This January a modified Team Gimlet consisting of The Gimlet, your usual narrator, and your narrator’s parents (or Gimlets-in-law), spent nine days visiting the Big Island of Hawaii and Oahu. The Things stayed home with Grandma Gimlet, so they enjoyed being pampered after a fashion as well.
Our first destination was the town of Volcano Village about 30 miles southwest of Hilo on the windward (translation: rainy) side of the Big Island. Volcano Village is a picturesque community of about 2,000 residents, mostly artists, with several B&Bs and few scattered shops and restaurants nestled among tropical ferns and flowers. Aside from the historic but spartan Volcano House inside Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Village offers the closest lodgings to the park. We had stayed in Hilo on an earlier trip with Thing One and didn’t mind the drive, but this time we wanted to give the Gimlets-in-law as much sightseeing time as possible (and the convenience of a rest break if needed), and we hoped to improve our accommodations (translation: cockroach-free) from the last visit, too.
After a long day of travel, including a few moments where we weren’t sure we would make our flights, we arrived in Hilo at sunset. Thanks to our previous experience in Hilo it wasn’t too daunting to drive to Volcano Village in the dark, through the driving rain, uphill, both ways (we had to go back and forth a couple of times). We had made reservations at the Kilauea Lodge, a former YMCA camp founded in 1938 and now a cozy lodge and restaurant.
Kilauea Lodge is full of special details: a “Fireplace of Friendship” decorated with stones and coins donated from other YMCA camps around the world; friendly smiles and service from the staff; blown glass vases and other artwork by local artists; and the resident cats all contribute to the unique character and hospitality of the lodge. The owner/chef provides an intriguing menu: a German-Pacific Island fusion of gourmet delights and homegrown tropical flavors. Feeling adventurous, The Gimlet ordered the ostrich schnitzel; contrary to expectations, ostrich doesn’t taste like chicken. Thing One and other cousins who are Asterix fans may like to know that The Gimlet also tried the boar stew, and enjoyed it! The catch of the day was great both nights (ono and ahi, respectively), and the fresh papaya served with breakfast was heavenly.
We chose to house our group at the Pi’i Mauna House, a few miles away from the main lodge, on the Volcano Country Club golf course. Pi’i Mauna House is a pair of one-bedroom, one-bath cedar cottages connected by a shared lanai and spa deck. Our cottage featured a small kitchen and gas fireplace; the other had wireless Internet access, board games/cards, and a television with a video library. (When the Gimlets-in-law discovered a Monk marathon in progress, there was some doubt whether they would be joining us the next day for any sightseeing.) What a treat to snuggle down under a Hawaiian patterned quilt for the night, then awaken to the songs of birds (and wild turkeys!) and watch the sunrise from the front room, sipping hot cocoa (at 4,000 feet, it’s a little chilly in the mornings and evenings around Volcano). Kilauea Lodge was the perfect place to relax, set the aloha mood, and begin our exploration of the islands. We would definitely stay there again; in fact we wished we could have stayed an extra day to visit the Sunday Volcano Farmers’ Market, take another short hike in the national park, and just sit out on the lanai (or in the spa) at Pi’i Mauna House.
After all this sybaritic indulgence, rest assured we did leave the comforts of our little mountain cottage to see the volcano, but that will have to wait until the next post.
- Hawaii’s Island of Adventure (Big Island Visitors’ Bureau)
- “My Good Life on the Big Island” by Bill Harby
- As always, see more pictures in the Gimlet Gallery.
- Read the next post in our trip journal: Pahoehoe, ‘a’a, and vog