Paradise Lost- Kona Village and Tsunami Damage
I posted about Kona Village (KVR) back in August of 2008 and referred to it as my “favorite place on earth.” Our family has been going to Kona Village off an on over the years since I was 15. I would love to go every summer if the budget permitted, and the years when we are not there, I dream about it and wonder about when the next time might be that we will visit. It is a Polynesian village on the big island of Hawaii, unlike any of the typical luxury hotels you see on Hawaii. There are no multi story buildings, rather individual hales on or near the ocean. The paths are dirt paths lined with tiki torches and lush landscaping. There are no tvs or phones in the hales and the location is a beautiful combination of lava, beach, ponds, and lush Hawaiian landscaping. It was originally a true Hawaiian village that was transformed into a vacation resort 45 years ago. Like no other vacation, you melt into relaxation and the quiet serenity of the village. There is no hum of air conditioning but a simple ceiling fan , along with the ocean breeze that is perfectly comfortable. There are no locks on the hales, but if you put your coconut on your porch you let others know not to enter. The staff is warm and friendly, many have worked there for numerous years and remember the returning guests. It is hard to describe in words what this place means to me and my family. It might sound rustic, but it is also luxurious at the same time and has people like Steve Jobs and celebrity figures as repeat guests. When we were there once we went on a snorkeling excursion with 2 newscasters from our LA station together. Personally when I imagine big career successes or imaginary lottery winnings, my mind goes straight to Kona Village as the pot at the end of the rainbow.
The day after the recent tsunami that did so much destruction in Japan, I went to the KVR website to see if their webcam was up just to see that all was ok at Kona Village. I had no idea there might be any damage to Hawaii, but since we were awakened here in Newport Beach at 4am by a public service phone call warning us about a tsunami, I had concern about Hawaii and Kona Village. The webcam was not working but I was not overly concerned. I continued to check back and a few days later via the KVR Facebook page it was confirmed that there was significant damage to our beloved village, enough damage that it is now closed indefinitely and their staff of 250 has been laid off. Apparently the village was evacuated on March 10th around 11pm and at 5am the normally quiet bay receded and a wave approximately 8 feet high crashed onto the land and tore some of the hales right off their foundation. Fortunately no one was injured. I have to say in the days following the news of its closure I felt so melancholy and sad. At work I found myself repeatedly checking the Facebook page looking for any news and trying to imagine what this peaceful paradise was like with water rushing into the 2 restaurants, destroying the Shipwreck Bar where we would sit near the pool eating popcorn and the children drank their favorite Hawaiian drinks. When my sister told her children, her 11 year old was distraught and called a friend who also enjoys Kona Village. They rode their bikes to the grocery store and bought the ingredients for the cookie monster drinks to come home and make them. Following are some photos of the village before and after the tsunami (after photos are courtesy of Bill Jasper). It is really hard to imagine this destruction and the uncertainty of the future of Kona Village.
There is a Facebook page Save Kona Village set up to lobby for its rebuilding as the traditional low key paradise that it was, and an update recently looks promising, but it will be a few years away and the “modernization” of the village have some of us old timers concerned it will be converted into something that will take away its charm and originality. Here is a video announcement of the damage before they determined it would close indefinitely http://www.bigislandvideonews.com/2011/03/16/video-tsunami-batters-kona-village-resort-hale-bungalows/
My memory of fun times with my children and all of their cousins- 14 grandkids in all. We anxiously await news of the rebuilding plans.