Several high-end resorts in Hawai’i now offer families customized yoga and wellness programs in glorious natural settings. Deborah Koehn and David Blehert extended the concept — and options for different kinds of families — through their company Yoga Adventure. While the couple opens their home, Hale Kai (a Robinson Crusoe-style oceanfront yoga center) several times a year, they also organize and lead retreats in other destinations, including Bali, Morocco, India and Peru.
Whether at their home base of 35 years or on the trail halfway around the globe, families are guaranteed yoga instruction and full-on immersion into nature, along with other activities such as hiking, hula dancing, photography instruction, surfing and preparing meals with natural whole ingredients and cultural immersion — not your routine hoteliers or tour planners. Deborah Koehn, an internationally established yoga instructor, and David Blehert, a renowned adventure photographer, are the parents of television personality, environmentalist and filmmaker Alison Teal, who Time called “The Female Indiana Jones.” With that, they are bringing aspects of the way they raised her into the family travel experience, complete with life lessons on the importance of solar power, composting, living sustainably and making life an ongoing series of adventures.
“Since we have over 40 years of experience leading adventure travel, we want to encourage our guests to be immersed in nature and experience adventure from a kayak, a surf board, or on foot rather than from the confines and limitations of a tour bus,” said Blehert. “Our home, a Bali-inspired sanctuary in a remote traditional fishing village on the Big Island, lends itself perfectly to an inspiring outdoor adventure. When Deborah greets the groups in the morning, with a combination of meditation and yoga, it helps our guests feel really refreshed, balanced, and relaxed when they start the day. We appreciate every opportunity to provide families the flexibility to adapt their itinerary to their health needs, athletic abilities, and ages whether they do it as a private stay or with other guests.”
Rather than provide classes and activities along with the WiFi and other distracting attributes of a luxury hotel, the couple is serious about having all guests — especially kids and teens — tune into nature for the duration for a stay. The couple enjoys preparing food crafted from ingredients sourced from nearby farms or their land, and points out the guests’ dispositions change when they are eating healthier, non-processed foods. Koehn adds that what makes this transition to a simpler existence easier than it may sound to mainland parents is the fact so many natural wonders native to this island are readily accessible and instantly inspire curiosity in young minds.
“It’s interesting to observe how things change when they go from a place where they are plugged in constantly to an environment like this one,” she explained. “They tend to lose interest in their phones, social networks and games and are captivated by the wildlife and fruits and flowers growing on and around our property. This also amazes the parents, and they often give us feedback about having the kind of family vacation where they did a puzzle together, hiked to volcano or swam in the ocean and nobody wanted to check their phones. Parents relax a lot more because they are centered in one place surrounded by nature. Kids are intrigued by fruit like starfruit and mangoes, the variety of unique fish in the waters they are swimming in and surfing.”
Even with the rich array of activities the couple offers to guests with a variety of interests, they do offer sojourns off the property to enable others to experience ‘“Old Hawai’i.” “Naturally, we want to help people feel like a local, and take them to places selectively, instilling within them the importance of treating the locals and the area with respect,” said Blehert. “We want people to learn by experiencing things outside their day-to-day lives that will provide a deeper connection to the environment as they learn new things and free them from some of their old patterns and ways of thinking.”
Blehert said one thing their youngest guests get excited about during a stay on their island hideaway: Alison got to be a real-life explorer just like Dora in the recent film Dora the Explorer, as the film magically mirrored her life story and, to add extra educational value, they enlisted Alison to make five short films for her “Alison’s Adventures” YouTube film series and have Isabella Merced, the actress who played Dora, send her on quests.
Blehert and Koehn note the “more active” trips they plan for Peru, Bali and elsewhere are better suited for families with older kids or teens with athletic experience. However, they are proud of the fact the activities and their approach keep all family members engaged.
“We are doing something right when the kids are completely wrapped up in what they are seeing, and don’t even miss their phones,” Koehn said.
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