If you're planning a visit to the Big Island of Hawai'i, the Pagoda House is a lovely place to get away from it all with family and friends. It's also a great base for exploring the beautiful and historic neighboring area, snorkeling or kayaking the pristine and protected waters of Kealakekua Bay, or exploring all the Big Island has to offer. No need to get in your car to get to the ocean as it's just across our narrow, one-lane road. We are only 12 miles from Kailua-Kona but it feels like a world away.
This traditional Hawai'ian screen house sleeps eight, but if you have small children in your party we can always creatively rearrange to fit one or two more. There are two master bedrooms (one with king-sized bed, one with queen-sized bed) and both have en-suite bathrooms. There are also two additional guest bedrooms (one with queen bed, one with two twin beds) that share a common bathroom.
What I Love About The House
One of my favorite things about the house is its traditional Hawaiian-style architecture.
The house has screens across its front and sides (instead of glass windows) and this lets the off-shore ocean breezes flow through so the house stays cool. The screens also let in the sound of ocean waves and - especially in the morning - bird-song. The ocean, garden and cliff views out every window make you feel like you're in a big, very private tree-house or giant screened porch. This is not a sealed up, air-conditioned home. The open-air concept makes it more like upscale 'glamping' and lets you experience the sounds and beauty of a neighborhood that still feels like 'Old Hawai'i.'
Pagoda House is nicely but not overly renovated -- more local (kama'aina) and summer cabin-like than fancy. We have comfy beds and quality bedding but this isn't the Four Seasons. The gourmet kitchen has a Sub-Zero refrigerator and dual freezers, a Wolf oven, limestone counters, and is well-stocked. It's a great place to gather and cook with family -- either in the kitchen or at the gas barbecue down by the pool.
As an open-air screen home in the most tropical neighborhood on the island, you also will see colorful geckos both inside and outside the home. We love them, as do most of our guests, but if this would be upsetting to you or any member of your party, you should look for accommodations elsewhere.
The house is pretty big (almost 2800 square feet) and there are plenty of places for everyone to come together for a meal, a conversation, a swim or a game. But there are plenty of places to retreat for some privacy too.
What I Love About The Area
Kealakekua (pronounced Kay-ala-kay-koo-a -- Hawai'ian for 'Pathway to the Gods') Bay is a protected marine life sanctuary and state park. It's widely considered one of the top snorkeling sites in all of the Hawaiian Islands because of clarity of the water and the abundance of marine life -- pods of spinner dolphins, all manner of tropical fish, and sometimes even whales. There are only three kayak companies with licenses to rent kayaks or give tours of the bay -- and they all put in at the Napo'opo'o wharf, which is just across the street and down two lots from Pagoda House.
The history of this particular spot on the Big Island is extraordinarily rich. Some of Hawaii's earliest settlements were established right here over a thousand years ago. This is where the ali'i (Hawai'ian royalty) lived. And, to protect a kings' 'mana' (spiritual power) after death, his bones were buried in the steep cliffs you can see from the Pagoda House upstairs master bedroom window.
This also is where the first extensive contact between the West and Native Hawaiians took place. It's hard to believe given how sleepy the neighborhood is now, but when Captain James Cook landed here in 1779, this village was home to thousands of native Hawaiians who rowed and paddled out to greet him. Unfortunately for Cook, he was killed here (the monument marking the spot is where most folks kayak out to snorkel).
Much of the time the water is calm, flat and clear - with visibility up to 100 ft. But occasionally, when there is south-facing swell, there is a left surf break at Manini Beach Park just around the corner (not for beginners!) There's another more reliable left reef break (also not for beginners) just a few minutes drive or a short bike ride from the house at sleepy and secluded Ke'ei Beach. This is my favorite beach close to the house and it is down a bumpy pot-holed road so you need a vehicle with good clearance. For beginnners, surf lessons are available just 15 minutes north in Kailua-Kona.
It's also only a few minutes drive down the road from Pagoda House to another beautiful historical and sacred spot: Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Park -- or the "Place of Refuge." If you'd broken a kapu (a strict law) in ancient Hawai'i, the penalty was often death -- unless you ran, swam or canoe'd like crazy and made it here. Then you were absolved by the kahuna (priests) and safe from your pursuers. Just outside the gates of the National Park is my (and most locals') favorite snorkel spot called "Two Step." It's easy-access snorkeling right from shore and you'll see all manner of tropical fish, manta rays, sea turtles, etc. and, if you are lucky with your timing (early mornings are best) dolphins.
There's great farmland just up the hill from us. This is the heart of Kona coffee country but our neighbors grow and raise a lot more. I love spending an afternoon exploring, tasting and chatting at the local Captain Cook farmer's market (Sunday only), the various Kona coffee farms, or our local honey farm.
And, of course, the Big Island's main attraction -- Madam Pele / Hawaii Volcanoes National Park -- is just a 70 mile picturesque drive around the southern tip of the island. The Waipi'o Valley is about the same distance heading north.