Sure, hularobics classes are fun, but Hawaii's top resorts offer something even better: Food festivals that are among America's finest.
JULY. Kapalua Wine and Food Festival, Maui At 21 years old, Kapalua is the granddaddy of island festivals. The four-day extravaganza attracts up to 800 guests and is hosted by two hotels within the Kapalua, the island's biggest resort. This veritable mini-Maui offers activities from snorkeling to hularobics. The resort's Ritz-Carlton and Kapalua Bay Hotel and Villas (named here in descending order of price and pampering) are secreted among a 23,000-acre pineapple plantation with beaches and scenic fairways. Ever-impressive Master Sommelier Andrea Immer plays host--a tip-off that here, the wine trumps the food. Tastings take place in themed tents, including the "Sommeliers' Choice," which stars Larry Stone of San Francisco's Rubicon and Karen King of New York City's Union Square Cafe. Two highlights are the "What Women Want" seminar, showcasing female vintners, and an all-American "Red, White and Blue" feast, in which dishes are paired with great wines from around the country. The Kapalua Wine Tour takes advantage of the great outdoors, with tasting stations set up around the resort to indulge an oenophile's ultimate sunset fantasy. Cost: $625 (individual events from $25 to $150). Rooms from $179. Dates: July 4 to 7. Contact: 800-KAPALUA or www.kapaluamaui.com.
OCTOBER Kahala Mandarin Oriental Food & Wine Festival, Oahu The Kahala Mandarin's nine-day event, which debuted last year, celebrates local resources with chef-guided tasting tours to Oahu's major culinary attractions: an organic farm at the foot of the neighboring Ko'olau mountains; a malasada (Portuguese donut) bakery; and an early-morning fish auction, which is followed by a cook-what-you-bought class and luncheon. Meanwhile, the 371-room luxe hotel on Diamond Head--whose private lagoon is home to four dolphins--stages the customary itinerary of chef demos and classes, wine seminars and gala dinners, including a late-night desserts-and-stargazing combo. Guest chefs and winemakers had yet to be named at press time, but the resort's own celebrity, chef Wayne Hirabayashi, will certainly play a central role. To celebrate the opening of new spa-treatment rooms at the hotel, the festival will also offer a spa-cuisine class or two. Cost: Three-night festival packages from $1,488. Dates: October 10 to 19. Contact: 808-739-8888 or 800-367-2525.
OCTOBER Hawaii's Big Island Festival, Big Island The debut of what looks to be emerging as the Big Island's One True Fest will take place this fall up and down the western Kona-Kohala coast, where lie the grand hotels--several of which have teamed up to provide the venues and accommodations. The event will highlight not only the islands' latest culinary directions, but also traditional healing practices, such as lomi lomi, a lengthy, meditative massage. The verdant, oceanfront Orchid and its neighbor, Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, have both folded their own culinary festivals into this one; the other participating hotels are the barefoot-style Outrigger Waikoloa Beach and Hilton Waikoloa Village, farther south. Expect cooking seminars, grand tastings, chef demos and guest chefs' dinners. This is not your father's luau. Cost: Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays offers 6-night packages that include airfare and a rental car. Call 800-2-HAWAII for rates (last year's price was $1,097). Dates: October 30 to November 3. Contact: 866-424-FEST or www.bigislandfestival.com.
NOVEMBER Winter Wine Escape, Big Island Celebrating its 10th birthday this year, the Big Island's famed wine event starts with a bang--an opening-day party called the Prelude, where 50-plus wineries pour their best bottles of the past decade and 18 guest chefs cook in a courtyard overlooking the Pacific surf. Wine Escape is hosted by the beautiful Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, founded by Laurance Rockefeller in 1962. The festivities take place both at the Mauna Kea, which retains the rakish glamour of the original jet set, and at its much younger sister hotel, the spacious and beige Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, where James Bond would feel equally at home. This year's roster includes New Yorkers Tom Colicchio of Gramercy Tavern and Craft, Jimmy Bradley of The Harrison, Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit and F&W Best New Chef 2001 honoree Anita Lo of Annisa. Nuevo Latino maestro Randy Zweiban of Chicago's Nacional 27 cooks, teaches and serves this year's designated trendy cuisine. When it all gets too much, attendees can flop on the hotels' private white-sand beaches--two of the Big Island's finest. Cost: Three-night packages at either hotel are $420 per couple. Events range from $30 to $210. Dates: November 14 to 16. Contact: For hotel reservations, 800-882-6060; for information about events: 808-880-3023.