Review: Kalaekilohana Bed and Breakfast
By Kathy Chin Leong
“Now before we go out, I want to sing a Hawaiian chant of gratitude. It acknowledges our presence here and gives respect to the land.” Kilohana Domingo is leading a pair of lei-making students into a clearing to pick native flowers, berries, and foliage. Before this day is over, the guests of Kalaekilohana Bed and Breakfast will have hand woven their own head leis and learned about their selected plants and relevance to Hawaiian gods.
For all things Hawaiian, Kalaekilohana Bed and Breakfast is the real thing for the been-there-done-that clients who are through with being tourists and long for an authentic experience. This plantation-style home with an expansive front lawn is nestled off of a desolate road, in the southern town of Naalehu, Big Island in the Ka Lae region.
HAWAIIAN CULTURE EMPHASIS
Soft spoken owners Kenny Joyce and Kilohana Domingo spent two-and-a-half years building their dream home to become a bed and breakfast that officially opened in 2006. The inn’s name means the best of the Ka Lae, says Joyce, and the area is one of the most unspoiled regions in Hawaii.
Unlike other B&Bs, the Kalaekilohana’s purposeis to perpetuate Hawaiian culture and traditions. On Thursday nights, for instance, Domingo and Joyce host a one-hour, informal Hawaiian language session. Once a month, the inn sponsors a cultural event such as hula,Hawaiian song writing or drum-making workshop. Highly-regarded teachers lead seminars both for guests and the public. Domingo himself, a feather lei artist extraordinaire and Hawaiian cultural and arts expert, teaches the historic craft of lei making. The owners have access to many Hawaiian gurus on the island and, when notified, will find the right teacher or “kumu” for clientele.
In addition, the innkeepers support local farmers and artisans by purchasing regional fruits and vegetables, and reselling prints, cards, and homemade jams and honey.
On this three-acre lot, the two-story dwelling looks as though it was dipped in sunshine. A furnished porch brimming with seating areas gives clients lots of opportunity to ‘talk story’ and wraps around the yellow storybook abode. The simple, unadorned backyard is covered with lawn and ti plants, pines, and palm trees to name a few.
In accord with Hawaiian tradition, travelers are asked to take off their shoes before stepping inside.Once settled, they have their choice of complimentary cold beverages stored on the veranda’s small refrigerator.
Inside, handsome Eucalyptus wood floors, staircases and rails reflect high-quality craftsmanship. Dried flower and shell leis adorn the stair posts. On the main level, a glass case displays a few of Domingo’s fine feather work.Leis of various materials hang across a rod for decoration. A library features books on Hawaiian history, cooking, legends, and local touring. A wall length bookcase displays hats hand-woven by Domingo’s mother, an expert weaver. Guests can also enjoy the adjacent sitting room for reading or napping. Walls are dressed with a few Hawaiian block prints.
The four bedrooms are located on the second level and feature a variety of subtle color schemes softly echoing Hawaiian ocean and floral hues. While the rooms are not air conditioned, Joyce notes that this southern part of the Big Island never gets hotter than the 70s Fahrenheit, and remains comfortable throughout the year.
The rooms feature solid color quilts (not Hawaiian quilts), antiques and well-worn armoires. Each has a lanai to enjoy the starry night sky. Bathrooms are very large and well crafted with colored tile, rain-style showerheads, and large dressing area.
According to Joyce, the inn can sleep a total of 16 people; one room can sleep up to five with two queen beds and a daybed; the three remaining have a king and a daybed. In addition to couples, he often has adult singles share a room with parents, families up to five in the largest suite, and up to three singles in a room.“We often host corpoate retreats, and people can book out the whole place,” he says.He and Domingo can also set up team building activities using Hawaiian culture as the theme.
Throughout the house, guests will find woven floor mats, candle holders, and coasters crafted by Domingo’s mother. According to Domingo, the house is filled with accents and furnishings that are useful, not just decorative.
Each morning from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., Joyce, the resident chef, serves an upscale continental breakfast in the dining room that boasts the bounty of the island. One morning he presenteda goat cheese salad, locally baked English muffin, homemade lilikoi curd, and ginger papaya jam.There were no less than ten carefully-carved island fruits arrayed in a rainbow assortment from strawberry orange-colored papayas to vibrant green kiwi.Do note to clients that restaurant choices for lunch and dinner nearby are few.If they like pizza, Hawaiian food, or sandwiches, they’ll be in good shape.
After a rousing breakfast, guests can go off to nearby beaches and hiking trails for exploring. One woman who was visiting from Germany came back one night elated from spying whales off the coast.A breathtaking hike about a 20-minute drive away reachesKa Lae Point,the southernmost tip of the United States.If guests get dirty, they can wash their clothes in a common laundry area.
Activities in the evening are limited, but on Tuesdays, Joyce or Domingo convene a one-hour music night where they’ll play ukulele or bass instruments.For an authentic Hawaiian massage,the local lomilomi masseuse, Michelle Wall-O’Conner will come to the house to offer an unforgettable hour and a half massage, conducted in the top level cupola.Having studied under lomilomi master Aunty Margaret Machado, Wall O’Conner stresses that she offers the lomilomi massage style only, and that this technique helped her during rehabilitation after a car accident years ago.
Since its opening in 2005, the inn has hosted guests from all over the world, visitors yearning to detox from urban stresses and embrace the rhythms of nature.As Hawaiian ukulele strumming wafts through the air, there is no question visitors are in the land of aloha. “We want everyone to feel at home,” says Domingo. “You have to stay at least three days to really relax and enjoy it. That’s when we see people really start to unwind.”
Kalaekilohana Bed and Breakfast
94-2152 South Point road
Naalehu, HI 96277
Room rates begin at $189 per night.
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