COURTESY THE FALLS AT REED'S ISLAND
Construction of the Falls at Reed's Island ensured that large windows would frame the falls, nature's art work. CLICK FOR LARGE
Reed's Island is sculpture among natural art
WITH ITS NAMESAKE double-tiered waterfall framed by large windows in the living room, the Falls at Reed's Island fulfills your vision of a tropical fantasy. First, there's its location. This extraordinary vacation home is embraced by a rain forest, yet it's just a five-minute drive from downtown Hilo on the Big Island.
Then there's its decor: simple at a glance but furnished with every convenience, including cable TV, DVD, VCR, CD player, a full kitchen, hot and cold soaking tubs, washer, dryer, laptop with wireless Internet connection, phone and fax machine (Big Island, interisland and mainland calls are free).
IF YOU GO ...
What: The Falls at Reed's Island
Address: 286 Kaiulani St., Hilo
Call: (808) 935-7920
Web site: www.reedsisland.com
Notes: Guests are welcomed with fresh flowers, cookies from Big Island Candies, Hilo Coffee Mill coffee and Mauna Loa macadamia nuts. The kitchen is fully equipped right down to the pots, pans, dishes and silverware. If you're going to swim in the river, use caution due to the dangers of leptospirosis and strong currents from heavy rains upstream. At night the constant call of coqui frogs reminds you that you're surrounded by forest.
Based on single or double occupancy:
» One to two nights: $365
» Three to six nights: $329
» Seven or more nights: $296
» Additional charges: $35 per night for each additional occupant (up to a maximum of six people) and a $145 cleaning fee
With three bedrooms and 3 1/2 baths within its 2,500 square feet, there's plenty of room to accommodate families and groups of friends or enjoy the space all by yourself.
The house stands at the end of Reed's Island, a 26-acre "island on an island" named after entrepreneur William Reed, who purchased it from King Kamehameha IV in 1861. Sculpted by the Wailuku River, it was a playground of Hawaiian monarchs and originally was known as Koloiki (little crawling).
State conservation lands on both sides of the falls and river provide a spectacular secluded setting for a memorable escape.
San Francisco architects David Morton and Thomas Cordell purchased the lush 2-acre parcel for their private hideaway; however, its physical limitations -- long, narrow and bordered by two gorges, the rain forest and the river -- made the design and construction work a challenge.
Their unique solution was a vertical structure consisting of three primary sections: an entry hall flanked by two bedrooms, the master bedroom and the kitchenliving room. The sections are linked by a long lanai with a supporting colonnade of native ohia tree posts and floor-to-ceiling screens that keep the mosquitoes out and allow sunlight and breezes in.
IT'S EVIDENT why there's no need for much man-made art: The "walls" of screens reveal the gorgeous living murals of bougainvillea, orchids, heliconia, hapuu ferns, palms, ohia, monstera, century-old mango trees and more outside.
With an exterior painted black, the house appears to rise from the ebony lava upon which it stands. The effect is dramatic.
Owners Jack and Jane Stevenson like to describe the property's appeal with a story:
A few months ago a family from California booked the Falls at Reed's Island for five nights. The 50th birthday of one of the women fell during their stay, and, as a surprise, her sister asked the Stevensons if she could cover the window overlooking the falls with wrapping paper and a big bow.
"She said her sister loved waterfalls," said Jane, "and she wanted to 'give' her a waterfall as a birthday present. The family put blindfolds and earplugs on the birthday girl, walked her to the window and asked her to unwrap her present. We later heard that when she did, she was so touched and delighted by the scene, she had tears in her eyes."
THOSE SAME feelings of joy, awe and wonder inspired the Stevensons to purchase the house in 2003. At the time, they had been Kauai residents for 14 years, but they recognized its potential as a vacation retreat.
"We weren't planning to move because we had bought some rentals and were renovating those when Jane found this house for sale on the Internet," explained Jack. "Coincidentally, we were going to the Big Island that weekend, so we decided to take a look at it."
The showing was set for 11 a.m., and it was love at first sight. The Stevensons had scheduled a meeting at 1 p.m. with the contractor who was doing renovations on another property that they had purchased in Honokaa, but they realized they would have to cancel that appointment because they'd be busy writing up an offer on the Reed's Island home.
To properly manage the place, they also knew they'd have to move to Hilo. Said Jane, "We called our Realtor friend and said, 'We want you to sell our house on Kauai, and it has to close in six weeks.' He did it, and in six weeks we were on a flight to Hilo."
They haven't looked back. "We love living here," said Jack. "Hilo residents are very happy. They welcome visitors and make them feel like they're the most important people they've met that day. Jane and I had heard Hilo is like Honolulu was in the '50s, and having lived here for four years, we totally agree."
Their goal is to share that old-fashioned hospitality, to make guests feel like the Falls at Reed's Island is their home away from home -- comfortable, relaxing, rejuvenating.
Asked what is most distinctive about their Hilo hideaway, the Stevensons point out the accolades in their guest book.
"I have never been in so lovely a setting and been able to enjoy it with such perfect intimacy and privacy," observed one visitor.
"From dawn to dark we have been captive and can only speak in low voices (so as) not to break the spell," wrote another.
A third guest noted, "How rare to find a place so special that spending a day without going anywhere was a highlight."
Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based free-lance writer and Society of American Travel Writers award winner.