FrontRunners: Shell Beach
If the turtles are any indication, the Fairmont Orchid (808.885.2000, www.fairmont.com) may have the Big Island’s best sunbathing beach. “There’s a refuge for endangered Hawaiian green sea turtles at a neighboring hotel,” says David Roberts, the resort’s general manager, “but every afternoon they swim over to lie on our beach.”
Since becoming a Fairmont property in 2002, the Orchid has undergone renovations that include the additions of an outdoor spa and a Gold Floor with a private lounge and elevator. The resort also features four of the island’s finest restaurants, but the beach is its most enticing attribute. Most of the beaches on the Big Island are overrun with lava rocks, rendering them unsafe and uncomfortable, but the Orchid’s has a sandy shoreline that abuts a cove teeming with yellow tangs, parrot fish, and precious corals. The Fairmont’s Beach Boys supply equipment for those guests interested in snorkeling or kayaking, but, like the turtles, many opt just to lie on the sand.