Units in this circa-1950s motor lodge are modest, but charming, clean, and inexpensive. A glowing lava flow sign marks the office and bespeaks owner John Alexander's passion for the volcano. Stunning lava pictures adorn the common area, and Alexander is a great source of information for visiting the national park and for exploring the back roads of Hilo. Coffee and fresh fruit are offered daily with banana bread. Four blocks from downtown Hilo, in a residential area called Puueo, the hotel borders a verdant 2-acre Hawaiian garden with jungle trails and shady places to rest. Guests of the hotel return repeatedly, and it's ideal for families who seek a home base.
You may not find resort-style amenities here, but hotel staff is happy to throw on a concierge hat and answer any questions or help you plan a day of adventure.
The Dolphin Bay Hotel has 18 rooms with an additional six units across the street for long-term visitors. Within those 24 rooms there are eight types of units based on size, but each contain a fully equipped kitchen, ceiling fans, and cable TV. Décor and furniture are very modest. This small hotel is a nice place to lay your head, then wander off to your next adventure.
YOU SHOULD KNOW There is no air conditioning (not unusual for the island), but there are ceiling fans in each room.
Each room has a Roman style bath with shower, which isn’t something you see every day. This unique feature is probably the most striking thing about the hotel’s design.
The lobby is a simple office area where guests can check in and grab coffee and fruit in the morning.
There is no on-site restaurant, but guests can find coffee, fresh fruit, and bread in the lobby in the mornings.
Be sure to try the banana bread!
There is a decent amount to do within walking distance of the hotel, and it’s easy to get to with a taxi or rideshare, but you’ll want a car to get around the island.
Try nearby Naung Mai (6-minute drive) for some really great, locally sourced Thai food, including a pumpkin curry that will blow your mind. Try your order Thai spicy… if you dare. Cool off after all that spiciness at Wilson’s by the Bay (5-minute drive) for some of the best of Hawaii’s famous shave ice.
With mostly Kona Brewery beers on tap and a standard bar full of liquor, Hilo Town Tavern (10-minute walk) is your best bet for rubbing elbows with locals at this semi-dive bar that has live music, sports on a few screens, and a couple of pool tables. Find a laid back (if a little pricey) sports bar at Cronies (10-minute walk) for a beer and to catch up on a late-night game.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Reasonable prices make this simple hotel great for families and budget travelers who plan to spend most of their time exploring the island. The surrounding gardens are also a big help to give guests a relaxing, island vibe.