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Few Hawaii hotels have a lineage as long and impressive as Volcano House on Hawaii Island. There has been a hotel on the site since 1846, when a one-room grass and wood hut was built to house the intrepid few who ventured to the southern part of the island to visit the nearby Kilauea Volcano.
Since then, larger and more permanent versions of the hotel have been constructed on the site to house notable visitors such as Mark Twain, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Robert Louis Stevenson. But in 2010, the latest incarnation of the hotel, built in 1941, shut its doors for an extensive renovation.
Three and one-half years and $7 million later, Volcano House is finally back in business as a 33-room hotel. It’s modest by Hawaiian resort standards — there are no elevators, air conditioning, televisions, minibars or a spa/fitness room. Structural renovations were kept to a minimum to preserve the historic character of the hotel, said general manager Steven Riely.
The beds are comfortable, and all rooms have free Internet and fluffy robes. But the renovated bathrooms are small, and the refreshed decor is reminiscent of 1960’s Hawaiian chic.
Even so, there’s no denying that the hotel has both retro charm and an unbeatable location. Volcano House is the only hotel in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and its 21 crater-view rooms offer stunning vistas of Kilauea, which has been erupting continuously since 1983.
It’s not much of a hardship to live without a soaker tub and valet parking when guests can glance out their windows and watch volcanic gas billowing out of the crater, which at night takes on the orange glow of the lava roiling beneath the surface.
Those who don’t have a crater-view room needn’t fret. They can still get a photo-worthy look at the volcano from the wicker-filled lounge, the outdoor deck or the Rim restaurant. The latter is open for buffet-style breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dinner features locally caught or farmed seafood and island produce. For something lighter, try Uncle George’s lounge, with classic cocktails, pupus (appetizers) and live local music.
A few of the hotel’s rooms offer both a king-size bed and a sofabed, a perfect setup for families. Some have connecting doors to another room with two queen beds, so guests can create their own two-bedroom suite.
The hotel is the ideal starting point for exploring the park, which offers easy walking trails and challenging hikes. The visitor center is across the street, and the non-profit Volcano Art Center is nearby. Don’t miss the informative Jaggar Museum just down the road.
Volcano House is owned by the National Park Service and co-managed by Aqua Hospitality Group and Ortega Family Enterprises. Rooms range from $250 to $385 per night, depending on the view and season. All visitors to the national park (including hotel guests) pay a $10 entry fee, valid for one week.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Parkwww.nps.gov/havo