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Which ESL Property is Right for you?

by Kim LaPat
Travel Editor, Emma Spencer Living

One thing’s for sure—you can’t go wrong with an Emma Spencer Living property. But which one is best suited to your individual needs? Here’s how to find which of our unique lodging experience is just right for you and yours:

Volcano Village Lodge: Couples’ Paradise
This place was built for romance! Situated in the rainforest of Volcano Village on the Big Island of Hawaii, this is where you take your sweetie to commemorate a special occasion or simply celebrate your love. Guests come for anniversaries, honeymoons, birthdays, proposals, or to just get away from it all and focus on each other. The lodges are private, romantic, and luxurious with lush green paths and tropical foliage just outside your door. Come to Volcano Village Lodge to make memories of a lifetime--our innkeepers will go above and beyond to make sure every detail is beyond perfect!

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  • 5th St Ohana house view

5th Street Ohana or Pineapple Ohana: Fit for Family
Ohana means family, and both our 5th Street and Pineapple ohanas are just right for yours. All you need to decide is which island you want to visit—Oahu or the Big Island? Either way, we’ve got you covered. Our Big Isalnd 5th Street Ohana (pictured, left) is a ranch-style home that’s idyllically located in the rainforest near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. With two separate units—one a fully-equipped studio and the other a two-bedroom complete living space—there’s plenty of room for everyone. You can book one of the units or choose the whole house to sleep up to 9 guests.

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If Oahu is more your pleasure, Pineapple Ohana (pictured, left) sleeps up to 7 guests in three bedrooms, providing ample space for the whole family. Here you’re just a short walk from the beach and all the restaurants, shopping, and sights of Kailua town. Plus you’re only about 20 minutes outside of Honolulu, meaning you’re close to the tourist attractions without being right on top of them. Either Ohana is the perfect choice for your family vacation needs.

Kolea Estate: Luxury Living for Groups
Our Kailua, Oahu estate is luxury living at its best—a 4,000-sq-ft home and villa with gorgeous outdoor space that can accommodate up to 15 guests. Bring your whole family—aunts, cousins, in-law’s—anyone and everyone you want to vacation with! With separate poolside suites in addition to the main house accommodations, Kolea Estate is ideal for reunions or multi-family getaways. It’s also a unique place to stay for a destination wedding—you and your entire wedding party can all stay in one unforgettable, private oasis. Nearby are the quaint beach town of Kailua and the stunning, award-winning Kailua Beach—not to mention the whole of Oahu within easy reach.

  • Kolea poolside view
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Palm Springs Rendezvous: Cool Couple’s Retreat or Private Party Pad
While it may be located in the California desert, Palm Springs Rendezvous is the ultimate in cool. This boutique hotel is TripAdvisor’s number one small hotel in the U.S. for a reason—the service, the charm, and oh, the breakfasts! Each of our 10 retro-themed rooms sleeps two guests, making it perfect for couples. We’ve also set the bar high in the romance category, with in-room luxury tubs, poolside happy hour, and an adults-only atmosphere (no children under 14 allowed). With every suite and the lounge/breakfast room situated around the courtyard pool, the layout lends itself perfectly for private parties of 20 or less. Book the entire hotel for reunion weekends, weddings, or birthday bashes. We’ll cook your entire group breakfast every morning and pour some cocktails in the evening—you sit back and enjoy each other’s company!

La Casa Colibri: Scenic Escape for Families, Friends or Groups
Scenic is an understatement here. When you’re at La Casa Colibri (The Hummingbird House), the views of gorgeous Lake Atitlan and its volcanoes defy description. Ample outdoor terraces and a luxury infinity pool are just the beginning. Inside, five en-suite bedrooms can accommodate up to 12 guests and the kitchen, living, and dining space are designed with groups in mind. Whether you’re traveling with family, friends, or a combination of both, this is the way to experience Guatemala. Enjoy the luxury of a houseman, a cook, and a concierge who will see to your every need—from doing your laundry to cooking your meals to booking your excursions and transportation. This scenic escape from the everyday is so affordable that it’s honestly perfect for anyone with an adventurous spirit and exquisite taste!

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If you haven’t decided yet which Emma Spencer Living property is right for you, check out our website at www.emmaspencerliving.com or the websites of each individual property. Also, go to TripAdvisor.com to read the impartial reviews of our past guests. Truth is, when you book with Emma Spencer Living, you really can’t go wrong!
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Traveling to the Hawaiian Rainforest

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The Low-Down on Lodging: Hotels, Motels, B&Bs, and Beyond

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by Kim LaPat, Travel Editor, Emma Spencer Living

Once you’ve picked your dream vacation destination, the next thing to figure out is where you’re going to stay. At Emma Spencer Living, we believe that where you stay should be as memorable as where you go, which is why we provide a variety of unique lodging options for our guests. But what kind of accommodations are right for you and your family? What’s the difference between hotels, motels, inns, lodges, bed-and-breakfasts, and vacation home rentals? We know it can be confusing, so here’s the low-down on lodging:

Hotels vs. Motels
The word hotel was created in 1765 and was derived from a French term meaning a place that provides lodging, meals, and other amenities. The word motel, on the other hand, came about in 1925, a morph of the words motor and hotel. Motels began popping up along America’s roadways, offering a respite for tired motorists on vacation or traveling between cities. While they provided lodging, they were usually a lot smaller and didn’t usually provide all the extras of hotels.

Today, when planning a vacation, the typical American family will probably head to TripAdvisor, Expedia, or Hotels.com to book a traditional corporate hotel chain for their vacation. Why? Because there’s comfort in the familiar. It may not be spectacular, but at least it’s predictable. You know there’ll be a bed or two, a TV, a mini fridge, maybe a sitting area with a couch. In the common areas, they’ll probably be a restaurant and/or bar, workout facilities, a pool, and perhaps a spa. There are usually hundreds of rooms on multiple floors and you may even get a stellar view of whatever city or attraction you’re visiting. It’s nice. Maybe a bit expensive, but nice.

Nice, however, isn’t the word usually associated with motels. Motels get a bad rap for being low-brow and even cheap, and they’re often located in remote or even shady areas. Unlike hotels, they usually have only one or two levels, and rooms are typically accessed from the outside, not internally. In the movies, you might see someone on the run hiding out in a “sleaze-bag” motel. Some motels even charge by the hour or for afternoon “naps,” if you get my meaning.

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Palm Springs Rendezvous
A Boutique Hotel

The Emma Spencer Living family of accommodations doesn’t feature any motels, but our boutique hotel, Palm Springs Rendezvous, has a few crossover features. With only one level and 10 guest rooms, one might initially assume the Rendezvous is a motel. But, we’re far from “sleaze-bag” and worlds away from shady. In fact, TripAdvisor named the Rendezvous 2015’s Number One small hotel in the entire US.

While we don’t have a full-service restaurant, we cook and provide a free daily three-course breakfast for our guests in the dining room/lounge. And there’s no bar, but we’ll make you cocktails and snacks every day at happy hour. Like most hotels, we have a pool and a bunch of value-added services, like massages by appointment and daily fresh-baked treats. Maybe we don’t have a “business center” per se, but there’s a computer in the lounge and we can print anything out that you may need. And although we don’t have an exercise room, there are free rental bikes and miles of hiking trails nearby. Each room has a mini-bar, but it’s nothing like what you get in a hotel. Ours is stocked with FREE beverages, yours for the taking, unlike the exorbitant markups you see at corporate big-name places.

Our rooms are modern and comfortable, like a nice hotel, but no two are alike. Each of our retro-inspired theme rooms are uniquely different and therefore a destination unto themselves. Above all, our personal customer service sets us apart. We don’t have hundreds or thousands of guests to attend to. We have ten when fully booked, and that means we get to know you by name, not by room number, and we’re at your beck-and-call if there’s anything you need. Another benefit is the ability to rent out the ENTIRE hotel for a party or special event. There’s no place like the Rendezvous—which is why we’re not just a hotel, we’re the country’s BEST small hotel!

Bed-and-Breakfasts, Inns, and Lodges
Since Palm Springs Rendezvous serves a free homemade breakfast, it has one of the key aspects of a bed-and-breakfast or inn. The difference, however, is that bed-and-breakfasts and inns are typically private homes or historic buildings that have been converted into guesthouses. The owner usually lives on site. An inn is similar to a b&b in that home-cooked breakfasts are part of the deal, but at an inn, dinner is also included.

Lodges are a bit like a hybrid of a luxury hotel and a bed-and-breakfast. They typically include a delicious morning meal and many hotel-style amenities. But they’re also more unique and laid-back, often in rural or rustic settings. Emma Spencer Living’s Volcano Village Lodge fits the bill perfectly. Located in the lush tropical rainforest of Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii, it boasts luxurious and unique accommodations along with a stellar breakfast and low-key, personalized service. In lieu of the sterile, high-rise opulence of a luxury big-box hotel, our lodge is comprised of natural wood that blends beautifully with the natural surroundings. Guests of Volcano Village Lodge enjoy the serenity, seclusion, and privacy that the quaint, yet well-appointed lodge provides.

  • VVL Hale Kilauea

Vacation Homes
You don’t need a second mortgage to enjoy the benefits of a vacation home. Vacation home rental properties are one of the best options for family travel. Not only do private homes give you the benefit of space, comfort, and privacy, but they allow you to experience a destination the way a local does. Instead of being crammed into a cookie-cutter hotel room like all the other tourists in the area, you and your family can temporarily “live” in a neighborhood, away from the hustle and bustle of the visiting masses.

At vacation home rental properties, you’ll have living space, not just sleeping quarters. A full kitchen enables you to cook if you choose, a family room provides you with meeting and planning space, and multiple bedrooms and bathrooms provide you with the privacy and separation you need to keep everyone in the family happy and stress-free. On top of that, there’s usually an outdoor area, entertainment amenities, and other pluses like a private pool or Jacuzzi.

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The Emma Spencer Living family of properties includes four private home rentals, three in Hawaii and one in Guatemala. In Oahu, we offer two houses in Kailua, a quaint beach town favored by Barack Obama and located just outside Honolulu. Kolea Estate (pictured, top) features a unique layout with a large 3-bedroom main house and an adjoining pool house with 4 separate suites. With two kitchens, plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, and a fabulous pool and hot tub, this property is ideal for large families, multiple families, or reunions. Also in Kailua is Pineapple Ohana, a smaller, but equally impressive 3-bedroom home (pictured, left). 

Traveling over to the Big Island of Hawaii, we’ve got 5th Street Ohana, a rainforest retreat home separated into two units that can be reserved separately or together for larger groups. In Guatemala, our stunning La Casa Colibri (pictured, right) is like nothing you’ve ever seen or experienced before. Situated on gorgeous Lake Atitlan, the multi-level home has five bedroom/suites, several terraces, and a stunning infinity pool, all designed to take in the views of the lake and volcanoes. There’s also a private cook and houseman available to attend to all your needs. Now that’s a vacation!

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Choosing where and how you want to vacation isn’t always easy. There’s a whole world of options out there, which makes it both exciting and confusing. At Emma Spencer Living, we’ve done some of the legwork for you. We’ve purchased unique lodging experiences in tropical, unforgettable settings so you can’t go wrong. Now that you’ve got the lowdown on lodging, all that’s left to do is book your dream vacation at www.emmaspencerliving.com.

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Rent a Car when Vacationing in the Big Island

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Emma Spencer Living Donates to Guatemalan Schools

by Meghan Jerolaman
Innkeeper, Volcano Village Lodge

Summer is a time for students to explore and enhance their lives in ways beyond school. Emma and Spencer Staak raised money to buy school supplies and sport equipment for schools in Guatemala. This year with help from Emma Spencer Living they distributed sporting equipment to some of the schools around the Lake Atitlan area.

“Giving these children basic school supplies and sporting equipment makes a difference in these Guatemalan lives,” says Emma Staak. ”These schools have so little compared to our schools in Illinois. When I first visited a Guatemalan school four years ago I knew I had to be involved in improving their schools.My brother, Spencer, wanted to help as well. He has helped collect used school supplies at the end of school several years since then.”

The schools in Guatemala face numerous concerns and issues that would never occur in the United States. Many of the students have to work in order to provide money for the family, which means more absences from school.bOne school in Panajachel is located behind the local market and focuses on the street children who have no parents.

“Some of the students come to school hungry and they receive a piece of bread and some milk,” shared Emma. ”The children work part of the day walking the streets selling locally produced merchandise and then come to school for a few hours. Many of these children are 5 and 6 years old and have already faced survival in its basic form.”

Spencer Staak observed, “It makes me sad when I visit these schools and see how little they have. But, I also realize what a difference a simple action of sharing slightly used pencils can make in their lives."

Emma wants to build awareness of the school’s needs in Guatemala. ”There have been times when our garage has been full of school supplies. My parents have been supportive of Spencer’s and my desires to help the schools. My goal is to continue to improve the education even if we can only impact a few schools. To me, education is the foundation for these people to change their lives.”

Not only did Emma and Spencer raise money for school supplies and sporting equipment, they also raised awareness across the world. Emma, Spencer, and the entire staff at Emma Spencer Living would like to thank everyone who participated in the “Helping Hands” fundraiser. Mahalo Nui Loa!
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Flying Tips

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Creating With Local Ingredients

by Dawn Lambert

Bananas, pineapple, coconut and macadamia nuts are ubiquitous here in Hawaii. Creating baked items with these local ingredients are the perfect complement to the breakfasts prepared at Volcano Village Lodge. Here is a banana bread recipe from allrecipes.com that I’ve adapted for our guests. Enjoy it at home and remember your wonderful time in Hawaii!

Hawaiian Banana Nut Bread

NGREDIENTS:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups mashed very ripe banana
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups white sugar
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup applesauce
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup flaked coconut

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, sugar and cinnamon. Add the macadamia nuts, eggs, applesauce, banana, pineapple, vanilla, and coconut; stir just until blended. Pour batter evenly into the prepared pans.
3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 60 minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted into the center of a loaf comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Fresh Fruit

by Meghan Jerolaman
Innkeeper, Volcano Village Lodge

Summer in Hawaii offers a plethora of exotic fruits. Currently, the lychee season is going off! Go to any farmers market and find crates upon crates of lychee. Many people aren’t familiar with lychee. And honestly, if you never had one make sure to try one. These small, red, sweet fruits are very tasty. And if you aren’t sure, ask your innkeeper! Chances are if you stay at Volcano Village Lodge over the next few months there will be fresh lychee on your plate in mornings.

Not only are the lychee trees fruiting all over Hilo, but just north on the Hamakua Coast the melons are taking over fields. Just the other day when I went to the farmers market and watermelon, green melon, and cantaloupe were being sold! Ah biting into a slice of fresh, chilled watermelon after a long day of hiking is bliss.

Not sure what to try when you visit a local, Hawaii farmers market, please ask us! Or even better make a request with the lodge staff to provide local, seasonal, exotic fruit. We are more than happy to accommodate curious taste buds.

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Puna: Rich in History and Lava

by Meghan Jerolaman
Innkeeper, Volcano Village Lodge

In the District of Puna you can find road ways over grown with mangoes, black sand beaches, geothermal pools, lava, and much more. Puna, which consists of Volcano, Keaau, Pahoa, and Kalapana may not be the easiest of places to reach but this district is rich in history, culture, and adventures. First off, the lava can only be accessed from the county side near Kalapana. At Volcano Village Lodge we have a few tour companies that we trust and recommend to any interested in a guide lava hike. Unfortunately, Madame Pele flows over private, federal, and county lands, therefore you do need a guide!

While you’re on your way down to Kalapana take the coast near Pahoa. One of my favorite spots on the island are the Kapoho Tide Pools. An isolated stretch of tide pools, Kapoho is perfect for beginner snorkelers. However, make sure to go at a higher tide and wear reef shoes. Another reason Kapoho holds a place in my heart, is from the large lava fountain eruption back in 1960. The lava fountains of this specific eruption site were over 1,000 feet tall and destroyed many homes. Kapoho tide pools were created from this act of nature. Kapoho and Puna in general, is a great place to see the destruction and creation of land, making it a very special area.

Whether you want to see lava or snorkel in an old eruption site, Puna has lots to see. While staying at Volcano Village Lodge make sure to add an extra day to your itinerary to visit and explore the Puna District. And ask our Innkeepers for up to date lava information, they love talking story about Puna!
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Grills, Burgers, and Coffee?

by Meghan Jerolaman
Innkeeper, Volcano Village Lodge

Summer has finally arrived and I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day Weekend. Memorial Day, as many know, is the unofficial first day of summer. By now most people have fired up the grills, took the patio furniture out of storage, and have changed their shoes to sandals.

During the summer months on the mainland, farms are producing many fruits and vegetables. Everyone should take the time to visit a local farm or farmers market to eat local. Not only are you supporting a local business, you’re also eating fresher food that doesn’t get shipped in from all over the world. Trust me, when you buy local produce it lasts twice as long without spoiling!

Shopping at farmers markets are inspiring as well. Between the colors, smells, and friendly interactions you will leave happy and your imagination sparked. The other day I picked up some Ka’u, grass fed beef, Ka’u coffee, Puna goat cheese, and a few veggies. With just a little help from the web, I was able to make a delightful coffee rub for burgers.

For the coffee rub, I used dried herbs such as oregano, basil, rosemary. The coffee was freshly ground and should be a little more fine than coarse.
However, I flavored the meat with freshly minced garlic, fresh herbs (oregano, basil, parsley) from my home garden.

The goat cheese I held off until the burgers came off the grill, so it wouldn’t melt off. I skipped the bacon and barbecue sauce and topped the burger with fresh arugula, tomatoes, and maui onions. I even went as far as to make my own rolls for the burgers! Every bite was delicious and rewarding. All and all a great recipe to start off with that can be tweaked, depending on what what’s available at a local farmers market.

Summer is definitely here! Kick off those shoes, grab some extra charcoal and ice (for those adult drinks) and let’s grill! What do you plan on eating?
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Sharing the Bounty

by Dawn Lambert
Master Gardener, Emma Spencer Living

Follow Volcano Dawn on Twitter for Big Island sights and sounds

The shelves groaned with the weight of the many books. Rarely were these books removed and enjoyed as the guests at VVL were far too busy exploring the Big Island. It just made sense to find the books new homes where they would be appreciated.

Some books went to the Cooper Center in Volcano Village, where locals and visitors could purchase them. The proceeds go to help Cooper Center stay open. Our farmers’ market, swap meet and many local groups meet there.

Books for Soldiers (booksforsoldiers.com) gave us the opportunity to match soldier requests with many more of our books. Books for Soldiers is a non-profit organization that serves all branches of our armed forces. Troops can go online and request specific books or genre of books, dvds, music, games, snacks – just about anything. Volunteers try to fill the requests.

Downsizing for our move to Hawaii, I have sent hundreds of boxes to troops serving all over the world. We volunteers are cautioned not to expect answers or thank you’s from the troops, but more often than not, we hear from them. Several I still communicate with after 5 years. The first soldier I heard back from is now stationed on Oahu and we hope to meet in person soon. The most important thing is to let them know you are thinking of them and thank them for their service and sacrifice. The books and such help fill the boredom, loneliness and relieve anxiety.

So if you stay at Volcano Village Lodge, you will still find books on Hawaiian history and culture, tour books, children’s books as well as novels set in Hawaii. There is also a large collection of DVD’s set or filmed in Hawaii. If you finish a book while you’re staying with us, leave it and perhaps it will brighten a soldier’s day in some faraway location. And, if you’re interested in downsizing while supporting our troops, consider Books for Soldiers.

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Spring into Summer

by Meghan Jerolaman
Innkeeper, Volcano Village Lodge

It’s a beautiful, sunny day in Volcano. The birds are singing loudly in the ohia trees, the flowers are blooming. I think it’s safe to say that it’s spring. Spring in Volcano is a short, transition season into summer. It rains less, is more sunny, and the days are longer.

However, summer will be here shortly. With summer comes warm, sunny days and more traffic to Volcano. With school being pau (done) for the year, our little town of Volcano becomes more congested. However, Volcano Village Lodge is located off the beaten path, but still very close to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. After a fun filled day of exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, come back to the tranquil sounds of the rain forest. Rest, relax, and recharge. You’ll probably want to escape back to the luxury of our rooms after seeing lots of people in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

“Volcano Village Lodge is a great place to stay to experience the active lava and the beauty of Hawaii’s rain forest. We wish we would have stayed longer.”- Recent Guest

Make sure to plan your vacation soon. Our rooms for summer tend to book quickly. We look forward to meeting all of our guests.

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Helping Hands in Guatemala

by Meghan Jerolaman
Innkeeper, Volcano Village Lodge

Over the past summers Emma and Spencer have been visiting our sister property, La Casa Colibri in Guatemala. However, they never went empty handed. What started as a fund raiser with their schools, Emma and Spencer started collecting donated school supplies and books to bring with them to Guatemala.

However, for this summer Emma and Spencer wanted to try something new. Their new goal is to involve all of the Emma Spencer Living properties and The Staak Report followers and engage them in a fund raiser. For every new Facebook like any Emma Spencer Living facebook pages get or for every new follower on The Staak Report, we will donate money to purchase school supplies in local Guatemalan villages to distribute to many schools.

A simple task that only takes 30 seconds can change the lives of many children, furthering their education. Please take the time to like ALL of our facebook pages and follow The Staak Report. Many Mahalo’s in advance!

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Wednesdays in Kalapana

by Meghan Jerolaman
Innkeeper, Volcano Village Lodge

A little village just north of Volcano or down the hill towards Hilo, Kalapana offers people a unique experience. I say unique, but really I should say a real Hawaiian cultural experience. You can learn more about Hawaii and our people by visiting Kalapana.

The best time to visit Kalapana are Wednesday evenings. Every Wednesday the local community holds an evening farmers market at Uncle Roberts Awa Bar or at “the end of the road”. And there’s only one requirement… Enter with Aloha! Honestly, this is a must stop. Enjoy an evening of great prepared food, fresh produce, amazing arts and crafts, awa (a local drink made from a plant root), and the main attraction of live music.

If anything, go for the music. The Kanaka Band are all native to Kalapana and are big Hawaiian’s with soft hearts. So musically talented, I wish they sold CD’s. They provide hours of entertainment and encourage people to dance the night away. In fact, some people will even perform hula!

Kalapana may be hard to find and sometimes doesn’t show up on a map, but it will leave you with an everlasting love for the people of Hawaii.

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For Water Lovers

by Meghan Jerolaman
Innkeeper, Volcano Village Lodge

The water world has always fascinated me. My love for water has been with me since birth. I find it only appropriate that I live on an island, in a rain forest surrounded by some of the world’s most beautiful water scenes. Whether it’s waves crashing on molten lava, snorkeling with sea turtles, body surfing at green sands beach, swimming under waterfalls, or even picking shells off the beach, Hawaii has it all.

Some of the best places to get a “real” Hawaii experience is the Volcano side of the island. Sure, we may not have the white sand beaches, but we have the lava, culture, waterfalls, and rain forests. While staying at Volcano Village Lodge, explore outside of the Volcano region. Take a day trip to the southern part of the island, see a black sand AND green sand beach within 20 miles of each other. Stop at South Point and stand on the edge of a 40 ft cliff and see the crystal clear waters that face due south to our ancestral lands of Polynesia (side note: South Point was the first colonized location in Hawaii).

Maybe the southern part of the island is not in your itinerary…In that case while visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park make sure to drive Chain of Craters Road. Take the road to the end and watch the power of the ocean crashing on fairly new lava. Holei Sea Arch is a great place to witness this. While down on the coast you can walk the rest of Chain of Craters Road to where a lava eruption took over the road.

How about driving just north of Hilo up the Hamakua Coast to the large waterfalls, gulches, and fantastic botanical gardens?

However, the most powerful, once in a life time opportunity, is seeing the molten lava flow into the ocean. A battle between sister goddesses, Pele and Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi put on a fierce spectacle that will leave you breathless. A scene engraved in your memory for life.

Here on the Big Island, we love water period. Whether you love the forest or the ocean, you will find your place in Hawaii.