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Hawaii’s Oldest Hotel, Volcano House, Reopens

The historic Volcano House hotel—which lays claim to being Hawaii’s oldest property (its first guests arrived in 1846)—has reopened on the Big Island with a bang. After $7 million in renovations—funded by both the owners and the National Park Service—the new look is now open for all to see. It continues to be the only hotel located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. (Bonus for guests: a view of Kilauea’s Halema’uma’u Crater.)


Throughout are authentic glimpses of Hawaiian life, including gift shops stocked with art, jewelry, and crafts made by locals who are native Hawaiians. Most of the fruits, vegetables, and other edible ingredients are sourced from local ranchers, farmers, and suppliers. At The Rim Restaurant (offering a breakfast buffet and dinner menu), fare ranges from Kona-raised mussels to sliders from a nearby ranch. Even the chicken is prepared with white pineapple scored from the Hilo farmers market and Hilo coffee is rubbed with the lamb dish. A rather extensive wine list encourages lingering and enjoying the view of the rim of Kilauea caldera. Named for the hotel’s former manager for nearly 45 years (George Lycurgus), Uncle George’s Lounge is a place to kick back with a cocktail (such as Blue Hawaiian, Rum Runner, or Volcano House Hot Buttered Rum) and pupus at sunset, although it opens at 11a.m. daily.

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There are two lodging options for guests, which straddle high-brow and low-brow. Hearkening back to the retro vibe that still exists in Hawaii today (hello, Tiki drinks and palm tree-infused Hawaiian shirts), each of the 33 rooms inside this circa-1941 building have been refurbished and are now decked out with vintage-inspired Hawaiian fabrics and bamboo-chic furniture. Yet there is a nod to contemporary times, with free WiFi and the hotel’s recent Hawaii Green Business certification.


For a more rustic experience, the hotel’s Namakanipaio Campgrounds is a quick three-mile drive away. Ten one-room cabins ($80 per night)—with enough room for four people, complete with bed linens, towels, a full bed, and two twin beds—are nestled in a eucalyptus grove perched 4,000 feet above sea level. While there isn’t any electricity, guests don’t have to bump around in the night with a flashlight (there is an electric light). Each cabin has access to a private fire pit and grill for whipping up campfire cuisine or partaking in s’mores. Showers and toilets are separate from the cabins in a newly refurbished space.

Rates at the hotel start at $285 per night.

Kristine Hansen is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee where she reports on food, wine, and travel topics around the globe for, along with new-hotel openings. She also writes for Wine Enthusiast, TIME, Whole Living and American Way. In 2006 she co-authored The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Coffee and Tea (Alpha Books/Penguin). You can follow her on Twitter @kristineahansen or through her web site.

Photo credit: Photos courtesy of Volcano House hotel.

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