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The cozy, rustic retreats of Volcano Village

By: Karla Aronson

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 ends.

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 deal.

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 inches.

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.


Volcano Gallery

Volcano Places


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."

Volcano Gallery
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.

Volcano Places
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 a.m.

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 allow children.

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 6.

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 the walls.

Hawaii Volcano Vacations
Aurelia Gutierrez
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.

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