Rebuilding Makawao


POSTED: Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cherie Attix fell in love with the old five-bedroom house in Makawao the moment she saw it in 1996. Friends had told her about it, hoping she'd partner with them to buy, fix and flip it.






        » Address: 32 Pakani Place, Makawao, Maui


» Call: 572-6698 or 281-2074


» Rates: $125 to $185 per night for the inn's four units (one is a two-bedroom suite), depending on length of stay. There's a $15 surcharge for a one-night stay. Kamaaina receive a 5 percent discount. Prices include a continental buffet breakfast of fresh tropical fruit (most of which is picked from the on-property garden), bagels and breads from Maui, yogurt, jams, jellies, Hawaii-grown coffee and a selection of teas and juices.


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» Notes: Guests must be at least 9 years old. Check out Attix's blog, Hookipa Aikane (Home-Sharing Friend), which can be accessed via a link on the inn's Web site or directly at It contains tips and interesting information about the inn, Maui and Hawaii in general.



“;No one was living there,”; recalled Attix. “;I had to walk through tall clumps of weeds to get to the front door. It was unfurnished and there was trash everywhere. Some of the windows were broken, and there were holes in the floor. Vines were climbing to the roof. And it was dark, really dark, like a cave.”;

Still, something about the house called to her.

Attix loved its clean, simple lines; high ceilings; wide porches; built-in shelves; and open floor plan with lots of windows, all of which are typical of the “;craftsman style”; of architecture that's prevalent in Berkeley, Calif., where she grew up.

  Although she had no background in construction, she could tell the “;bones”; of the house were good, so she bought it on her own, figuring she would learn how to do the necessary repairs or hire a professional to handle them.

As it turned out, Attix wound up doing a lot of the work herself, including sanding, painting, stripping worn linoleum and restoring the garden, which is now a flourishing Eden of organic avocado, lilikoi (passion fruit), bananas, papayas, mangoes and more. A 150-year-old, 165-foot Norfolk Island pine provides ample shade for reading, napping and picnics.

Attix started operating the house as a bed-and-breakfast, Hale Hookipa Inn Makawao, within six months after she purchased it. Fittingly, its Hawaiian name means “;house of hospitality.”;

Built in 1924, the house is on both the state and national registers of historic places. Its original owners were Francisco and Theresa Gomes, Portuguese immigrants who raised 13 children there. The family ran a variety of businesses, including a dairy, cattle ranch, grape orchard and woodcutting venture.

Five years ago the couple's grandchildren held a weekend reunion at the inn, complete with singing, storytelling, a display of family photos and meals of bean soup, “;pao doce”; (sweet bread), malasadas and other traditional Portuguese fare.

“;Some of them hadn't seen each other in 30 years,”; said Attix. “;They said the house was beautiful, just the way it was when their grandparents lived here. There's good mana (energy) in this house. That's what attracted me to it—the feeling of stepping back in time to a more genteel era.”;

  TO PRESERVE the inn's historic appeal, Attix decorated it with art, collectibles and furniture that recall the Hawaii of the 1920s through the 1940s; think old bottles, claw-foot bathtubs, full-length mirrors framed in wood and kitschy hula girl lamps.

The former owner of an antique shop in Kahului, Attix continually haunts secondhand stores, garage sales and estate sales for appropriate pieces.

“;I have a knack for finding cool stuff,”; she said. “;Some guests have even talked me out of some of the furnishings.”;

Guests gather for breakfast around a handsome 6-foot koa table that was crafted by Hilo Boarding School students around 1900. Eight koa chairs match the table perfectly, even though they were made more than 70 years later.

Attix welcomes guests from all over the world. A German couple enjoyed their five-week stay so much, they cried when they left. One morning, couples from Japan, India and New Jersey joined a Maori woman from New Zealand at the breakfast table.

Another day, a couple from Northern California delighted fellow guests by playing tunes on the “;nyckelharpa,”; a Swedish instrument known as the “;finger fiddle.”;

“;Other visiting musicians have given impromptu concerts here, and they're always a treat,”; said Attix. “;A kumu hula (hula teacher) from Japan and her daughter danced a lot in the house during the few days they were here. Whenever my 12-year-old granddaughter Mehana comes from the Big Island to visit me, she can be seen dancing in the yard.”;

Breakfast conversations inevitably turn to guests' plans for the day, and Attix is pleased to offer suggestions on activities, attractions, events, dining, shopping, whatever they want to know and she feels will enrich their experience on Maui.

“;For me it's all about making them feel at home,”; she said. “;When I opened Hale Hookipa, I didn't know anything about the hospitality business. Then I thought about how much I like meeting nice people when I'm traveling. Remembering that makes being a good hostess easy.”;


Christmas in Makawao

Makawao town, just two minutes by car from Hale Hookipa, will be throwing a holiday party on Dec. 6. Among the plans are a farmers' market with sales of jams, jellies, fresh leis and more; orchid, wreath, cookie and used-book sales; and demonstrations of ornament making, gift wrap paper making, lei making and woodcarving.

Kids will enjoy face painting, pony rides and visits with Santa. Artists will be painting on the streets that day; stores will be offering great holiday promotions; restaurants will be offering lunch and dinner specials; and high school bands and ukulele groups will provide entertainment.

At dusk, Auntie Rose Freitas, a beloved kupuna, will ride into town on horseback to light the star on the Norfolk Island pine beside Komoda Store & Bakery on Baldwin Avenue. Call 572-6877 for more information.


Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Bulletin have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.