Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Review 3763: Kona Beach House, Seaside Zen Cottage
3bed/3bath house near Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
September 2008, one week
On Ali'i Drive just south of the 2 1/2 mile marker from Kailua-Kona. There is a sister property next door, the Plantation House, and the caretaker's cottage for both is located to the right of the driveway to the Seaside Zen Cottage. The lot was deeper than is standard for Ali'i Drive properties, and we experienced minimal street noise. We chose this area because we wanted to be near a town with easy access to restaurants, shops, and excursions to the area south of Kailua-Kona.
There were little markets near us on Ali'i Drive that we probably could have walked to, but we grocery shopped at the KTA supermarket located at the Keauhou Shopping Center about three miles south. You can't really negotiate the Big Island without a car.
The house was lovely overall. Downstairs is the living/dining area, kitchen, and a bath with a large shower with a door that opens to the outside, very convenient for coming in from the beach. There were three sleeping areas and two baths upstairs. It was steps from the back door to the beach and it offered ocean access to the little lagoon, a rarity in that area. We fell asleep to the sound of the waves. A historical description from the website:
"The Seaside Zen Cottage is one of the oldest beach homes on the Kona Coast. Sometime in the early 1900's Dr. Phillips purchased a "surplus" teacher's cottage in Hilo. Dr. Phillips had the house dismantled, put on a truck and reassembled on his beachfront lot in Kona. Whether this occurred in the 1920's '30s or '40s is unknown. Marjorie and Robbie Robertson started renting Dr. Phillips' oceanfront vacation rental in the very early 1940s it was one of the few homes on the Government Road (as Alii Drive was then known)."
"Marjorie and Robbie Robertson purchased the Seaside Zen Cottage in 1951. Since then The Cottage has been wired for electricity. There is a County water and "wastewater" system. There are modern appliances and conveniences like wireless Internet and cable TV, but we have strived to keep the Seaside Zen Cottage reminiscent of the time when it was known as "The Phillips Place." Emily Jagoda, a brilliant architect who studied in Japan re-imagined the stuffy Hilo teacher's cottage, opened it up to the ocean and mountain breeze and created its Zen like atmosphere."
There was a grassy lawn between the house and the beach with four lounge chairs. A lava rock wall separated the property from the beach, which was about three feet below the wall. There was no pool. The lagoon was perfect for dipping. The presence of sea urchins in the rocks meant that you had to be careful to stay on the sand. There were sea turtles and they were magical.
The low lava rock wall that separated the Zen Cottage from the Plantation House had an opening that would allow easy access from one property to the other. This also added to the feeling of spaciousness when you looked out from the house to the beach. (The Plantation House wasn't rented the week we were at the Zen Cottage).
I liked the furnishings -- not fancy but overall tasteful and comfortable and very well-suited to the cottage. While not every baseboard, windowsill, and hard-to-reach area would have passed the white-glove test, given that the many windows and screened doors were open 24/7, the house was clean and well-maintained.
The bedrooms were separated by shoji screens or curtains. This worked just fine for our family of four, but would be less ideal for couples or anyone who needed four walls to have sufficient privacy. The beds were comfortable. Ventilation was good. There are windows on all four sides of the upstairs. There was also a ceiling fan in the back bedroom and column-style fans in the two front bedrooms. We were able to keep the shoji screen doors and curtains open pretty much all the time, and we were comfortable sleeping at night.
The downstairs bath and the bath off the upstairs hall were spacious and modern in feel. Both had large tiled showers. Water pressure was good, and we never ran out of hot water. The bath off the back bedroom, which seemed a bit older, had a tub and also some built in drawer space. The hall bath overlooked the caretaker's cottage.
The kitchen had stainless steel counter tops and everything we needed for simple meals. It was easy for two to get around, and all of the appliances worked. We cooked in three nights and ate out four. There was easy access from the kitchen to the gas grill on the lanai.
Problems or Bonuses
The one negative:
Coming from Southern California, we understand about public access to all beaches. Still, we weren't really prepared for the extent to which the little beach in front of Zen Cottage was everyone's favorite gathering spot. Folks started showing up at around ten and headed home by three or so. This affected my husband more than me. What bothered me was that so many people smoked while enjoying their beach time, and the smoke invariably made its way into the backyard.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
Thi, our contact at Kona Beach House, was very responsive. James, the on-site caretaker, was also very helpful and responsive. The house was $3,000/week; taxes and the cleaning fee brought the total to 3,621.06.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Even with the presence of all those folks on the beach, I'd stay there again (husband might not). The site has magic.
Things to do in this area
Our best meals of this trip were at Merriman's in Waimea, the Hualalai Grille at the Four Seasons, and a tiny Thai restaurant, the Garden Snack Café, that serendipity led us to in Hilo. We didn't have much success finding really good food in Kailua-Kona. We had dinners at the Big Island Grill (authentic, local fare), the Royal Jade Garden (perfectly adequate Chinese), Boston Basil's (not recommended), and Teshima's, a well-known Japanese restaurant in Honalo (thought the shrimp tempura was over-breaded but liked the atmosphere). Had better luck with lunches: definitely recommend the Coffee Shack in Captain Cook, the Roadside Café in Kainaliu, the Kohala Coffee Mill in Hawi, and the Holuakoa Café Espresso Bar in Holualoa.
The farmers' market in Volcano was excellent and the one in Keauhou (which featured a band playing Hawaiian music) was a strong runner-up.
On Thursday afternoons, the Kona Historical Society in Kealakekua sells Portuguese sweet bread baked in a traditional stone oven.
Best shopping: Sig Zane in Hilo, a beautiful store, high class and high quality; the Sandal Stop in Kailua-Kona, Chris Keahola was particularly helpful; the Kona coffee, purchased many, haven't tried them all yet; really liked the Peaberry coffee from the Hula Bean store in Kona, also purchased coffee at Blue Sky, the Holualoa Coffee farm, and the Kona Lisa (couldn't resist) stall at the Keauhou farmers' market.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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