Homestyle Hawaii

Local bed and breakfast preserves Hawaiian culture

Hotel Checklist

Kalaekilohana Bed and Breakfast

Hits: This is a true countryside setting far from city lights with tropical decor and furnishings. Outstanding 360-degree views of the mountains and ocean can be seen from the top-level cupola. There is awesome stargazing at night. Advise clients to sign up for Domingo’s lei workshop ahead of time.

Misses: There are no indoor or outdoor hot tubs. Activities on the premises are limited, so clients should bring a good book or plan to drive to hiking trails or gorgeous lookout points in the day.

Be Aware: To get to Kalaekilohana Bed and Breakfast, clients must drive for 1½ to two hours from either the Hilo or Kona airport. The ride is pleasant, but it can feel long, especially if clients are anxious to plop down their bags. Compared to Kona International, the road from the quieter Hilo International Airport is a more straightforward route with little or no traffic.

Plugging In: Kalaekilohana Bed and Breakfast has limited mobile phone coverage. Rooms do not have mini-refridgerators, televisions or telephones. The inn offers broadband Internet connectivity.

Clientele: 70 percent vacationers; 30 percent corporate

Rates: Rooms start at $189 per night

Commission: 10 percent


Now, before we go out, I want to sing a Hawaiian chant of gratitude. It acknowledges our presence here and gives respect to the land,” said Kilohana Domingo.

Domingo is speaking to a pair of lei-making students as he leads them into a clearing to pick native flowers and berries. Before this day is over, the guests of Kalaekilohana Bed and Breakfast will have woven head leis and learned about their selected plants and their relevance to Hawaiian gods.

For all things Hawaiian, Kalaekilohana Bed and Breakfast is the real thing for been-there-done-that clients who are through with tourist attractions and who long for an authentic experience. This plantation-style home is tucked away in the southern town of Naalehu, in the unspoiled, lush Ka Lae region of the Big Island.

Owners Domingo and Kenny Joyce built and opened their dream home to become a bed and breakfast in 2006. Kalaekilohana means “the best of the Ka Lae,” said Joyce, and its purpose is to perpetuate Hawaiian culture.

On Thursdays, Domingo and Joyce host a Hawaiian language hour. They also sponsor a monthly event — hula, Hawaiian song-writing or a drum-making workshop. Domingo, a feather lei artist, teaches the historic craft of lei making. The owners have access to Hawaiian gurus on the island and, when notified, will find the right teacher or kumu for clientele. For an authentic Hawaiian massage, the local lomilomi masseuse Michelle Wall-O’Conner will come to the house to offer an unforgettable 1½-hour massage.

On this three-acre lot, the yellow two-story dwelling lures clients with the comforts of home. A wraparound porch brims with seating. In accordance with Hawaiian tradition, clients are asked to take off their shoes before stepping inside. Once settled, they have their choice of complimentary cold beverages stored in the veranda’s small refrigerator.

Inside, eucalyptus wood floors, staircases and posts laden with dried leis reflect high-quality craftsmanship. A glass case displays Domingo’s feather works. Leis of various materials are draped across a rod. A library features books on Hawaiian history, cooking and local touring. A wall-length bookcase reveals hats handwoven by Domingo’s mother, an expert weaver.

The four bedrooms are located on the second level with a soft palette echoing Hawaiian ocean and floral hues. While the rooms are not air-conditioned, Joyce notes that this southern part of the Big Island never gets hotter than the 70s and remains comfortable throughout the year.

The rooms feature solid-color quilts (not Hawaiian quilts), antiques and well-worn armoires. Each has a lanai inviting clients to enjoy the starry night sky. Bathrooms are spacious with rain-style showerheads.

Each morning from 7 to 9 a.m., Joyce, the resident chef, serves an upscale continental breakfast that boasts the bounty of the island. One morning she presented us with a goat cheese salad, locally baked English muffin, homemade lilikoi curd and ginger papaya jam. There were no less than 10 carefully-carved island fruits arrayed in a rainbow assortment. Do advise clients that restaurant choices for lunch and dinner nearby are few. If they like pizza, Hawaiian food or sandwiches, they’ll be in good shape.

After breakfast, guests can drive to nearby beaches and trails. During my visit, a woman from Germany returned one afternoon elated from spotting whales off the coast. The inn is ideal for visitors yearning to embrace the rhythms of nature.

“We want everyone to feel at home,” said Domingo. “You have to stay at least three days to relax and enjoy it. That’s when we see people really start to unwind.”