OK. Maybe I'm a bit biased when it comes to Hawaii. While I'm not the least bit surprised that National Geographic Traveler has named Kona Village Resort to its annual "Stay List," I'm surprised that only five Hawaii properties were actually tapped for this prestigious group. Regardless, I have included this wonderful retreat on my own personal roster of Hawaii favorites since my first visit during the 1980s.

Each time I'm fortunate to stay at this Kohala Coast icon, I find some new aspect that wows me "“ not that it's something new, but it's something I hadn't necessarily encountered during a previous stay.

The first time, I embraced Kona Village's "tele-free" aspect "“- no telephones or televisions in my guest hale. Mind you, this was during the pre-cell phone era. So I missed my weekly episode of Dallas and couldn't call my friends to brag about the spectacular time I was having. What bliss!

On my last stay, it was while snorkeling about ¼ mile off shore and coming across a "turtle cleaning station." Diving in from an outrigger canoe trek guided by a resort naturalist, I came across a slew of reef fish literally cleaning a mellowed-out honu that was in no rush to get through the process. Toss in some dozen turtles basking on Kona Village's shore as the sun sank into the Pacific, and this experience is hard to top — until the next one.

According to Traveler, "Stay List" hotels expand beyond reflecting their surroundings. They actually help define a location by indulging guests with a sense of place that extends further than hotel-keeping. I wholeheartedly agree with the publication. Kona Village gives an immediate vibe that makes sure you'll leave with the kind of insight only soulful places can provide.

To find these hotels, Traveler tapped into the collected experiences of veteran journalists, inveterate road warriors and local experts. They based their nominations on key criteria that included involvement with the local community, sustainable practices that respect the region and reflection of the setting's spirit.

This resort is solid in all areas. Its 82-oceanfront acres were once the site of an ancient Hawaiian fishing village. Now, it's home to 125 individual thatched-roof bungalows nestled around lush lagoons and beaches of white and black sand fronting the marine preserve of Kahuwai Bay. Kona Village truly highlights the best of the region in a style that's true to its surroundings.

All that said, it's no surprise that Traveler is not alone in its accolades. The resort has also been rated among "Hawaii’s Top 25 Hotels" by Travel+Leisure, has appeared numerous times on Conde Nast Traveler’s “World’s Best Places to Stay” and was listed by Forbes.com among its "Top Ten Luxury Family Resorts in the U. S."

I'll return as soon as I can. And to stay true to theme, I'll turn my cell phone off.

For more about Kona Village Resort visit www.konavillage.com

dawnarobertson200A freelance writer based between Honolulu and San Diego, Dawna specializes in destinations and adventures in the Hawaiian Islands, Mexico, the South Pacific and Western United States. Her stories have appeared in publications that include The New York Times, Global Traveler USA, San Francisco Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, Smart Meetings, Family Fun, Hemispheres, Outside and Travel Agent Magazine. She is a frequent contributor to TravelAge West, a bi-weekly magazine targeting retail travel agents and wholesalers in the Western United States. An avid marathon runner and photographer, Dawna is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers. Visit www.dawnarobertson.com