Photo courtesy of Ka’awa Loa Plantation & Guesthouse
Ka’awa Loa Plantation & Guesthouse
Far from the big resorts, in a lush, hilly corner of the Big Island that the locals consider the real Hawaii, is Ka’awa Loa Plantation & Guesthouse. This tremendously charming bed-and-breakfast is set on a small coffee farm and fruit orchard. It’s on the slopes of Mauna Loa, some 1,200 feet above Kealakekua Bay (where Captain Cook met his fate), delivering bird’s-eye ocean views to the guesthouse and its expansive lawn. The two-story main house has five guest rooms (three have half baths, one has a shared bath), and there’s also a stand-alone cottage for those looking for more privacy. Guests tend to hang out on the large wraparound veranda with Kula (the resident pooch) or in the tree-shaded gardens, where there are countless pretty places to curl up with a book and idle away the day. Also outside, for all guests to use when they wish, is a hot tub, a cedar-walled steam hut, and two (outdoor) lava-rock showers, which are particularly pleasant after a day of hiking on the nearby trails or snorkeling with turtles at Honaunau Bay. The inn’s amiable owners, Michael Martinage and Greg Nunn, are usually on hand to lend beach towels, umbrellas, boogie boards, and coolers, and give the lowdown on locals’ favorite island spots, from hidden beaches to hole-in-the-wall poke shacks.
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Ka’awa Loa Plantation is in the Big Island’s coffee belt, a hilly region of farms and mills and at least one famous honey maker. It takes a good 20 to 25 minutes to drive to the busy town of Kailua-Kona, but just a few miles or so from the inn are dozens of small and locally loved restaurants along Highway 11.
Need to Know
Rooms: 5 rooms and 1 cottage. From $129. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: 11 a.m. Dining options: The daily breakfasts, which are usually big enough to count as lunch too, include Kona coffee roasted right there on the property, the farm’s bounty of fruits, and heartier dishes as well, like scrambled eggs with homemade pesto or banana–macadamia nut pancakes. Spa and gym details: No gym and no spa, but there are masseuses on call and yoga mats available to anyone who wants one.
Who's it for: Outdoorsy types who want to take full advantage of the area’s excellent hiking trails and snorkeling, swimming, and kayaking spots; slow food proponents (this fertile farm and the neighboring estates are a foodie’s dream); independent travelers who prefer the local scene to the resort scene. Our favorite rooms: The spacious suite in the main house. Not only is it the only room in the main house to have a full bath, but its king-size bed, cherry floors, and high ceilings make it the most luxurious option at the inn. Good to know: Captain Cook Monument, which also happens to be a fine snorkeling spot, isn’t accessible by car, only by water or by foot. A terrific four-mile hike (round-trip) starts from near Ka’awa Loa Plantation and leads all the way down to the bay, past the ruins of an old Hawaiian temple, and to the monument.