Fodor's Expert Review The Inn at Kulaniapia Falls

100 Kulaniapia Dr., Hilo, Hawaii, 96720, USA See on Map

Overlooking downtown Hilo and the ocean beyond, this inn sits next to a 120-foot waterfall that tumbles into a 300-foot-wide natural pond—ripe for swimming, conditions permitting. Powered by its own hydro-electric facility, the compound consists of a main residence with four guest rooms, Jade cottage with a private lanai, the six-bedroom Harmony home, and the three-story Pagoda Guest House, with a bedroom and 1½ baths, perched near the cliff above the falls. All rooms have private baths. A full breakfast with Hawaiian fruit, eggs cooked to order, and Belgian waffles is served daily.

Because each room and suite is so different, calling up an innkeeper and letting them know your situation will help you find the perfect match. Those personal connections will last from booking through the end of your stay.

room

The inn has four different buildings, each with varying amounts of rooms. Each room is a bit different from the other, but all of them are comfortable and nicely decorated with Asian accents. Each of the guest houses have their own personalities and differ in the type of traveler they best fit. If you’re a family, small group, or have an unusual traveling situation, a phone call with the innkeeper will guarantee personal service to get you in the right room, suite, or guest house.

If you happen to be traveling for New Year's Eve or 4th of July you can see the Hilo Bay fireworks from the lanai at the Residence House suite, a nice way to spend a holiday with friends or family.

The Residence Suite
Photo: The Residence Suite

bathroom

As with the rooms, the bathrooms differ wildly based on the building and room. The Residence Suite includes a large tub and shower, while the smaller rooms in the Harmony house have small bathrooms and showers that get the job done.

lobby

The inn’s lobby is part of the Residence House and check in is super easy. When guests arrive they will find their name on a board, letting them know where their room is. Keys are already in the door for anyone who arrives late and wants to go straight to their room. If you stop by the office to check in, be sure to stop and feed the fish in the koi pond and give the inn cat a few pets.

pool

There is no pool, but guests can swim, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard in the pool of the falls, weather permitting.

YOU SHOULD KNOW The east side of the Big Island gets a lot of rain. While that’s great for getting the falls really roaring, if there has been too much recent rain it can lead to unsafe conditions for exploring the pond and waterfall. There is always a chance that these perks for visitors may sadly be off limits.

Stand up paddle board (SUP) under Kulaniapia Falls
Photo: Stand up paddle board (SUP) under Kulaniapia Falls
Zip Rappelling into our natural pool under Kulaniapia Falls
Photo: Zip Rappelling into our natural pool under Kulaniapia Falls

spa

none

gym

The only gym is the outdoors, and guests are encouraged to hike to the multiple smaller falls, as well as the larger namesake of the inn. Guests can even rappel down the falls for an extra fee. There are also adventure packages that guests can add on to their stay – speak with an innkeeper about these experiences.

dining

The on-site kitchen isn’t licensed as a restaurant, so while no one is cooking for guests, they do provide complimentary happy hour drinks (wine and champagne) and light bites, as well as breakfast that includes incredible local fruits, a waffle bar, and more.

Enjoy farm to table dinners prepared by local private chefs
Photo: Enjoy farm to table dinners prepared by local private chefs
Enjoy farm to table dinners, overlooking Kulaniapia Falls
Photo: Enjoy farm to table dinners, overlooking Kulaniapia Falls

drinking

There is no on-site bar, but a daily happy hour is provided to guests.

Though you may be tempted to skip it, if you're at the inn at happy hour time, be sure to pop in. It's a really great time to meet other travelers and enjoy your incredibly beautiful surroundings.

LOCATION

Getting Around

The inn is just far enough outside of town that a rental car is your best bet. Taxis and ride shares are available, but rare and pricey – plus, you’ll need to be able to get around once you’ve arrived.

Restaurants

Head into Hilo for a laid back, but dressier dinner that features local flavors and a great sushi menu at Hilo Bay Café (17 minute drive), overlooking the bay. You can find a more family friendly, casual meal at Lucy’s Taqueria (14 minute drive), which has a large, reasonably priced menu and kids’ play area. Be sure to try their elotes made with local corn if they have them.

Bars

After a busy day of adventure activities set up by your innkeepers, a casual drink may be just what you need. Find a laid back (if a little pricey) sports bar at Cronies (12 minute drive) for a beer and to catch up on a late-night game. With mostly Kona Brewery beers on tap and a standard bar full of liquor, Hilo Town Tavern (13 minute drive) 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.

WHY WE LIKE IT

This inn is intimate and personal, with a wonderful and welcoming staff. Unlike many hotel experiences, you are likely to spend a couple of minutes or even an entire evening getting to know your fellow vacationers as you admire the well-lit nighttime view of the falls. Evening sing-alongs are entirely possible. The eco-friendly nature of the inn, including solar panels and power turbines in the falls, as well as visits to the nearby farm make this a very appealing locale for eco-travelers.

QUICK FACTS

B&B/Inn
Views
Quiet
Remote
Local Flavor
$

HOTEL INFO

Phones: 808-935–6789
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