Everyone usually ends up on Hawaii Island at least once in their lifetime, whether for the beaches or the water or the volcanoes. And chances are, big resorts are what first come to mind when it’s time to look for lodging -- but this list might just change that. The island is actually home to many small and charming bed-and-breakfasts, sprinkled throughout the numerous tight-knit communities you’ll find on the shores and volcanic hillsides. The local innkeepers are friendly and passionate, giving guests a personalized look into their neighborhoods and their own lifestyles. Here are five inns to check out (and check into):
Waimea Gardens Bed and Breakfast ($160-$190 per night)
It’s not all beaches and bikinis in Hawaii. For a taste of the mountain lifestyle, Waimea Gardens is found in the northern upcountry, steeped in paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) tradition. With three rooms, the inn is a beautiful introduction to the pastoral setting, but its central location also makes it a great launching pad for exploring more of the island -- Kauna'oa , Hapuna, and Spencer beaches, among other attractions, are all less than 10 miles away. Breakfast, including fresh eggs from on-site hens, is self-served from a stocked in-room fridge. All rooms have hardwood floors, a kitchenette to prepare meals, and a patio with a barbecue.
Good to know: A three-night stay is required.
Nearby: Waimea, Waipi’o Valley, Waikoloa, Kohala, Pu'u O Umi Natural Area Reserve
Hale Moana Bed and Breakfast ($115-$175 per night)
Keen to experience the local life? Hale Moana’s location is smack-dab in the middle of a wholly residential neighborhood, Leilani Estates, in a thick rainforest just outside of Pahoa. The town was largely undiscovered until Kilauea’s lava flow nearly steamrolled it last summer, but even after its getting more attention of visitors, it still remains relatively off-the-beaten path. The B&B itself sits on two acres of botanic gardens, with plenty of breezeways and outdoor seating for enjoying its ambiance, while accommodations include a king-size studio and three kitchenette-equipped suites. A locally sourced breakfast buffet typically includes a variety of fruits, cereals, jams, and breads to go with a rotating main dish -- think: pancakes, quiche, or breakfast burritos.
Good to know: A two-night minimum is preferred but not required; a $20 surcharge is added for one-night stays.
Nearby: Pahoa, Volcanoes National Park, Kapoho Tide Pools, Lava Tree State Park, Kehena Beach, Kalapana, Mackenzie Beach Park.
Holualoa Inn (from $365 per night)
Garden patios, rooftop lounge, hillside Jacuzzi, and views of the western coastline, Pacific ocean, and sunset are the first draws of Holualoa Inn. But they’re only part of the reason why the price tag here is more akin to that of a beachside resort than independent inn -- the care and culture put into the rest of the guest experience, particularly the special culinary approach, makes the upscale property top dog on the island. The accommodations are set in the middle of a working Kona coffee farm, so you’ll find the likes of avocados, mangos, oranges, and bananas all growing right on property and, more importantly, served for breakfast alongside estate-grown coffee. (Menu items might include Hawaiian huevos rancheros, macadamia nut banana pancakes, lilikoi cream cheese stuffed French toast, and Hawaiian waffles with pineapple and macadamia nuts.) The rooms themselves are elegantly outfitted with eucalyptus floors, woven Lauhala matting, and Polynesian furniture that embody an Old Hawaii vibe.
Good to know: A minimum of two nights is required.
Nearby: Holualoa, Kona, Kailua, Kahaluu Bay, Kealakekua Bay
Palms Cliff House Inn (rooms from $199, suites from $299 per night)
The Palms Cliff House Inn sits on top of the large sea cliffs to the north of Hilo. The property is 3.5 acres in total, but it’d be a surprise if you got much farther than lanai (porch) and lawn area -- the views of the sea and the waves have extended happy hour written all over it. Inside, the eight rooms, many of which have large balconies overlooking the sea, sport a Hawaiian ali’i (royal) style with mahogany canopy beds and traditional feather kahilis (decorative pole). Throughout the common areas of the property, you’ll find local memorabilia and antiques like posters, straw hats, and old tools. Breakfast, featuring mains like Maui onion quiche and banana pancakes, is served outside on the back lanai.
Good to know: The inn is a quick 15-minute drive from Hilo.
Nearby: Hilo, Akaka Falls State Park, Volcanoes National Park
The Bay House (from $175 per night)
The Bay House stands out from the pack of rural inns thanks to its location. It sits right on the edge of downtown Hilo while still being secluded on the shores of Hilo Bay -- perfect for those who like walking to dinner and then coming home to peace and quiet. Each of the three rooms of the B&B has a slightly different theme, but all feature hardwood floors and pops of color. The private lanais, which overlook the ocean, are all about indulgence and make the perfect place to enjoy breakfast. In addition to a buffet of breads, juices, yogurts, hard-boiled eggs, and Kona coffee served in the common room, each room is served an individual basket of tropical fruits and local pastries.
Good to know: If you’re an early riser, you can ask the innkeeper to let you take a dip in the cliff-side, ocean-view Jacuzzi at sunrise.
Nearby: Hilo, Volcanoes National Park, Akaka Falls State Park