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Vol. 7, No. 1
February/March 2004


The Princess and the B&B 

by Deborah Gushman

photo: Hawaii State Archives

Princess Ruth Keelikolani Kaunahoahoa lived from 1826 to 1883, and history books often describe her as the largest and richest woman of her time. This is no exaggeration: she stood six feet tall and weighed more than 400 pounds, and her land holdings formed a large part of the vast fealty known today as the Bishop Estate. Princess Ruth loved the hula, refused to speak English and resisted Christianity, and is credited with miraculously stopping a Big Island lava flow in 1881 by using her influence with Pele, the volatile goddess of fire.

In old sepia photos, the stern-faced princess glares imperially at the camera, appearing to inhabit her vast body with dignity and a certain defiance as well. Needless to say, her physical dimensions required custom-made, beyond-king-size beds. You might expect such artifacts to be sequestered in museums, but one of the Princess’ immense beds—a luminous, solid-koa four-poster beauty that measures eight feet by nine feet—has found a home in a delightful B&B on the leafy slopes of Diamond Head. (When innkeeper Joanne Trotter gave the bed’s dimensions to a custom-mattress maker, he said, "I don’t believe it.")

photo courtesy Diamond Head
Bed & Breakfast
Trotter bought the bed from the grand-nephew of the man who purchased it at auction after the Princess’ death, and it is now the centerpiece of one of the B&B’s airy, light-splashed rooms. Diamond Head Bed & Breakfast, which is also Trotter’s home, has a languid ambience and classic kama‘aina charm. Walls are hung with Trotter’s eye-catching collages, there is a gorgeous bird-filled tropical garden, and the locals’ favorite, Kaimana Beach, is a pleasant stroll away. As one beguiled traveler wrote in the guest book, "Great food, great bed, great hospitality, great wildlife, great location. We hate to leave."

Diamond Head Bed & Breakfast
(808) 923-3360