KA'UPULEHU, KONA, Hawaii Island (HawaiiNewsNow) - Six weeks after suffering damage from tsunami waves generated by the March 11 Japan earthquake, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai welcomed its first guests as it reopened Saturday.
Employees were busy putting the final touches at the resort before it reopened at 11 a.m., giving a new beach walkway a final wash down and preparing beach chairs for the guests.
"Most of the damage was fairly superficial," said resort general manager Robert Whitfield. "We had a lot of debris come in from the ocean, and some sand and plant material and so on, and some of the exterior furniture were impacted, and we had some minor damage to about a dozen rooms and one of our oceanfront restaurants."
None of the resort's employees were furloughed during the closure. They were kept working during the six week period.
"We did everything from cleaning up the pond, which was totally full of debris and sand," said King's Pond pool attendant Lynn Capell. "A lot of the bushes, furniture, we cleaned all that out for several days."
"This crew has definitely brought this place back together, working hard, but we're finally back to what we do best, and that's servicing the guests," said restaurant manager Chuck Wilson.
The resort also looked at the cleanup as an opportunity to make some improvements.
"I wouldn't say we made major changes, but where ever we had an opportunity to make a little improvement, we certainly looked for that."
Those changes include new lawns and landscaping, beach furniture, and expanded private outdoor patio areas for some of the rooms.
Guests were definitely ready to check in when the resort reopened.
"We can just tell they worked so hard to get everything ready, and they're being so hospitable as we walk in the door," said Pat Helland, a first-time guest from Seattle. "We;re excited to be among the first people to check in."
"Very beautiful property," said Helland's wife, Lisa.
The reopening was also good news for some former employees of the nearby Kona Village Resort. They lost their jobs when the resort closed because of extensive tsunami damage.
"We had a job fair exclusively for Kona Village employees, and about two dozen of them have joined our team, and we're happy to have them," Whitfield said.
"In fact, I was chatting with a couple of them yesterday, and they're happy to be here, for sure"
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