We nearly missed the turnoff to the small town of Volcano
Village. Most people drive by without even realizing it, headed to
the state’s largest visitor attraction, Hawaii Volcanoes National
Park and the erupting Kilauea volcano on the Big Island.
Fortunately, we had a long weekend stay planned, but as we found
out, a few days proved barely enough time to discover the charms of
the town and its cozy range of accommodations as well as taking in
the vantage points the island afforded at its southern and northern
Being less than two miles from the national park entrance also
allowed us to make multiple daytime and nighttime excursions to our
primary destination: the volcano. From the 3,800-foot elevation, we
saw the rainforest’s giant ferns and trees hanging over the narrow,
sometimes one-lane streets. In the town below there were no stop
signs, stoplights or sidewalks, and according to locals, two cars
make for traffic. But hidden behind the lush vegetation was the
town’s industry of vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts.
Often for less than the price of a hotel room, visitors can
enjoy the privacy of a B&B or cottage, and if families or
friends travel together, the accommodation prices can be a great
Our first night’s stay was at Hale Mahinui, a two-story cedar
house situated on a one-acre property. The large two-bedroom,
one-bathroom home is marketed as a private, romantic getaway for
$185 a night and sleeps as many as six, with an additional charge
of $15 per person beyond the double rate.
The door was left unlocked for our arrival, and as we stepped
inside, we first saw an inviting country-style dining table, fully
set, and a large fireplace. The loft upstairs provided amazing
views of the ohia trees. After hiking four hours to the spectacular
lava flows after sunset, we could only think of soaking our tired
feet and bones in the hot tub on the deck.
Vacation rental manager Beate Arnopole oversees 12 properties
owned by others, including Hale Mahinui, through her company
Kilauea Cottages. While a quaint, one-bedroom cottage starts at $95
a night, her largest property, the Aloha Retreat and Lodge, rents
for $560. The 5,000-square-foot ranch home is located on 30 acres
in Upper Volcano Village and is available for small group retreats,
workshops or reunions.
One of the newer vacation rentals in Volcano Village offers
high-end accommodations at $240 a night. Nohea is a one-bed,
one-bath dream home with a spa. From inside, the multiple roof
arches and windows make the Douglas fir home feel suspended in the
midst of the forest. Through the bedroom’s stained-glass sliding
doors we had a view of a red tropical bird against the blue sky,
while a canopy of trees enveloped the other three sides of the
room. Granite floors extended from the bathroom, which featured a
double-head shower spa, to a room with an enclosed whirlpool tub.
Other high-tech amenities included a lighting and sound system,
high-speed Internet and flat-screen TV.
Two adjoining properties owned by proprietor Kathryn Grout are
Kate’s Volcano Cottage, a studio cottage for $95 a night; and the
two-bedroom, one-bath Kahi Malu for $125. Grout also manages the
historic Volcano Village vacation rental home, Hiiaka which will
run clients $150 a night. The three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath
building reflects an arts-and-crafts style of the 1930s.
Aurelia Gutierrez offers 11 vacation rental properties, owned by
others, through her company Hawaii Volcano Vacations. The
properties range from two- to four-bedroom units, starting from
$125 to $180; all are private and self-sufficient.
We stayed at the two-bedroom, one-bathroom cedar log home, Pete
& Shirley’s place Hale Sweet Hale at $135 per night. Visitors
are asked to confirm their arrival and departure times so the key
can be left under the mat and the lights can be turned on prior to
arrival. After a few nights dining out at the four restaurants in
town, we enjoyed cooking a meal on the gas BBQ on the back deck,
which also held a hot tub. Afterward, we avoided the computer
equipped with high-speed Internet, and instead, lit a fire in the
wood-burning stove and stayed in for the night.
We enjoyed mostly warm, sunny days during our visit. The town’s
average daytime temperature hovers in the low 70s, but the
ubiquitous umbrellas placed at most doorways still get used; no
surprise, considering the annual rainfall is more than 100
Of course, the cool, rainforest conditions are what drew people
to build vacation homes here in the first place, in contrast to the
arid, coastal areas.
“It’s such a different experience, being in the forest,” said
Beate Arnopole of Volcano Gallery. Everything in Volcano Village
has a forest view, she added, and at night visitors can gaze upward
at the stars.
Hawaii Volcano Vacations
Volcano Village is a town of less than 2,000 residents. The
entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is less than two miles
away, located about a half-hour drive south of Hilo and about a
2½-hours from Kailua-Kona on the west side of the Big Island.
There are as many as 60 vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts in
town. The largest accommodation has less than 15 units. Some
B&Bs also rent vacation cottages. To officially be permitted as
a B&B the owner must live on the premises.
B&B rates generally start around $75 to $105, while vacation
rentals are priced competitively, slightly above.
Most places offer some degree of breakfast. Some places are hosted,
while guests check themselves in at others. Nearly every place
seems to have the name "volcano this" or "volcano that."
Manager Beate Arnopole
Travel agent commission 10 percent
Volcano Gallery offers 12 vacation rental cottages and homes from
$95 to $185 for doubles. The seven-bedroom Aloha Retreat and Lodge
costs $560; partial rentals begin at $95 per room with an
additional per-person charge of $15. Two-night minimum stay
requested. Check in at 3 p.m.; checkout at 11 a.m. Credit card
required for reservation. Payment due upon arrival, preferably by
check or cash, but credit card payment accepted.
Tip: Travel agents should provide multiple photos
and detailed information about particular properties to ensure
clients’ expectations are met. Volcano is a small community where
everyone knows each other. Most vacation rentals properties have to
live by their reputation.
Features: Washers and dryers at all properties.
Turtle House, situated on one-acre property, offers radiant floor
heating. Aloha Retreat and Lodge, with 16 beds, has separate
one-bedroom caretaker’s cottage. Large lawn area for events;
one-mile loop trail on property.
Owner Kathryn Grout
Travel agent commission 10 percent
Volcano Places features three vacation rental properties and
manages one historic vacation rental home. Prices range from $95 to
$240. Sliding fee scale for kids: $10 for under 10; $5 for 5 and
under; no charge for infants. Credit card required for reservation.
Payment by personal or travelers check or cash. Added 4 percent
charge for credit cards. Check in at 4 p.m.; checkout at 11
Tip: Grout devotes a lot of time attending to the
needs of her guests but is mindful of being unobtrusive.
"I want them to feel hosted," she said, "but also to get the sense
of home away from home."
She recommends a three-night stay so visitors can enjoy two full
days in the area.
Nohea: Douglas fir and Pine wood craftsmanship in
bridge entryway, multi-gabled roof and deck porch with custom bench
seating. King-sized bed with dual control heated mattress pad.
Whirlpool spa room. Fresh tropical fruit selection and variety of
pastries. High-tech lighting, sound system, high-speed Internet
access, up to date DVD library and a flat-screen TV. Nohea does not
Kate’s Volcano Cottage: This studio with queen bed
and futon runs $95 a night. Entertainment center and kids games,
kitchen area with bar stools and a private deck are included.
Kahe Mala: Master bedroom suite with sitting area
and desk. Hawaiian koa wood floors throughout. Capacity up to
Hiiaka: This historic 1930s, three-bedroom home
features single-wall Douglas fir construction. Kitchen with
retro-red Formica counters and bathroom faucet with separate hot
and cold water taps. Walls constructed with sugar cane byproducts.
Stone fireplace with propane. Owner’s photographic art prints on
Hawaii Volcano Vacations
Travel agent commission varies.
Eleven nicely appointed vacation rentals ranging from two-bedroom
to four-bedroom units. Prices range from $135 to $180, double rate
with an added $20 per-person fee. Payment required in advance by
traveler’s check, credit card, cash, money order or personal check.
Check-in between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.; checkout at 11 a.m.
Tip: Assisting manager Nam Leonard referred
clients to the company Web site that provides useful maps of
Volcano Village streets and neighborhoods, as well as to national
park area. (Check the written directions against the map. We found
one turn stated to right should have been the opposite way.)
Pete & Shirley’s place, Hale Sweet Hale: Gas
BBQ, wood-burning stove, hot tub, heated towel warmer, skylights in
the bedroom and high-speed Internet access are included.