Hawaii: where to stay at the volcano

10 September 10

| Greening With Pele|

Crater rim of Kilauea volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, USA

Come to the volcano, home to the Polynesian god Pele. Mark Twain, on first seeing the fire and majesty of Kilauea—the world’s most active volcano, on Hawaii‘s Big Island—enthused, “Here was room for the imagination to work!” Today there is even more reason to be awed by the daily spectacle that is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. These 230 thousand acres, from sea level to the summit of Kilauea’s bigger sister, Mauna Loa, are Hawaii’s only World Heritage Site as well as an International Biosphere Reserve.

This year  the park was honored with a Hawaii Green Business Award, in recognition of its many conservation and energy-saving efforts.

Mystical and moody, Volcano Village is worth a trip in its own right. Don’t miss artist Ira Ono’s Volcano Garden Arts gallery and café.

Here are our top picks for green lodgings:

An artful hideaway

Volcano Rainforest Retreat. The New York Times and past visitors rhapsodize about this artful, loving tribute to the natural beauty of Volcano and environs. “The forest has inspired us,” says Kathleen Golden, who, with husband Peter, has created a green haven of casual, intimate luxury. Volcano Rainforest Retreat has evolved superbly over the 2 decades since Peter and his son used machetes to clear the first pathway through the dense undergrowth, careful to avoid disturbing as much flora as possible.

Bamboo House, Volcano Rainforest Retreat in Volcano, Hawaii, USA

Volcano Rainforest Retreat: Bamboo Guest House

Today it seems as if the retreat’s 4 very special guest cottages have sprung up organically, like exotic flowers in the rainforest: that’s how completely they harmonize with their lush and living neighbors—lofty ohia trees, giant ferns and delicate orchids and mosses—to give you the sense of being the sole forest dweller for an infinity of time and space. Not that this means you’re camping out, not even remotely. Each distinctive cottage, discovered along meandering pathways and natural contours, is handcrafted of farmed (sustainable) cedar and redwood, art-filled, and superbly appointed. Massage and other bodywork can be enjoyed at the retreat, and the Goldens conduct personal growth workshops, meditation and couples retreats (one is called Flesh and Spirit).

Our favs: Aptly set in a bamboo grove, Bamboo Guest House has a lovely full kitchen and an outdoor private o’furo (Japanese soaking tub). The Sanctuary is a cedar hexagon with 360-degree forest views and its own o’furo and outdoor shower. Among the many green practices: Guest toiletries are organic, and organic choices are offered at breakfast. Cleaning is eco-friendly. So is pest control.

Symbiosis with nature

Volcano Village Lodge. When eco-hip Seattleite Kay Lee came to Volcano to open her bed and breakfast, she decided to add a pair of luxury guest lodges to what originally had been a summer camp. The all-too-typical—and least costly—way would have been to bulldoze, level, and destroy native permaculture to “build.”; instead she had the site hand-cleared, saving native trees and plants for replanting (with a Buddhist blessing from her gardener), and kept the landscape’s natural contours. For the new lodges she used sustainable woods.

Volcano Village Lodge in Volcano, Hawaii, USA

Volcano Village Lodge: forest luxury

But doing the right thing is just the start of this property’s story, for in this truly delightful setting you feel enveloped by nature yet thoroughly civilized. Each guest lodge offers an energy-efficient Jotul gas fireplace to ward off evening chill, a flat-screen television for DVDs, and high-end mattresses with NASA-engineered foam pads and luxury linens. Touches like towel-warming bars and natural stone sink tops add warmth to bathrooms. Each morning an organic tropical breakfast is served in the privacy of your lodge. And after a day of exploration, little could be more welcoming than the hot tub (no chlorine system) gazebo in its paradise setting.

Covered walkways and orchid-lined paths add to the serenity and symbiosis with nature. Toxin-free redwood and white cedar from sustainable forests scent the inside air of octagonal Haleakala Lodge, and its open-beam ceiling and expansive windows give it inspirational air and light; its lanai overlooks an ancient lava formation. Other green highlights: no pesticides or herbicides are used on property, and cleaning is eco-friendly. Dehumidifiers inhibit allergens and mildew.

Volcano Places. The trio of green cottages that is Volcano Places span the gamut from cozy to ‘luxe, but we love two extremes: Kate’s Volcano Cottage, a simple hand-crafted studio that sleeps 4 adults (or a young family of 5), and Nohea (handsome), a stunner that more than lives up to its name. Both properties are immaculate and have full kitchens. And both are creations of master builder Kenneth Lahti, who, with partner Kathryn Grout, own Volcano Places. Ken creates amazing living spaces that exude a rainforest spirit: natural wood finishes, custom built-ins, and large, well placed windows that bring the outside in.

Entryway to Nohea, Volcano Places in Volcano, Hawaii, USA

Volcano Places: handsome Nohea

Kate will ask if you have food sensitivities or are vegan before stocking organic breakfast items and locally grown coffee. In the Volcano Cottage futons supplement the cal-king for sleeping, and a private, covered lanai nestles up to the “green on green” of the forest. Nohea is a “work of heart,” in Kate’s words; we’ll call it artistry in wood with an Asian accent. Kenneth’s artistry is everywhere in the crafty built-ins, mix of woods from sustainable sources, the high, beamed ceilings and many skylights. A fantastic lanai overlooks a 500-year-old lava flow, and there’s a spa room with whirlpool (cleaned with no chlorine).

Everything here is done with eco-sensitivity. You won’t find a better green base camp at this price in Volcano.

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