There is nothing conventional about a stay at the Place of Refuge Bed & Breakfast inn, situated on a working coffee farm in the South Kona district of Hawaii's Big Island.
The artificially designed resort paradises of the Kohala Coast and the tourist hubbub of Kailua-Kona are far, far away. This is an immersion in the authentic rhythms of the islands.
Breakfast on the lanai showcases the many tropical fruits that flourish in the rich volcanic soil of the farm coconut pancakes with local bananas, mango cobbler, buckwheat pancakes with chunks of the freshest, juiciest papaya you'll likely ever have. Homemade syrup might be made with lilikoi, jaboticaba or Surinam cherries. And, of course, there is Kona coffee, grown right here and so fresh that it is essentially roasted to order.
The farm is far from the shoreline, but the blue of the Pacific is in view from the lanai. During a visit in May, we always made certain to be back here for the sunset, often taking it in while sipping Kona Longboard Lager with the proprietor, Roger Dilts.
"Sometimes you get so busy when you're working," Dilts said, "you've got to stop for five minutes from time to time, look up and think, 'It's Hawaii!"'
The accommodations at the B&B are pretty basic; if you desire the lap of luxury, head to the Kohala Coast. But the lodging is comfortable, clean and an astonishing value for this side of the Big Island - two guest rooms that go for $89 per night, one for $99 nightly, including that substantial breakfast served for two.
But the personal touch might be the best attribute of this place. Upon our arrival, Dilts drew us a little map of the area and offered suggestions for snorkeling, picnics, a tour of coffee country and dining (his restaurant recommendations were dead-on). He also has all kinds of beach gear available for borrowing, and the living room is stocked with a wealth of books on Hawaii.
A morning tour of his 51/2-acre Aloha Farms was one of the high points of the stay. "My coffee farm is experimental because I'm a scientist at heart," said Dilts, launching into explanations about hydroponics, nitrogen fixing, pruning, irrigation and "fertigation."
This morphed into a fruit tour. There were pineapples (called Kona whites), papayas, bananas, mangos, figs, coconut palms. In the adjoining jungle, he added, there were breadfruit and avocados. We were bidden to wander in there in search of avocados, if we wished. "There should be plenty if the pigs haven't eaten them."
Maybe that was another sound of the night that we hadn't quite been able to peg.
The Place of Refuge B&B is at 83-5440 Painted Church Road, Captain Cook.
Room rates from $89 to $99 nightly for two people, breakfast included.
Information: www.alohafarms.com; (866) 328-0604.