The Big Island of Hawaii is home to some of the most deluxe mega-resorts in the state. The 4,028-square-mile home to Pele, the Fire Goddess, is also the backdrop for some low-key, motel-like properties best known by the locals. These gems of tranquility are sometimes discovered by lucky visitors and offer a Hawaii beyond the glitz and glamor of the Kohala Coast.
Manago Hotel – Captain Cook
Renovations aside, it doesn’t look that much different than it did in 1917. Imagine a Model T parked in front of the three-story Manago Hotel, and in your mind’s eye the illusion would be almost believable. Choose from 42 rooms, half with private bath and all offered at daily, weekly or monthly rates. Views are of the on-site Japanese garden, the slopes of Mauna Kea or Kealakekua Bay in the distance. For something completely different, choose the Japanese Room, complete with a furo, or Japanese style bath, and tatami mats covering the floor. Enjoy an ocean view from this room’s balcony. Dine at The Restaurant, which offers a combination of local Hawaiian and mainland entrees. The Manago Hotel is only a mile from Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park, one of the prime snorkeling spots on Hawaii’s western coast.
Kapoho Village Inn – Pahoa
A good portion of the village of Kapoho was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1960. The Kapoho Village Inn, once used to house sugar cane workers in the early 1900s, was one of the buildings that Pele spared. It now serves as a boutique-style inn with a wrap around veranda, a garden full of flowers and a hill-top view. The three rooms blend antique furnishings and ceiling fans with modern-day amenities including satellite TV. The three rooms share two bathrooms and a state-of-the-art modern kitchen. Snorkel at the nearby Kapoho tidepools, a five-minute drive, or follow the coast road to the black sand beach at Kehana. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is less than an hour away.
Waimea Country Lodge –Waimea
Explore Hawaii’s cowboy country and spend a night or two at the Waimea Country Lodge. The 21-room property, managed by Castle Resorts & Hotels, is surrounded by acres of lawn and the adjacent Waimea Park. Rooms, some with kitchenettes, are filled with polished pine furnishings and Hawaiian designed quilts. The rustic décor fits right in with the local flavor. Seeing a paniolo (Hawaiian for cowboy) riding through town on horseback doesn’t even draw a second look. Go for a pony ride yourself at nearby Parker Ranch, the legacy of one-time sailor John Parker and his Hawaiian bride, Kipikane. The lodge has no restaurants, but an assortment of eateries in Waimea town are just two blocks away.
Dolphin Bay Hotel – Hilo
Hilo is the largest city on the Big Island of Hawaii, yet it is much more low-key than Kailua-Kona on the western coast. The main hotel area is along Banyan Drive, a looped road that fronts Hilo Bay and is famous for its row of banyan trees planted by visiting celebrities. Tucked away on the residential end of town is the 18-room Dolphin Bay Hotel. All units from the Standard Studios on up have full kitchens, private baths and cable TV. Also offered are one- and two-bedroom apartments, both with lanais, at the Illiahi Apartments across from the Dolphin Bay. One of the highlights of this property is the gardens. Take a stroll past sweet-scented ginger and plumeria, and the boldly colored bird-of-paradise flowers. Paths lead past banana, avocado, breadfruit, orange and apple trees, and patches of pineapple plants. You are welcome to pick and enjoy the fruit when ripe.
- Big Island Waterfall image by Cooltails from Fotolia.com