Evidence of their presence is found in the rock walls and the trail on the property. Like the farmers of the Northeastern United States, the Hawaiians cleared their land of loose rocks and made walls to separate properties (kuleana). These rock walls, emblematic of the ancient culture, serve to remind us of those who were the prior stewards of these lands.
In Hawai‘i, beach-front property lines extend to the mean high tide line. The old beach trail that divides the homes from the promontory, while technically on our property, is available to all to use as access along the water front.
We maintain our beaches and encourage the public to respect endangered and threatened species, the coral reef and the reef fish. The lagoon in front of our homes is a wonderful habitat for the honu (the green turtle) and there are usually at least one or two in the water or on the beach. These turtles are endangered so we post our beach to remind people not to bother them.
In 1976, the Hawaiian Monk Seal was declared an endangered species and was still considered to be on the brink of extinction in 2006. A few individuals remained in the remote Northern Islands of the Hawaiian Archipelago. They have slowly begun to regenerate and we were excited to have this seal, the first to visit our property, stay for a few days in 2009. We were very careful not to let him be harassed in any way.
When the Plantation Manager’s Beach House was built in 1947, the family took care to minimize impact on the native and endemic plants including the more than 25 stately niu – coconut trees on the property at the time. To this day we continue to care for and reintroduce other native and endemic species known to grow in Kona. The botanical enthusiast will discover a‘alii, akia, ala he‘e, hala, hau, ke‘oke‘o, kou, koki‘o, loulu, ma‘haou hele, milo, na‘au, naio, pili grass, niu and more. There is a lush nanu – Hawaiian gardenia – shading the window by the dining area of the Cottage.
Out on the rocks in front of our homes we find ample evidence of the presence of early Hawaiians. There is a flat slab of lava, carved to hold little stones for the game much like chess or checkers called Konane. There is a Ku‘i palu, a bowl carved in the lava where fish bait is pounded and there is a Pohaku Pa‘a kai, a shallow depression in a large lava rock used to make sea salt.
Both the Plantation Manager’s Beach House and the Seaside Zen Cottage have many sustainable, or “green” features.
• Construction materials: In 1946 a huge tsunami hit the Hamakua Coast. It destroyed several of the railroad bridges that spanned the deep gulches along the Coast. These redwood bridges, probably built in the 19th century, were too expensive to be rebuilt so the railroad was abandoned. Robbie purchased one of the bridges, had it milled into suitable lumber and trucked to Kona where it now exists as the Plantation Manager’s Beach House. Termites don’t like redwood so the lumber has not been “treated” or poisoned.
Originally, perhaps as long ago as the 1800’s, the Seaside Zen Cottage was a teacher’s house in Hilo. Dr. Phillips, a Hilo physician, purchased the cottage, dismantled it, trucked it to Kona and had it reassembled. The Cottage is constructed of cedar which is also termite resistant and, likewise, has not been treated.
• Neither of the houses has interior walls made from drywall. A factory in Hilo used to take bagass, a pulp waste product from the sugar cane and make it into “Canec”. This light weight and durable wall board is used in both homes.
• Energy efficiency: Neither house has or needs heating or air conditioning. They are naturally ventilated. The Plantation House is designed so that its one-room depth extends facing the mountains on one side and the ocean on the other thus allowing for fresh breezes to flow mauka-makai (mountain-ocean) through the rooms. The open construction for the Cottage enjoys the same effect. We have installed energy star appliances and low energy light bulbs throughout both of the homes.
• No insulation: Because of Kona’s temperate climate, there is no need to insulate the homes.
• Both homes are on old kuleana (small land holdings) and neither has ever been graded. This means that there has been no alteration of the land form and that the homes have not been built on a “green field.”
• Planned in the future are photo voltaic solar panels, evapotranspiration (or a “Living Machine”) and rain water recapture. In the old days the only water we had for drinking and cooking was the water we captured off the roof and stored in redwood tanks. We will have to spend lots of kala to replace that old system. “Auwe!”
• Each home has a recycling station for bottles, plastics and cans.
We also feel a responsibility to make meaningful contributions to the local economy. We employ landscapers, tree trimmers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, painters, masons, house keepers, cooks, caterers and patronize local business. In addition, more than 35% of the amount spent by our guests goes to the County of Hawai‘i in the form of taxes to help the local economy.
All of our staff is local and our policy is to pay a living wage to everyone whom we employ.
Our caretaker, who lives on site, was born and raised in Kona. He is an ardent surfer, swimmer and kayaker. He enjoys providing guests with local knowledge and helping them with local customs.
Whenever we are using our home, we “buy local” at the farmers’ markets or from locally owned businesses. We consciously select local products and we urge our guests to do the same.
The Kama‘aina (native born) lifestyle respects simplicity and awareness of the natural rhythms of the land and sea. We seek to preserve this lifestyle and the sense of Hawai‘i and Kona as we knew it in the 1940’s and 50’s and are delighted to share this special place with others.
Mahalo, Malama Pono
Ian F. Robertson, L.E.E.D.