story by Rose Kahele
photo by Dana Edmunds
Although it’s only a thirty-five minute drive from the Kohala Coast, the Hotel Honoka‘a Club is about a million miles away from the spectacular hotels in that glittering resort area. There is no spa, pool or room service at the sleepy hotel, which was last renovated in 1942. There’s not even a wake-up service, unless you count the pre-dawn crowing of a neighborhood rooster. What you do get for between eighteen and ninety-five dollars a night is a clean, tidy room, cool evenings and, if you’re lucky, a picture-perfect view of the ocean and the Hamakua coastline 1,100 feet below.
The hotel is located in the middle of downtown Honoka‘a, which was once the commercial hub of the Hamakua coast’s sugar and cattle industries. When Kamakishi Morita first opened it in 1908, the place was actually more of a restaurant, with a handful of rooms out back. The meals were a bit pricey for the average field worker though, and so it became a “club” for the area’s plantation managers. In 1926, Kamakishi’s son Victor moved the hotel up the road to its current location and, with the outbreak of WWII and the sudden influx of soldiers (and their money), he expanded the building to its current twenty-two-room configuration. Today, it’s the last of four hotels that once served the town.
“Back in the early days, the trip from Hilo took half a day,” says Annelle Lee, who now owns the hotel along with Jory Watland.
“It was a welcome rest stop for weary travelers and it eventually became a social center for the rest of the community.”
Offering everything from two-bedroom suites to a pair of hostel dormitories, the Hotel Honoka‘a Club enjoys an enviable 80 percent occupancy rate, with some guests staying for months at a time. One gentleman has lived at the hotel for twenty-four years.
“Some people say that a visit to our hotel is like stepping back in time. We are still a small country inn in a small country town,” says Lee. “But I have to laugh sometimes as I sit in front of my computer and surf the Internet. After all, we have
Hotel Honoka‘a Club