In the two and a half weeks we spent in the island of Hawai’i, we stayed at a timeshare, two bed & breakfasts, and a resort hotel. We did it in that order because, as more avid hikers than beach loungers, we figured we’d tire ourselves out in the first ten days and then lounge around at a Marriott for the last five. The two bed and breakfasts we stayed at were on the Big Island, the Shipman House in Hilo and then the Hale Maluhia Country Inn in Kailua-Kona.
Bed & Breakfasts often have better rates, significantly more personal service, but their variance in quality is much greater. If better rates and more personal service appeal to you, the variance in quality might be the only sticking point in the whole deal. The appeal of a major brand, whether it’s a Marriott or a Hilton or a MacDonalds, is that you expect consistency regardless of location. A Marriott in one city should give the same level of service as a Marriott in another. There might be small differences but the quality should be above a certain level. You also know that if you don’t get the quality you feel you’ve paid for, there’s a big megacorporation you can complain to. With a bed and breakfast, you’re often dealing with the owner-operator and the best they can do is say they’re sorry and refund you some of the money.
With many bed and breakfasts, you’re essentially renting a room in someone’s house, albeit a much nicer and probably more organized house. With the Shipman House and the Hale Maluhia, we really saw both ends of the spectrum when it comes to bed and breakfasts. The Shipman House was this elegant and refined Victorian building that had so much history and culture to explore. The Hale Maluhia was far more rustic and less refined but certainly had a “tree-house” type atmosphere that we also enjoyed. Both places served breakfast with a beautiful selection of locally grown fruits and incredible Kona coffee. The next time we go back we would certainly stay at the Shipman House (Hale Maluhia was okay too, but we probably wouldn’t go back, especially if the owner is trying to sell it).
Local Flavor & Personal Service
Bed and Breakfasts aren’t always cheaper but you can always depend on a more personal level of service and a better sense of local life. I like nice hotels as much as the next person, but you always pay a premium (even if it’s a discounted premium) and you always get a ‘sanitized’ version. If that’s your preference, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, if you want a better taste of local living, you can’t go wrong with a bread and breakfast. At the Shipman House, the proprietor was so kind to us and told us where all the good places were.
As mentioned earlier with the variance between the Hale Maluhia and the Shipman House, it’s difficult to know if you’re going to get a good place, a great place, or a so-so place. I would categorize Hale Maluhia as a so-so place and the Shipman House as a great place (but you do pay a premium), but it’s hard to tell from the online reviews and testimonials. My advice is to read a lot (I’m now a huge fan of unbiased Hawaii blogs like GoVisitHawaii, I’m addicted to that particular one though) and try to find as many pictures as you can, pictures can lie but they’re better than nothing.
So, before you just book a room at the Marriott, consider a bed and breakfast; you might be pleasantly surprised!