Kalae'kilohana Inn: One Writer's Experience at the Edge of the World

And Why It's All Going To Be O.K. An Editorial by Publisher Brian Berusch

Kalae'kilohana Inn: One Writer's Experience at the Edge of the World

I am not a pessimist by nature. Yet our nation’s global position—paired with a certain book I recently read—has led me to continuously contemplate the tailspin our country might encounter in the coming years. There’s plenty of talk about “peak oil”—or the point in which life as we know it will be forced to change due to people’s inability to afford fossil fuels. Allow me to tell a tale of the book that triggered my neurosis—and the wonderful Hawaii experience that dragged back  to the rainbow-filled surface. 

No one leaps a short distance in to the future to lay out what daily life might be like quite like James Howard Kunstler. His book “World Made By Hand” is a tale that takes place, according to Kunstler, after the Bush family clan has turned our nation in to small town “tribes”. No more communication (due to no mass media), no cars, no electricity paint a world where people live solely by what is laid before them. The story focuses on a group of latent Christians who descend upon an upstate N.Y. town, in search of place to sow roots, after things in less-balanced regions of the country deteriorate. The group melds with the local community, which has faced their first bout of unnecessary violence—namely the untimely death of a young member of society. 

While really a yarn about making due with the resources available, Kunstler’s gift lies in painting an absolutely realistic portrait of what’s to come if drastic changes don’t take place in our local communities. He jumps straight to a time when global leaders—who presently refuse to take the reigns—are obsolete, if they even exist. Each village is left on its own to provide for the community, and daily existence is the sole goal for tomorrow. 

Last weekend, I experienced the kind of local cohesion that, to me, was the perfect model of a successful community. I was staying at an inn/B&B near South Point, on the Big Island of Hawaii, in the Ka’u district. The place is called Kalaekilohana, and it is run by two unique and hospitable gentlemen: Kenny Joyce and Kilohana Domingo. The pair have not only built a glorious structure, but forged relationships with local artisans, ranchers, farmers, wellness providers and cultural experts (of which Kilohana is one). The time I spent at Kalaekilohana was spent with no desire to connect to the outside world (although possible—phones and internet were available). Let me paint a picture…

On the second of a three-night-stay, our hosts organized a dinner at the inn. Invited were a dozen of the local providers whose farms, shops, gardens, corrals and hives we had visited over the previous two days. Each brought with them their top wares raised somewhere on the Ka’u Farm and Ranch’s 3,000-plus acres: Ka’u beef, flowers, vegetables and fruits, honey, coffee and more. Kenny and Kilohana brought in local slack key musician Chris Yeaton to provide music. Someone dropped off a fresh ahi they had caught in the morning. Joyce, an accomplished chef (and builder, plumber and sociologist) prepared 5-course meal that left everyone satiated and smiling. 

Seated at the dining table, I was immersed in wonderful conversation with fascinating people. I sat next to a Joan Obra, a Berkeley-trained journalist from California, who was present only because she was visiting her mother—Lori Obra—one of the top coffee farmers in Ka’u. Seated next to Joan was one of the top horse trainers and cattle ranchers in the entire State of Hawaii. Across the way, Chris Manfredi, a N.Y. expat-turned-rancher, and Michelle Galimba, whose family had been ranching in the area for decades, were engrossed in conversation with Alison Yahna, a beekeeper with an unrivaled passion for bee culture. Her product—Artemis Smiles Honey—is raw honey made throughout Ka’u, and was in a number of dishes served throughout the evening. Also in attendance were Will and Grace Tabios, owners of The Coffee Coop market and growers of coffee (which recently placed 6th in a worldwide blind tasting). Near the Tabios was Sohka and Ellis Hester, who brought with them so many varietals of produce that we were all shocked to learn their farm of 20-acres could hold so many offerings. 

Conversation throughout the room rarely broke a plane of subjects that ventured outside of Ka’u happenings. Talk of growing seasons, plans for the next harvest, development, music, and so on filled the air. After dinner, we retreated to the wrap-around lanai to listen to the night, sip aperitifs and weave haku lei with Kilohana, who had foraged for o’hia flowers and ti leaves earlier. There was much laughing, and there were many stories told. I went to sleep that evening thinking that I had just met the future leaders of our country. People who could provide, educate and sustain a village—without pretenses or agenda. 

For those of you who have read “World Made by Hand”, or have contemplated where in the world exists a society that could survive on what the land provides, wonder no further. As I hiked to Papakolea’s green sand beach (8 miles from Kalaekilohana’s driveway) the following morning, it dawned on me that there may be a day in the foreseeable future when cars, Starbucks and Wal-Marts ceased to exist. Yet if that day comes, I hope I find myself listening to the ping of glasses raised between ranchers, beekeepers, farmers and innkeepers of Ka’u. I’m sure it will sound just as it did last weekend, before I was forced to return to a less civilized civilization. 

Kalaekilohana has four guestroom, each with private bathrooms (and rain showers!),  lanai and queen-sized beds. Some rooms have more than one bed, so inquire as to what will fit your needs best. 

Rates are $189 per night. 

Visit  www.kau-hawaii.com or call (808) 939-8052 for more information. 

"Conversation throughout the room rarely broke a plane of subjects that ventured outside of Ka’u happenings. Talk of growing seasons, plans for the next harvest, development, music, and so on filled the air."