KAPAAU, HAWAII—Guests staying at the boutique-style Hawaii Island Retreat on Hawaii Island’s North Kohala coast can choose to stay in one of the Retreat’s nine lavishly appointed guestrooms or “rough” it a little bit and stay in one of the property’s seven well-appointed yurts. No matter what accommodations are chosen, guests have the satisfaction of knowing they are staying in a place that is off the grid—powered by the sun and wind.
The Hawaii Island Retreat is nearing its third anniversary. It opened on April 1, 2009. Jacque Waters, associate director at the property, said the owners—Jeanne Sunderland and Robert Watkins—were committed from day one to creating a retreat and Maluhia Spa that were not only off the grid but as eco-friendly in every other way possible as well.
“We opened right when the economy tanked,” Waters says. “It has been a very slow growth. People are just now starting to travel again. There has not been anything this size with this philosophy and business practices. We are getting good response from those people who come here. They love the fact that what they are eating for dinner comes right out of our garden.”
An Island Oasis
The Hawaii Island Retreat is set on 50 acres among gardens, wild groves, and ancient valley trails. Accommodations are positioned on the land to take advantage of ocean breezes. There is no air-conditioning but ceiling fans are available. Almost all of the power needed to run the property is produced through solar panels on the roof of the Retreat’s energy building. The solar array is just under 7 kW. A 6-kW windmill also generates electricity. Water for the main lodge is heated by six solar panels. A solar thermal system heats water for the hot tub. The hot water for the locker room showers is also heated by the sun. The Horizon design swimming pool is solar heated and solar powered flashlights are provided for guest use. A 40 kW propane generator serves as backup for the electrical system.
Rainwater is collected and reused for landscaping. Low-flow toilets help minimize water consumption. Guestrooms are provided with reusable water bottles. While the Retreat is currently using county water, once its well water is approved it will be “off the pipe” as well as off the grid.
The Retreat does not have a restaurant but it does have a dining room. “We are trying to grow as much as we can,” Waters says. “We have goats for milk, yogurt and cheese. We have sheep, goats and grass fed cattle for meat and chickens produce eggs. There is wild boar and what we can’t raise ourselves we buy from farmer’s markets in the area.”
Some of the other green steps the owners have taken include:
• The retreat is designed to use natural lighting during the day and full-spectrum compact fluorescents at night.
• Guest rooms are cleaned daily, however linens are changed every fourth day unless requested by the guest to minimize daily laundry use and consumption of water, electricity, and propane gas.
• Much of the flooring throughout the retreat is Tiger wood, a farmed sustainable hardwood that does not impact native forests.
• Gardening and cooking classes are provided so that guests may learn simple and effective ways to grow and prepare their own foods.
• All organic waste is recycled back into the soil through an active system of composting. All bottles, glass, cans, plastic, paper, and cardboard are recycled.
• Disposable products without harmful chemicals, dyes, or perfumes are selected.
• Paper is shredded and placed as mulch on garden paths and banana orchards, thus composting these materials and returning them to the earth as rich healthy soil.
• All disposable plates, cups, and flatware are compostable.
• Rooms are supplied with organic shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, hand lotion and liquid hand soap in refillable dispensers thus eliminating single serving containers.
• Each room is supplied with educational information that encourages each guest to do their part in assisting with ongoing efforts to remain both sustainable as well as self sufficient. This information covers choices for laundering towels and sheets as well as various recycling measures.
Spa Emphasis on Organic
At the Maluhia Spa, all products used in the locker rooms are organic. Nearly all products used for massage, facial, and body services are organic. Spa associates create many of the body service products utilizing materials provided by the organic farm. Some of the items used are kukui nuts, papaya, avocado, goat’s milk, aloe vera, squash, cucumber, noni, coffee, and native and cultivated herbs.
Other eco-friendly measures taken at the spa include:
• Massage sheets, robes, and other spa linens are made of organic bamboo, a fast growing fiber cultivated without toxic fertilizers and herbicides. Much of the laundry from the spa is hung to dry.
• Outdoor massage pavilions utilize the ambiance of nature eliminating the need for fans, air-conditioning, or music.
• Decking for the massage pavilions is made of recycled plastic.
• Spa staff wear organic bamboo uniforms.
• Non-toxic cleaning products are utilized throughout the retreat and spa.
Waters says the steps the Retreat’s owners already have taken to reduce the destination’s environmental impact are just the beginning. “We are by no means done with what we are doing,” she says.
Go to the Hawaii Island Retreat to learn more.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.