Case Study

Four Seasons Hualalai Land, Sea and Sky Converge in a Timeless Hawaiian Luxury Resort

Kaupulehu, Kona Coast, Hawaíi, USA

The Challenge

The Kona Coast exemplifies the natural forces that created the Hawaiian Island chain: its stark lava flows are a constant reminder of the violent meeting place of the land, sea and sky. In this unique place cradling nature’s contrasts and benevolent climate, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai seeks to celebrate and enhance this natural beauty and climate with design that isn’t merely a luxury escape, but one that provides guests with a portal to discover their own authentic Hawaiian experience.

The Design Solution

The design team envisioned an intimate Kipuka (Hawaiian for oasis along the shore), miraculously spared by the lava that flowed down from the Hualalai Volcano. The resort features indigenous building materials and plantings in a sophisticated and subtle manner to reflect the existing site characteristics. Instead of looking to the past to evolve or mimic a sense of place, the architecture dismisses existing “styles,” reinforcing a marriage to the environment itself: the buildings don’t rely on stylized architectural imitations; the structures are conceived as a backdrop for lava and vegetation. Simple, sophisticated and natural architectural forms and materials serve to enhance, not dominate the environment; character is achieved within a native vernacular, appearing as though it has developed over time. Exterior architectural massing further integrates the structures into the ecosystem, roofs to the sky, walls to the land and the bases of the structures to the lava flows, the meeting of land and sea.

All structures were designed as a series of individual low-rise elements. This decentralized plan divides the traditional mass of hotel uses into a series of freestanding pavilions which house reception and administration facilities, ocean front dining, conference center and back-of-house facilities, fitness facilities and a freestanding golf clubhouse within the resort grounds.

Guestrooms are located in a series of 38 individual one- and two-story oceanfront bungalows with direct views to the water, carefully designed for privacy with all ground floor units featuring private bath gardens and direct beach access. Individual buildings are composed of delicately scaled roofs, which patina gracefully with time.

Public spaces are primarily open-air structures; solid walls are covered with colored plaster of tones directly drawn from the soil. Wood trellises extend from the facades directly integrating the buildings with the landscape. Wooden fascias at the top of walls lift and disassociate the roofs from the buildings while providing light and ventilation to interior spaces. The overall composition of segmented public buildings and bungalows creates an exoticism and sense of discovery, as the unexpected appears around every bend and through every portal.

The resort architecture is artfully complimented by BAMO’s interior design.

The Design Impact

Out of the massive lava flows, Four Seasons Resort Hualalai and its verdant landscape rise and serve to enhance the concept of Kipuka, or oasis; a special place not touched by the molten mass. Experiencing this informal yet luxurious Kipuka, guests bask in the wonder of flora and fauna, indigenous building materials and furnishings, and objects and specimens culminating in one place, all carefully curated from the surrounding islands of the Pacific Rim.

Project Features

  • 243 guest rooms
  • Spa & fitness facilities
  • Three dining venues
  • Meeting and special event space
  • 6 pools
  • 18-hole Jack Nicklaus signature golf course


  • 2018 Forbes Travel Guide 5 Star Award Winner
  • AAA Diamond Rated (15 straight years)