Hualalai Oysters Grown and Harvested at the Resort

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai produces Hualalai oysters, grown and harvested onsite
Hawaii, Hualalai, U.S.A.

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai produces Hualalai oysters, grown and harvested onsite. David Chai, the Resort’s Director of Natural Resources, led the effort in getting these oysters produced. Over more than a decade, he tested various types of oysters to determine which were best suited to grow in Hualalai’s unique lake waters. Eventually, a variety of Eastern oyster - Crassostrea virginica from a parental lineage of the Chesapeake Bay area - were selected.

Raised in the Resort’s Pūnāwai Lake, the oysters grow in water that comes from a pristine subterranean seawater aquifer, tapped and drawn from wells deep within the lava. Pūnāwai Lake is self-contained, offering clean and pure water, allowing these oysters to be grown organically. The oyster production also stabilises the phytoplankton bloom within the lake to avoid algae “crashes” or mass die-off of the phytoplankton, which consequently leads to oxygen depletion within the lake.

The oyster growing habitat at Pūnāwai Lake is currently stocked with thousands of oysters that will be harvested for the exclusive enjoyment of guests and homeowners at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai.

Once pulled from the lake, the Resort’s Executive Chef and his team serve these oysters in three of the Resort’s restaurants. ‘ULU Ocean Grill features Hualalai oysters on the half shell, with hot damskey and yuzu ponzu sauce; while Hualalai Grille offers Hualalai oysters on the half shell with spicy Maui onion and ogo mignonette and cocktail sauce. The chefs exercise full control of the salinity (brininess) of the oysters and can adjust it, based on the palate of Resort guests.

“We are incredibly excited to introduce Hualalai oysters to our guests. The harvesting of these oysters is a real testament to our commitment to sustainability throughout the Resort,” says Chai. “Our chefs serve oysters raised here at Hualalai, in a completely organic and sustainable fashion - another way we respect and foster the land and water of this beautiful island.”

Filtration for Pūnāwai Lake employs living technology developed by Ocean Arks International, which maintains a high level of water quality necessary to sustain an aquaculture operation. The filter system involves two floating “living” islands of vegetation in combination with an undergravel matrix of pipes on the pond bottom. Water turnover through these living filters is once (3 million gallons or 13.6 million litres) every 24 hours. The gravel bed throughout the lake also acts a biological filter by reducing excessive ammonia and nitrate production. The lake itself is entirely man-made, lined with HDPE liner material, and is landscaped and designed to look and function as a natural Hawaiian lake, while avoiding any potential contamination from the surrounding environment.

Quick facts about Pūnāwai Lake:

  • Volume - approximately 3 million gallons (13.6 million litres)
  • Depth - bottom of lake is 17 feet (5 metres) above sea level
  • Surface area - 2.3 acres (1 hectare)
  • Water source: two in-ground wells adjacent to Lake (brackish water well 27 feet or 8 metres below mean sea level, salt water well 70 feet or 21 metres below mean sea level)
  • Current inhabitants of the pond include: 200 milkfish (Chanos chanos), 200 mullet (Mugil cephalus), thousands of native glass shrimp (Palaemon debilis)