Issue 8.1: February/March 2005

Power House

by Julia Steele

The first clue that Waianuhea offers something different from the norm comes before you even arrive: Driving up the narrow, forested Bilbo Baggins-ish road to the place, you may find yourself thinking, "Tutu, we’re not in Kona anymore"— a thought that is only confirmed when the estate rises up before you, replete with stone statuary, too-chic tiki torches and Philippe Starck furniture on the lawn.

Waianuhea is, without doubt, Hawai‘i’s hippest B&B. Imagine Gaudí meets Pee-wee’s Playhouse. de Kooning does Martha Stewart. Inside, the place is a color riot: There are eighty-seven shades of paint on the walls, as well as vases filled with vibrant floral arrangements, couches done in everything from eggplant to tangerine, multi-hued tiffany lamps, vivid paintings, glass balloons suspended from the ceiling. And somehow, thanks to the immaculate collective eye of the three friends who created Waianuhea, it all works to calm and refresh, a daring puzzle perfectly assembled.

"We opened two years ago," says Carol Salisbury, one of the three aesthetically inclined partners, "after four and a half years of work." Carol is a cheery redhead, the soul of hospitality: Each night she invites guests for wine hour, where stories of the day’s adventures are swapped, and unusual reds and whites from around the world are served alongside such delicacies as grilled asparagus and olives stuffed with blue cheese.

To find Waianuhea, head for the hills of Ahualoa, more than 2,000 feet above sea level. You’re in the north of the island here: Out the dining room window—perhaps over a breakfast of taro bread french toast with strawberry coulis prepared by another of the partners, Reed Santos—you see Mauna Kea. You also see Waianuhea artistry of a whole other kind: the carefully camouflaged 35,000-gallon water tank (sunk low to the ground and done in lava rock) and the solar panels on trackers that fuel the house. In fact, this B&B is much more than just a stylish mansion—it’s also a model for the future: It is completely off the grid and self-powered and hydrated, a revelation when you consider that there’s a large heated outdoor Jacuzzi and most of the B&B’s five rooms have flat-screen TVs, huge tubs and an abundance of lights.

Power to the people, indeed.

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