Turning off the highway into Volcano Village, the one-street town leading into Volcanoes National Park, first-time visitors might think they just made a right turn into Oregon. Cool, misty, and thick with giant ferns, this corner of the Big Island is a small but serious rain forest, nourished mightily by eons of volcanic soil and abundant rainfall. Well concealed down one of the quiet side streets, in their rainforest property, are the four one-bedroom cottages that make up the Volcano Rainforest Retreat. Each is unique—one has a sleeping loft, another is a perfect hexagon, a third has a full kitchen. But with their cedar walls and ample windows and shoji screens, they bring to mind Japanese country houses. A stone pathway even leads to an ofuro, a Japanese soaking tub sitting outdoors beneath a moss-covered pergola. Interiors have eclectic, tasteful furnishings (leather club chairs, farmhouse-style quilts, handmade ceramics) that make each one feel like the guesthouse of a good friend. Though kids are allowed, and futons are available for extra guests, the setting is best for quiet twosomes, rather than families or boisterous groups of friends, as guest quarters are fairly close to one another. That, and in the hush of the rain forest, loud voices just won’t do.
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Volcano Village’s main street is just a few blocks long, lined with only a handful of restaurants and shops. More interesting are all the lovely artists’ studios tucked into the side streets. The innkeeper can tip you off to the best, including some of the artists who designed the pieces on the property.
Need to Know
Rooms: 4 cottages. From $170. Check-in: Between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.; check-out: 11 a.m. Dining options: No restaurant, but a hearty breakfast (granola, quiche, coffee) arrives on your doorstep each morning. Spa and gym details: No gym and no spa, but there are masseuses on call who will come to the cottage, and a spa nearby for other treatments. Yoga sessions can also be arranged, as well as yoga therapy, and meditation groups meet often at the property.
Who's it for: Couples (see above); well-heeled hippies; and expert or amateur naturalists or volcanologists (Volcanoes National Park is a stone’s throw away). Our favorite rooms: The Sanctuary, the glass-walled hexagon, is the smallest, but also the most romantic. For a little more space and lots of warmth and sunlight, book the Guest Cottage, with its upstairs sleeping loft. Good to know: Kathleen Golden, who owns the inn along with her husband, Peter, is a practicing therapist who specializes in a blend of psychological counseling and spiritual healing. She conducts couples retreats throughout the year (check the website for details), but will also have one-on-one or couples sessions for her guests by prior arrangement.