Where to Stay on the Big Island
For additional information on bed-and-breakfasts, visit the website of Hawaii Island B&B Association (www.stayhawaii.com), which only allows licensed, inspected properties to become members. Vacation rentals, which Hawaii County does not regulate the way it does B&Bs and hotels, are currently less of a hot-button issue here than on other islands. You’ll find numerous listings of condos and houses on sites such as VRBO.com and airbnb.com. To help you more easily compare units and complexes, as well as guarantee rapid assistance should issues arise during your stay, though, consider booking vacation rentals through an island-based company, such as those listed for specific regions below.
Remember to add Hawaii’s 13.41 percent tax to your final bill. In the listings below, all rooms come with a full private bathroom (with tub and/or shower) and free parking unless otherwise noted.
The Kona Coast
Many of the lodgings in Kailua-Kona and Keauhou are timeshares or individually owned condos; rates, decor, and amenities in the latter may vary widely by unit. For a broad selection of well-managed condos and a smaller selection of homes (most with pools), contact Kona Rentals (www.konarentals.com; tel. 800/799-5662) or Kona Hawaii Vacation Rentals (www.konahawaii.com; tel. 809/244-4752 or 808/329-3333). Note: Prices and minimum-stay requirements may be significantly higher during the week before and after the Ironman World Championship (usually the second Sat in Oct), as well as during holidays.
In addition to the lodgings below, consider booking a condo at the Royal Sea Cliff, on the ocean side of Alii Drive about 2 miles south of the Kailua Pier. There’s no beach, but it has two oceanfront pools, often the site of free entertainment, and a tennis court. Outrigger Hotels & Resorts (www.outrigger.com; tel. 800/688-7444 or 808/329-8021) manages 62 large, well-appointed units there, with full kitchens and washer-dryers, out of 148 total (others are timeshares or individually managed rentals.) Outrigger charges $129 to $399, plus cleaning fees of $75 to $115, for accommodations ranging from studios (650 sq. ft.) up to two-bedroom, two-bathroom units (1,100–1,300 sq. ft.).
This rural region of steeply sloping hills, often dotted with coffee and macadamia nut farms, is home to many unassuming bed-and-breakfasts that may appeal to budget travelers who don’t mind being far from the beach.
At the higher end, in every sense, Horizon Guest House (www.horizonguesthouse.com; tel. 808/938-7822) offers four units ($250–$350) with private entrances and lanais on a 40-acre property, including a spacious pool and whirlpool spa, at 1,100 feet of elevation in Honaunau, 21 miles south of Kailua-Kona. Rates include a gourmet breakfast by host Clem Classen; note that children 13 and under are not allowed.In a more residential area of Captain Cook, 12 miles south of Kailua-Kona, Areca Palms Estate Bed & Breakfast (www.konabedandbreakfast.com; tel. 808/323-2276) has four rooms ($135–$145 double, two-night minimum) in a cedar home that backs on to a nature reserve, with a hot tub that’s heated on request (some may wish instead for air-conditioning in the rooms). Rates include co-owner Janice Glass’s delicious full breakfast.
The Kohala Coast
Sorting Out the Resorts
There’s no getting around the sticker shock visitors encounter when dining at the South Kohala resort hotels, especially at breakfast and lunch. Dazzling sunsets help soften the blow at dinner, when chefs at least show more ambition. Here’s a quick guide to help you distinguish between the top dinner-only resort restaurants, all offering excellent but costly variations on locally sourced Hawaii Regional Cuisine:
* Mauna Lani Resorts: Brown’s Beach House at the Fairmont Orchid Hawaii offers attentive service at tables on a lawn just a stone’s throw from the water; at Canoe House in the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows , chef Allen Hess personally presents each dish of his “Captain’s Table” Blind Tasting Menu ($100), offered Thursday to Saturday by 24-hour reservation.
* Mauna Kea Resorts: Manta & Pavilion Wine Bar at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel offers firepits and a sweeping ocean view, plus 48 high-end wines by the glass from the nifty Enomatic dispenser. The less elegant but more intriguing Coast Grille at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel also provides an expansive view, plus the best value of all the resorts: the $50 four-course Locavore Series menu, each month showcasing a different Big Island ingredient.
* Waikoloa Beach Resorts: Only KPC–Kamuela Provision Company at the Hilton Waikoloa Village has the oceanfront views and culinary skills, primarily with steak and seafood, to rival other resorts’ restaurants; be sure to book an outdoor table for at least a half-hour before sunset.
The lively Lava Lava Beach Club restaurant and bar (www.lavalavabeachclub.com; tel. 808/769-5282) also offers four adjacent cottages ($450–$550), right on the sand at Anaehoomalu Bay. Opened in 2012, they include king-size beds and kitchenettes; just keep in mind there’s live music till 9pm nightly.
This rural area, steeped in Hawaiian history and legend, has few overnight visitors, given its distance from swimmable beaches and other attractions. But it does include two luxurious accommodations that reflect its heritage in unique ways. At Puakea Ranch (www.puakearanch.com; tel. 808/315-0805), west of Hawi and 400 feet above the coast, three plantation-era bungalows and a former cowboy bunkhouse have been beautifully restored as vacation rentals ($289–$899; three- to seven-night minimum). Sizes vary, as do amenities such as soaking tubs and swimming pools. On the ocean bluff between Hawi and Kapaau, hidden from the road, the “eco-boutique” Hawaii Island Retreat (www.hawaiiislandretreat.com; tel. 808/889-6336) offers 10 posh guest rooms with large bathrooms and balconies ($415–$490 double) and, clustered near the excellent spa and saltwater infinity pool, seven spacious yurts (large tent-like structures with vaulted ceilings), with private bathrooms and shared indoor/outdoor showers ($195 double). Rates include a sumptuous organic breakfast of home-grown produce and eggs.
As an economical alternative to the Kohala resorts, the cowboy town of Waimea offers a few very basic motels (not recommended) and several more comfortable options, all within a 20-minute drive of Hapuna Beach.
The two large suites ($179–$199 double) of Aaah, the Views Bed & Breakfast (www.aaahtheviews.com; tel. 808/885-3455) have plenty of windows so you can revel in the majestic views of Mauna Kea, a seasonal stream, ranchlands, or red skies at sunset; breakfast supplies are left in your kitchen or kitchenette to enjoy at your leisure. The two-room Treetop Suite, with four beds, is ideal for families. At the equally tranquil Waimea Garden Cottages (www.waimeagardens.com; tel. 808/885-8550), the two well-appointed cottages and attached studio ($155–$185 double, with 3-night minimum; no credit cards) also have lovely views and kitchens or kitchenettes stocked for breakfast, plus private patios with barbecues.
Closer to the center of town, the two-story, two-unit Belle Vue (www.hawaii-bellevue.com; tel. 800/772-5044 or 808/885-7732) vacation rental has a penthouse apartment with high ceilings and the best view, from the mountains to the distant sea, and a downstairs studio ($95–$175 double.) Both include kitchenettes with breakfast fixings and private entrances.
The Hamakua Coast
This emerald-green, virtually empty coast is a far drive from resort-worthy beaches and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and so is less frequented by overnight visitors (other than coqui frogs). Those who do choose to spend a night or more, though, will appreciate getting away from it all at several elegant bed-and-breakfasts. Off a long, winding road in the hills above Honokaa, Waianuhea (www.waianuhea.com; tel. 888/775-2577 or 808/775-1118) is truly a destination unto itself, with five spacious rooms and suites ($225–$400) boasting hardwood floors, plump bedding, walls of windows, and other tasteful appointments. Being off-grid hasn’t prevented the full breakfasts and optional three-course dinners ($58) from being just as sumptuous. Closer to Hilo, but in still very rustic Honomu, the sprawling, Victorian-inspired Palms Cliff House Inn (www.palmscliffhouse.com; tel. 866/963-6076 or 808/963-6076) offers eight large oceanview suites ($239–$449), some with air-conditioning and jetted tubs, plus a full breakfast on the lanai overlooking Pohakumanu Bay. Opened in 2001, the inn underwent renovations in 2013.
At the very end of the Honokaa-Waipio Road (Hwy. 240) in Honokaa, you’ll find an amazing vista of Waipio Valley and privacy in the single studio ($200) of Waipio Rim B&B (www.waipiorim.com; tel. 808/775-1727), which has a flatscreen TV, kitchenette, and Wi-Fi for when you tire of the view from the deck. The hot breakfast even comes to you, at 8am. Also off Highway 240 in Honokaa, the Waipio Wayside Inn Bed & Breakfast (www.waipiowayside.com; tel. 800/833-8849 or 808/775-0275) doesn’t overlook the valley but still has a pretty setting on an ocean bluff. A restored former plantation supervisor’s residence, the inn has five rather formal antiques-decorated rooms ($110–$200 double) and a handsome living/dining room, where owner Jackie Horne serves organic breakfasts promptly at 8am.
Although several hotels line scenic Banyan Drive, most fall short of visitors’ expectations. However, the new owners of the 12-story, 193-room Hilo Naniloa,which includes a 9-hole golf course and wonderful views of Hilo Bay and Mauna Kea, began extensive renovations after acquiring the property (formerly the Naniloa Volcanoes Resort) in late 2013. They were expected to relaunch the hotel, already much improved, under a new name by the end of 2014 (doubles $149–$339).
For choice vacation rentals in Pahoa and Kapoho, some on the ocean with their own thermal ponds, contact Joanie Lehr of Hawaii Island Dreams (www.hawaiiislanddreams.com; tel. 808/938-2996). Yoga and nature lovers should investigate the wide variety of funky lodgings and classes at the bohemian Kalani Oceanside Retreat on Highway 137about halfwaybetween Kapoho and Kalapana(www.kalani.com; tel. 800/800-6886; 808/965-7828). Be prepared for the noise of coqui frogs.
In Volcano Village, the frogs don’t like the misty, cool nights as much—the village is at 3,700 feet—but ask about heating when booking a rental.Joey Gutierrez of Hawaii Volcano Vacations (www.hawaiivolcanovacations.com; tel. 800/709-0907 or 808/967-7178) manages a great selection of cottages, cabins, and houses ranging from $95 to $200 a night. For those able to climb its ship-style ladder to the sleeping area, Mahinui Na Lani (www.mahinui.com; tel. 510/965-7367), a rainforest treehouse studio ($235), is a romantic, eco-friendly alternative, with a kitchenette and cedar hot tub for two.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
As with the Hamakua Coast, few visitors spend the night in this virtually undeveloped area, about halfway between Kailua-Kona and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, but there’s something about the surroundings that inspires unusual lodgings.
Tiny Waiohinu has three such properties: Hobbit House (www.hi-hobbit.com; tel. 808/929-9755) is a curvy, cozy retreat, with one bedroom, one bathroom, a full kitchen, and beautiful woodwork and stained glass by owners Bill and Darlene Whaling. High on a hill off a private road, the Tolkien-esque cottage rents for $170 a night, with a three-night minimum.Also unusual—for having such luxurious furnishings and amenities in a remote, rural area—is Kalaekilohana (www.kau-hawaii.com; tel. 808/939-8052), a modern plantation-style home with four large guest suites ($289) in a tranquil setting above the road to South Point. It may sound pricey, but after one night in a plush bed, with a beautifully presented breakfast on the lanai, and true Hawaiian hospitality from hosts Kenny Joyce and Kilohano Domingo, many guests kick themselves for not having booked a second night or more—and multi-night discounts start at $40 off a two-night stay. Kenny’s delicious dinners ($25–$35 per person) are also an option on Friday and Saturday nights
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.