Sitting below swaying palms and listening to the crashing waves has a natural calming effect, but if you’re looking for relaxation techniques that go one step further, take a cue from the locals. Hawaii hotels and spas throughout the state offer lomilomi—a Hawaiian healing massage and relaxation technique whose root word, lomi, means to knead. The practice, handed down through generations and taught by kumu and kahuna (teachers and experts), focuses on body connectivity and circulation by incorporating a gentle rolling/kneading motion produced by the masseuse’s forearm and elbow. The following three Hawaii hotels feature unique lomilomi massages as well as other relaxation techniques incorporating Hawaiian botanicals and traditions.
Sheraton Kona Resort’s Ho’ola Spa
Protruding over lava rocks that form the coastline of Keauhou Bay on Hawai’i Island, the birthplace of King Kamehameha III and an area whose name translates to “a new era,” stucco lanai (porches) serve as outdoor treatment rooms. At Ho’ola Spa, lomilomi, assisted by the cool sea breeze, is the spa’s most requested massage option. The relaxation technique uses coconut oil to smooth first the left side of the body, and then the right side before connecting the two. You can also choose to infuse Hawaiian flower and plant essences, like plumeria, pikake, and koke’e, from the spa’s made-in-Kauai Maile line for an aromatherapy experience, or the use of warm stones that are gathered by the therapists from the Island’s northerly Pololu Valley and blessed by a kahu (Hawaiian priest).
Fairmont Orchid’s Spa Without Walls
Spa Without Walls takes advantage of Hawaii Island’s year-round warm temperatures and offers the majority of its massages outdoors. The Fairmont Orchid’s interior features native Hawaiian plants and greenery and serves as a secluded jungle setting for eight thatch-walled cabanas. These cabanas house treatment beds and are the perfect space for a hiwahiwa treatment. The experience combines the traditional relaxation techniques of lomilomi and a volcanic mud wrap infused with māmaki, an endemic Hawaiian nettle used in traditional medicine. Both the pōhaku-wela massage and the Awa Earth & Fire treatment use locally-sourced and warmed lava rocks. The Awa Earth & Fire treatment also works a blend of awa, sometimes called kava in other parts of the Pacific, sandalwood, ginger, and oats into the skin. TSix additional seaside hale (huts) offer a different massage setting. Many therapists here have been with the spa for over 15 years, but if you’re lucky enough to book with locally-trained senior therapist Don Chouquette, your lomilomi experience may also begin and conclude with a traditional chanting prayer.
Outrigger Waikiki’s La’akea Spa
In busy Waikiki you can retreat into the calming seclusion of the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort’s second floor La’akea Spa. The reef just offshore of the property—and some 200 feet west toward the Halekulani—was a popular gathering site known as Kawehewehe to early Hawaiians; the sick came here to bathe as a form of treatment. According to oral tradition, patients wore limu-kala (seaweed lei) and, after soaking, left them in the water as a symbolic request to the gods to forgive the sins that may have caused their ailment. Today, inside the modern and white-walled spa, products incorporating marine plant extracts continue their healing powers in different ways—infused into masks, scrubs, and more. The seven-room spa offers its own version of a lomilomi massage using popular Aveda botanical products, and, upon request, will incorporate pōhaku or warmed lava rocks. With rhythmic motions and pressure somewhere in between Swedish and deep tissue, La’akea Spa calls its lomilomi experience “as graceful as the hula.”