Pa'a Mo'olelo (respect for the wisdom of the Hawaiian Culture) at Kona Beach Houses
At Kona Beach House, we believe that maintaining a visible and vital connection to the Hawaiian culture is essential. When people visit our homes we want them to be reminded of the people who successfully inhabited this island for centuries without destroying their environment. We seek to sustain this connection by preserving evidence of their prior occupation and by making reference to their language and customs.
Evidence of their presence is found in the rock walls and the trail on the property.
Like the farmers of the Northeastern United States, the Hawaiians cleared their
land of loose rocks and made walls to separate properties (kuleana). These rock
walls, emblematic of the ancient culture, serve to remind us of those who were
the prior stewards of these lands.
In Hawai‘i, beach-front property lines extend to the mean high tide line. The old beach trail that divides the homes from the promontory, while technically on our property, is available to all to use as access along the water front.
We maintain our beaches and encourage the public to respect endangered and threatened species, the coral reef and the reef fish. The lagoon in front of our homes is a wonderful habitat for the honu (the green turtle) and there are usually at least one or two in the water or on the beach. These turtles are endangered so we post our beach to remind people not to bother them. We also were fortunate to have one of the approximately 1400 living Hawaiian Monk Seals visit our property for a few days. We were very careful to keep the public at a safe distance but everyone was very excited to see him.
Out on the rocks in front of our homes we find ample evidence of the presence of early Hawaiians. There is a flat slab of lava, carved to hold little stones for the game much like chess or checkers called Konane. There is a Ku‘i palu, a bowl carved in the lava where fish bait is pounded and there is a Pohaku pa‘a kai, a shallow depression in a large lava rock used to make sea salt.
Both the Plantation Manager’s Beach House and the Seaside Zen Cottage have many sustainable, or “green”, features.
Construction materials: In 1946 a huge tsunami hit the Hamakua Coast.
It destroyed several of the railroad bridges that spanned the deep gulches
along the Coast. These redwood bridges, probably built in the 19th century,
were too expensive to be rebuilt so the railroad was abandoned. Robbie
Robertson purchased one of the bridges, had it milled into suitable lumber
and trucked to Kona where it now exists as the Plantation Manager’s Beach
House. Termites don’t like redwood so the lumber has not been “treated”
Originally, perhaps as long ago as the 1800’s, the Seaside Zen Cottage was a teacher’s house in Hilo. Dr. Phillips, a Hilo physician, purchased the cottage, dismantled it, trucked it to Kona and had it reassembled. The Cottage is constructed of cedar which is also termite resistant and, likewise, has not been treated.
Both of the houses have been finished using local, renewable, materials. A factory in Hilo used to take bagass, a pulp waste product from the sugar cane plants and make it into “Canec”. This is a light weight and durable wall board.
Energy efficiency: Neither house has or needs heating or air conditioning. They are naturally ventilated. The Plantation House is designed so that its one-room depth extends facing the mountains on one side and the ocean on the other thus allowing for fresh breezes to flow mauka-makai (mountain-ocean) through the rooms. The open construction for the Cottage enjoys the same effect. We have installed energy star appliances and low energy light bulbs throughout both of the homes.
Both homes are on the site of an old kuleana (small land holding) and neither site has ever been graded. This means that there has been no alteration of the land form; the homes have not been built on a “green field.”
Both homes are equipped with photo voltaic solar panels. In the old days the only water we had for drinking and cooking was the water we captured off the roof and stored in redwood tanks. We will have to spend lots of kala to replace that old system. “Auwe!”
Each home has a recycling station for bottles, plastics and cans.
We also feel a responsibility to make meaningful contributions to the local economy. We employ local landscapers, tree trimmers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, painters, masons, house keepers, cooks, caterers and patronize local business. In addition, more than 35% of the amount spent by our guests goes to the County of Hawai‘i in the form of taxes to help the local economy.
All of our staff is local and our policy is to pay a living wage to everyone whom we employ.
Whenever we are using our home, we “buy local” at the farmers’ markets or locally owned businesses. We consciously select local products and we urge our guests to do the same.
We strive to preserve the Kama‘aina (children of the land) lifestyle and the sense of Hawai‘i and Kona as we knew it in the 1940’s and 50’s, and to share it with those who appreciate that simpler time.
Mahalo, Malama Pono
Ian F. Robertson, L.E.E.D.