100 Kulaniapia Dr, Hilo
We’re not sure how to classify this one, so let’s start with what it isn’t: a hotel, a hostel, or a bed and breakfast. Think of this place as a destination retreat locale. It’s only about 20 minutes away from Hilo but light-years away in everything besides distance. Come here to be away from it all. You can swim in a gosh darn pool at the bottom of a waterfall, so why the heck would you leave these grounds? The three main buildings sit on an incredibly beautiful grassy hill above Kulaniapia Falls and pond whose sound can be heard from all rooms.
The aim of the Inn is to provide different experiences. Some are included, some you can get discounted if you purchase them at the time of booking. Rappel off the previously mentioned waterfall, or go on a farm-to-table cooking adventure (start by picking your ingredients and end with a deliciously self-prepared meal). You can hike the grounds, visit the pigs (don’t get too attached; they will be dinner some day), or hire a private chef for top-notch cuisine. There is a trail to the waterfall and pond (you must check in with the innkeeper before hiking or swimming in it) and a 20-minute hike through a bamboo garden where another three-tiered falls awaits you. There are free stand-up paddleboards and kayaks for use on property.
It isn’t a pampering kind of place like the Four Seasons, where members of staff treat you like royalty. It’s more of a family affair. Many of the employees live on the 42 acres and do what they do with love. Don’t expect phony smiles and “yes sir”s. Do expect genuine enthusiasm for sharing the experience.
The four main buildings house 13 rooms with shared common areas in each. Besides those main rooms, the property has added five studio cabins. There’s no electricity in the cabins, and the bathroom and kitchen are located in a nearby barn where live-in staff also spend their time. Although we heard the cabins referred to as “similar to camping,” we have to say that they’re much more than that and an absolute delight. Screened-in entrances mean you wake up to an expansive horizon and sunrise. Located right near the farm and sharing areas means you get to know the people who have dedicated time to the beauty surrounding you. We understand this might not be everyone’s idea of a Hawai‘i vacation, but if you want a little more interaction and a little less servitude, we think very highly of this place. Some of the “inclusions” you don’t get with the cabin rentals (like housekeeping), but you still get to explore the grounds and swim in the waterfall pool.
This place is also designed for buy-outs. If you’ve got a large group, business or family, they have the ability to accommodate. Cabins start around $89 standard. Rooms range from 365 sq. ft. to over 1,200 sq. ft. for the Residence Suite and start around $239, and premium rooms (meaning either with waterfall view or suite) around $499. Prices are based on two people and vary quite a bit based on the time of year. It’s $50 per extra person. Cabins have a 3-night minimum.