Falling for Hilo

A secluded property makes a stunning vacation rental

By: Bill Harby

Shall we have breakfast by the jungle waterfall? That’s one of the big decisions your clients will have to make as they begin their day at The Falls at Reed’s Island, an exceptional vacation rental in Hilo.

Hilo, of course, is the fine, funky town on the east coast of the Big Island. Reed’s Island is on the edge of town, and yes, it really is an island on an island a lush lava rock knoll about a mile long carved by the Wailuku River. Its one narrow road is lined with beautiful old homes.

At one end of Reed’s Island, a promontory overlooks the two-tiered waterfall. This is where The Falls is perched on more than two acres of manicured lawn, natural walls of living rock and giant tropical fronds and flowers that fall away to the river some 85 feet below. On the opposite bank, profusions of more palms, plants and vines spill down into the gorge.

With so much beauty surrounding the house, it’s hard to turn your gaze inward.
But The Falls offers its own version of architectural beauty.

The style is modernist Scandinavian. Unpainted cedar walls frame large screened windows (this is mosquito country). A long screened lanai supported by native ohia wood logs connects the building’s three sections: an entry hall with a bedroom on either side; a third, central bedroom; 3½ baths and the kitchen. The home accommodates parties of up to six people.

If there is a single design theme that permeates the property, it’s simplicity. There is very little art in the house. Each room features only a glass vase overflowing with fresh orchids attached to the wall. But the large windows serve as frames for the wild art of the outdoors.

The Falls was completed in 2002 by San Francisco architects David Morton and Thomas Cordell.

“The idea of making a tropical garden had great appeal for Tom, just as learning about tropical architecture had for me,” writes Morton in his book about his career.

Morton describes the evolution of the house’s concept as a series of practical, economical solutions to architectural problems presented by the location. As the problems were solved, the design unfurled naturally, he said.

Morton and Cordell built the house as a getaway. In 2003, Jane and Jack Stevenson bought the property and recreated it as a vacation rental. They had learned about the business by operating a cottage on Kauai and knew that the Reed’s Island house and grounds had the makings of a stunning rental property.

From the looks of things, their instincts were correct. One big difference between a bed & breakfast and a vacation rental, of course, is that in the former, breakfast is served, and in the latter, you make breakfast (and lunch and dinner) for yourself.

The kitchen at The Falls is well equipped enough to prepare gourmet meals if you like. It boasts a variety of quality cookware and tools, including a food processor. The Stevensons can also recommend a private chef who is available for clients who really want to indulge.

The kitchen also features a big dining table, two upholstered chaises (on wheels) and a gorgeous view of the waterfall.

Sitting with a morning mug of coffee or an afternoon glass of wine, gazing out the window at the jungle and gushing falls, clients will find it hard to tear themselves away.


The Falls at Reed’s Island

Hits: The jungle seclusion, even though town is minutes away.

Misses: The piercing cry of the coqui frogs from the surrounding forest.

Be Aware: The room on the river side has the most stunning view, along with more noise from the river.

Plugging In: Wi-Fi connected and access to a laptop and printer.

Clientele: Aficionados of funky towns

Rates: One to two nights: $365; three to six nights: $329; seven nights or more: $296. Taxes and cleaning fee not included.

Commission: 15 percent