Albert and I just returned from visiting our very good friend Danny, who has been living on the big island of Hawaii for the last 11 years. We had been to Kona, the dry, resort-side of the island, but had never spent time on the wet side, where the locals live and play. I had no idea what to expect and it was fantastic.
Danny has a charming B&B in Hilo, 4 bedrooms, each with a private bathroom and balcony in a 100-year-old plantation home. His boyfriend Matthew happened to collect vintage Hawaiian fabrics and 60’s tiki tchotchke, so the place is decked out exactly like you want it to look. Matthew also makes breakfast at the B&B four days a week, and he’s a delicious cook, so I’m sure it’s great.
The reason I didn’t have his breakfast was that we stayed at Danny’s other property in Pahoa, which is a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, jungle farmhouse. And when I say jungle farmhouse, I mean, the surroundings look like Jurassic Park and the farm has 2 dogs, 2 cats, 4 goats, 25 chickens, a rooster, ducks and ducklings, and a pig named Wilbur. Albert and I were with our friends William and John Price in the main house, and Danny and Matthew share the guesthouse in the back. The place is absolutely magical.
So, I got to wake up every morning and have coffee and watch the chickens and dogs outside the window. Then I would take a shower in the outdoor screened-in shower, and vary between relaxation and nervousness, when I would imagine a wild boar or God knows what lives in the jungle, attacking my bits. For the record, that’s all I ever saw was a dog and the chickens.
Every day we went to a different beach or volcanic tidal pool to swim in and snorkel. I saw amazing coral that looked like those Magic Rock chemical kits, and fish of every color. A giant sea turtle swam into me, and let me tell you, when that’s all you see is a huge green flipper grabbing you from the deep, it is terrifying. Later, the gentle sea cow was a beautiful thing, but first it was frightening.
We also went hiking at Volcanoes National Park through lava tubes and across vast barren landscapes that look like the moon. As I was walking across the rough, black pumice stone, I started to hear a rattling that was getting louder. I looked around the desolate ancient crater for the noise, hoping it wasn’t the Great Pele ready to explode, when I saw a couple far in the distance pushing a baby stroller across the lava field. The wheels on that thing were vibrating like machine-gun-fire, and that baby had to be shaking like a maraca, but the European couple looked like they were just strolling at the Walmart.
Danny also knows everybody in town so we got to meet the nicest locals. We met a lady who collects art glass and apparently cats. Her cats had cats, and her dogs each had a cat, and her bird also had a cat. She also built an awesome stage in her backyard so she could learn to tango. A teacher and other students show up every Wednesday night for dance class under the stars and twinkle lights. She also showed us her collection of imported tango shoes from Buenos Aires. Did I mention she’s a collector? Oh, I meant hoarder, but not the dead kitten kind, the nice glass and shoe kind.
We also spent a day at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens near Hilo, which is one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen, with stunning ocean views. From here we visited friends of Danny who recently purchased a coffee and macadamia nut farm. The two couples are fixing up the house and learning to work the antique processing equipment, the beginning of a new adventure for them. After a tour of the property and delicious al fresco dinner, they made us individual banana splits with fresh island bananas, Kona coffee ice cream, and macadamia nuts they just picked and roasted for us. It is what I imagine heaven tastes like.
The vacation was fantastic and Danny is the best host. I wouldn’t be telling you all of this if it wasn’t possible for you to experience it for yourself. That would be just mean. Danny’s place in Hilo and his magical Jungle Farmhouse are both available to rent. So, if you are looking for a real Hawaiian adventure and need a place to stay, here are some links to his rentals.