Kalani

»Hawaiian for heaven on earth«

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In a corner of Hawaii that has remained virtually untouched is the eco-conscious and culturally attuned Kalani. A popular retreat that defies the commercialized feel of its bigger cousins, Kalani stays true to its mission: Making people happy, in the true spirit of Aloha.

  • What we love
  • The laid-back Aloha friendliness
  • Classes in seven different yoga styles
  • Great reviews for both in-house classes and externally-led retreats
  • Being at one with the jungle in the tree-house accommodation option
  • What to know
  • The nearest beach is a black-sand surf beach, not a white-sand swimming beach
  • A true eco-retreat, no neatly clipped gardens
  • Pool area is clothing-optional
  • Yoga classes are US$15 each unless booked as part of an inclusive package
  • Many long-term residents who already know each other well
  • Why go
  • A feeling of community
  • Free Hawaiian cultural classes
  • Range of accommodation options, from tent to deluxe

It's difficult to categorize Kalani. On one hand it has the trappings of an upscale resort: 120 acres of tropical grounds, swimming pool, sauna, spa services, luxurious private cabins and seven kinds of yoga on tap every day. On the other hand it is part of an extended yoga network that includes Kripalu, Omega, and Esalen among others. Kalani has even played host to a gathering of international retreats. The unique characteristics of this place are just as exciting as they are difficult to describe. Imagine a community of volunteers and guests coexisting in the peaceful enjoyment of a paradisiacal setting and you’re on the right track.

The categories under which you can stay at Kalani are as diverse as the surrounding jungle.
- A day-pass gives non-resident visitors access to the facilities while staying elsewhere.
- Accommodation can be booked by the night, with an extra charge for accessing classes and other extras.
- Inclusive week-long packages are popular, particularly the Introduction to Yoga vacation.
- Volunteers who live on-site, normally for three months, receive food, lodging and many program benefits.
- The Artist In Residence (AIR) program offers a reduced rate for a long-term stay for those looking for creative inspiration from the beauty of Pahoa.

The yoga is varied and plentiful at Kalani. There is a calendar of weekly classes held by the retreat staff as well as an assortment of workshops and retreats conducted by outside teachers who book space. The regular classes run seven days a week, and one of the Saturday classes is a calming and relaxing Restorative Yoga session held in the morning. The rest of the often-changing calendar is a blend of Hatha, Nidra, and Kundalini with an influence of Ashtanga and Iyengar Yoga.

The Introduction to Yoga package is a week-long grounding in the basic principles of Hatha yoga, learning the importance of aligning the body and controlling the breath. Like the Kalani Experience package, this all-inclusive vacation is the best value for holidaymakers who do not have the time or inclination to stay for the long-term. Both packages include accommodation – with the price varying according to the accommodation type chosen – as well as three meals a day, unlimited yoga classes and access to the other structured activities like hula classes, Ecstatic Dance, weaving and meditation. As the name suggests, the Introduction to Yoga package is more yoga-focused, with two private yoga lessons added to the inclusions. All yoga classes run for between 60 and 90 minutes and are a high quality with plenty of individual attention.

Meals are served in the lanai (a top-covered open-air space). The tables are deliberately communal, reaffirming the friendly culture of Kalani. It is during these times of gathering that it becomes apparent that many of guests here are long-term, testament to the beauty and creative power of Kalani. Some are volunteers, whose ages may range from the 20s to the 60s and above. Others are artists-in-retreat, recharging their creative batteries in the tranquil atmosphere of the retreat.

While Kalani’s amenities are plentiful, there’s a clear dedication to a more harmonious and simple way of living. There is no room-service, air-conditioning or neatly manicured gardens. Kalani is dedicated to environmental sustainability, community outreach programs here in Puna (the poorest area of Hawaii) and cultural education. As the retreat is a non-profit organization, a portion of the cost of staying here is even tax-deductible, setting Kalani apart from many of the mega-resorts that crouch heavily on the Hawaiian coast. The grounds are designed to work with the jungle rather than fight it, so plants cheerfully encroach on paths and Mother Nature is a welcome guest, not an embattled intruder.

Accommodation options range from an inexpensive campsite with shared shower block to the newly built cottages and lofts that are spacious and very private. All dwellings are built with materials from sustainable resources. Some guests mistake them for flimsy and it’s true that the windows are often glassless and the bamboo walls are thin. There's a reason for this though – bamboo is a fast-growing building material that uses very little ground-space and is highly durable despite being so light. Windows are glassless to take best advantage of the breeze coming off the ocean and this openness is vital in such a hot climate to ensure comfortable sleep. There are insect screens though, although the lack of stagnant water in the area means that mosquitoes are practically non-existent. Anyone who has spent a night in a tropical climate will appreciate the impact of that statement.

Is Kalani a community, an artist's retreat, a yoga school, an idyllic vacation destination or a cultural center? All of those things, with a little something extra all its own. That's the thing about Kalani – there's no spoon-feeding or hand-holding. All the resources for a unique experience are supplied, right down the clothing-optional pool area, but making new friends and engaging with the spirit of the place is something that must be done by the individual. And the consensus of past visitors is that it’s a pleasure to rise to the challenge.

About the area: Hawaii (Big Island)

There are several islands that make up the Hawaiian islands but surprisingly Big Island is not the one that draws most of the tourists. Big Island (Hawaii proper) is a less developed, quieter cousin to the heaving tourist drawcards of Oahu and Maui. It’s also the youngest, and still growing, thanks to the steady lava streams from volcano to seabed. Hawaii Island is home to the Kalapana Lava Viewing Area, the only place in the island chain where it is possible to view lava streams from land. This larger island, although popular, is still a place to experience some of the untouched natural beauty of Hawaii, the most remote island chain on Earth. The climate is typically Hawaiian, with only two real seasons: Summer is from May to October with an average temperature of 29 degrees C (85F) and winter from November to April at a not-much-cooler 24 degrees C (75F).

Image credit: Kalani

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