Big Island Time

This month, as educators around the county seek out much-needed R&R, Kate and Andy Mecca of Tiburon return to their home at the Hualalai Resort on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. Kate is founder and director of Mount Tamalpais School in Mill Valley; Andy is president of the California Mentor Foundation, chief inspiration officer of the nonprofit foundation Lifeplan Institute and author of the book Lifeplan: Tools Every Teenager Needs to Thrive, Not Merely Survive. But once school’s out, the Meccas try to be on one of the first flights out of SFO to Kona, with the goal of having their toes in the sand before lunch.

Why the Big Island?
Andy: The Big Island is unique in that it is, first of all, so big, larger than all the other islands combined. It also encompasses almost every ecosystem on the planet. From volcano to desert to rain forest to ocean to pasturelands, it is all so varied and beautiful, each (area) in its own way.

Why Hualalai Resort?
Kate: We have been traveling to Hawai‘i together for more than 40 years, visiting every island. We did the Honolulu marathon 20-plus years in a row, and we spent many holidays in Hana, Maui. Hana is “Old Hawai‘i” in many ways, and we loved that connectedness to the people, the stories, the music, the traditions, the culture of the islands. But Hana can be a little wet, and there is no golf, so when Andy started to learn to play golf we gravitated toward an area that is consistently sunnier and drier, and where there is plenty of golf for Andy. We had visited the Big Island many times, and had stayed at most of the resorts. They were all great in different ways, but they never really felt like “home” the way Hualalai did from the very beginning.

Why buy?
Kate: Maybe because we had many friends with homes there, maybe because it was a particular season in our lives. We found just the perfect spot for us at just the right time. We had no intention of buying a home and, in fact, found our home when we were looking for a place to rent for a month one summer. We took one look, went home, put our own (recently remodeled) home on the market, downsized in Tiburon to a home just down the street and bought our home at Hualalai. It has been a wonderful journey.

How do you spend time there?
Kate: We love to horseback-ride up in the Parker Ranch area and enjoy the zipline through the rain forest, (as well as) hiking in Waipio Valley and riding our beach cruisers around the resort. We find the Keck Observatory [near the summit of Mauna Kea] fascinating and thoroughly enjoy attending lectures and slide shows with the brilliant scientists who work there, hearing about their discoveries, trying to imagine what else they will find. I am enamored of Hawaiian mythology and I am trying to learn the lyrically beautiful Hawaiian language. Andy is learning ukulele from Uncle Earl at the cultural center and I am beginning to explore ancient hula. We also love our little Hualalai Trading Company and Hualalai Coffee Company where we go for morning coffee and to pick up our newspapers. But I guess what we love most of all is the time we have together just sitting on our lanai with a book, listening to the birds, looking at the ocean and watching the sunset. And the chance to slow down for a bit and actually finish a sentence.

What do you bring home to Tiburon?
Andy: One of our favorite activities (on the island) is the sunrise outrigger paddle. It is the most amazing experience just to paddle straight out into the ocean for a few miles and be surrounded by dolphins and turtles and mantas and all sorts of marine life, including whales in the winter. It’s magical. At the end of each paddle, the members of our canoe club gather together and share a mele, a blessing, that is a one-word reminder: Imua, imua, imua, which means to go forth and do your best. We try to remember to hold that thought for as long as possible.