with all the travelling i have been fortunate to experience, i had never had the opportunity to visit the hawaiian islands. all that changed a few weeks ago when my aunt sent me a harmless email telling me she had this crazy idea and i might just be crazy enough to do it. they had just purchased a vacation property on the lush south west coast of the big island in a small community called kona paradise, 26 miles south of kailua-kona town. after we talked over various scenarios, it was decided that i would head to hawaii with my 13 y/o son j and get this place together as a family vacation destination as well as a vacation rental – all with the outside dream that my aunt and uncle might eventually be able to spend more and more time there.
as i pushed my rented wrangler south down the winding hawaii belt road at times hitting elevations of 3,000 feet above sea level, i could see what drew people to the island. waves crashing against the hard lava coastlines gave way to small coves lined with almost personal sized beaches; bougainvillea dripped onto the roadway alongside giant agave americana and cactus. closer to kona paradise sat a hillside cemetery under a grove of tropical trees with huge trunks each supporting a sprawling canopy that covered the roadway. in my 10 days here i would learn every twist and bend of this 26 mile stretch of winding road intimately as i scoured the small hamlet of kailua-kona town for everything needed to make this house a tropical home and schlepping it back.
upon arriving at the house, you can’t help but be impressed. built 900 feet above sea level, on stilts, the glass fronted home rises out of the it’s lush, deeply sloped lot surrounded by coconut palms swaying in the trade winds, avocado and mango trees bearing fruit and a complete array of foliage and flowers filling in every nook and cranny available. geckos scurry up the tree trunks almost racing you as you climb the stairs up to the lanai where you are immediately struck by a sunset view of the mighty pacific ocean, with only a coconut palm or two to ground you. i spend many an evening watching the sun dip into the water colouring the sky with every tone of red, orange and tangerine available to mother nature.
now the work began. the previous tenants left an array of issues to be dealt with including a enormous tv armoire, complete with a non-functioning tv, old mattresses (remember, the house is on stilts!) and a carpet looking like perhaps they were mud wrestlers in their spare time. the beautiful garden was overgrown, and the coconuts a hazard! i was gonna need some muscle – luckily the aloha spirit is alive and well in kona paradise and in a matter of a few days john agreed to provide the muscle that would be needed over the next few weeks to bring this diamond in the rough back to her rightful place on the street. mealani, john is her ‘sweetie’, had already agreed to clean the house between visitors. i felt fortunate to meet these two friends early in the trip, they put my mind at ease and provided me with some information that i would need to complete the project.
delivery to kona paradise seemed to be more difficult than i had imagined but luckily i started to build a relationship with greg, the sales person at gray’s furniture in kailua-kona town, and he was able to find someone that wasn’t afraid of a little hard work and only a few days after i arrived he delivered several mattresses, their box springs, along with several pieces of furniture i had picked out. the place was starting to come together.
when it comes to putting a house together, speed is not something i strive for. making decisions on design in hurry and choosing furniture that will remain with you for years to come needs without time to think things through leads to mistakes being made. working from scratch on an incredibly short time frame was going to challenge me. not only did i have to worry about big things, i had to worry about all the little things that one would need on vacation away from home. dishes needed to be bought, towels chosen – what about a knife set? for these things, i chose target. i was there so much that the cashiers knew me by name and would comment on my choices, even remembering what i had previously purchased. now, if we could only get a target here in vancouver.
despite being called the big island, there is nothing big about it. most of the furniture purchases ended up coming from two dealers in kailua-kona town; fine bamboo and teak furniture and gray’s furniture located just down the road from each other. i felt like i was haunting the stores by the time i left the island. every day coming in, measuring, pairing things up – collecting furniture. then every day loading up the jeep and making the drive back down the island where j and i would lug our finds up the stairs and carefully arrange them to take full advantage off the views and space.
as our time on the island came to end, i was thrilled with what i accomplished in the short time i was there. to turn an empty (and dirty!) shell into a d 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom vacation dream home for under $10K, so a family could just show up with there suitcases was pretty good too! there would always be more things to do, more things to add and more ideas to come and with a long rainy vancouver monsoon season on the horizon, perhaps i will just have to pop over there and work on some more things!