow! People actually ski on the island’s highest peaks during the winter months. At sea-level in Kona, however, the weather is most remarkable for its predictable consistency: clear blue skies and 25 to 30 degrees centigrade for 365 days a year.

The service and quality of Kukio’s amenities are second to none. For just a few hundred members there are outstanding restaurants, two golf courses, a private beach with dedicated staff to help furnish every conceivable water sport, an enormous gymnasium and spa, three swimming pools, multiple tennis courts, a cinema, playing fields, and so on. 

The Fazio-designed golf course (see below), which has been carved into the volcanic rock above the resort, is a beautiful juxtaposition of the natural and built worlds with “rest centres” every few holes offering marble bathrooms and kitchenettes stocked chock-a-block with delights. The club staff will deliver you lunch on the course, including home-cooked, thin-crust pizzas.

One of the great things about Kukio is that it is situated immediately alongside a fabulous Four Seasons Resort, the freehold underlying which is owned by Michael Dell. So if you don’t know a member, you can stay at the Four Seasons, which is regarded by many as one of the best of its kind. Entry-level rooms are reasonably priced and can be booked for under $1,000 a night. 

If you are interested in buying at Kukio, check out lot 22 below, which is currently on the market for a cool US$15.5 million.

Christopher Joye is a leading financial economist and works with Rismark International. Rismark and RP Data provide house price analytics products, and solutions that enable investors to go long and/or short the housing market. The above article is not investment advice.

Community Discussion

Be the first one to comment on this article
What would you like to say about this project?