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“Slice of Paradise” 5 of 5 stars
Review of River Estate

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River Estate
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5-6691 Kuhio Highway, Hanalei, Kauai, HI 96714   |  
Hotel website
Hotel amenities
Ranked #3 of 7 Hanalei B&B and Inns
Senior Reviewer
8 reviews 8 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
18 helpful votes 18 helpful votes
“Slice of Paradise”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 1, 2013

Peace-filled, kind, comforting. Symphony of baritone frog, strident roosters, and quiet--no sound--surround you.

The yard is very pleasant in the morning. Sit by the slow clear stream while birds feast on guava and java fruit (which sometimes plunk into the river), enjoy the flap of banana tree leaves across the road, or practice tai chi. The tall ti plants with purple leaf crowns are a constant comfort, graceful, beautiful, and strong. The leaves (luau) once wrapped goodies baked at the prime Hawaiian feast.

Clean, well maintained and elegantly presented. Kitchen is well stocked, former guests keep the cupboards unbare. We added to the offerings. So easy to feel right at home the very first day. We hung out here and felt happy, even blessed.

Some favorites:
Hint: The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook (Mark has a copy on the coffee table) is spot on and full of accurate maps.

• Farmer’s Markets in town: Tues, 9:30, as you go into town from the Riverhouse, and Sat, 9:30, at the Community Center. Try the Choc. Mousse from the couple who also make 12-layer lasagna. Yes, 12. Wonderful for fruits and vegies and crafts.

• Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar and Ukulele, McMaster’s duo (Dong and Sandy), Community Center, Fridays (4 p.m.) and Sundays (3 p.m.). Excellent!

• Tunnels Beach—a winner; Hanalei Bay—calm, protected bay for swimming. Lots of beaches to explore—see Ultimate Kauai Guidebook

• Places to Eat: Bar Acuda—very good, drinks are pricey at $15 each but oh so good. Urban feel. The roasted lentil small plate is excellent; Mediterranean Gourmet—just down the road from you, is creative and very good. Several Lebanese dishes. The lima bean stew is excellent as is the Greek salad, beef shish kabobs, hummus, best pita bread. Some standard American cuisine with less spice. Divine crème brulee. AND music on some nights with a wonderful view; Kauai Ono—locally recommended, only serve their several course dinner once/week under a tent, call 808.634.3244 for reservations or leave an email message, address available on their website; Tahiti Nui—fun crowd, music most nights, great mai tai’s, also have a luau on Wed nights (Mark highly recommends it); Hanalei Pizza—wonderful crust and reasonable prices, byob, sit out on the tables, pizza is decent; Village Snack and Bakery—good for breakfast, and apple cobbler, cinnamon rolls, large donut holes. Understated and very good. If you need breakfast on your way to the airport, try Tip Top in Lihue, local favorite, and very good. Why not buy some of their choc dipped macadamia nut cookies for the plane ride?

• Shaved Ice: get some! At Tunnels Beach, Wishing Well in Hanalei, Princeville right next to Foodland. Go ahead and try a scoop of ice cream on the bottom with shaved ice on top. Diet when you get home.

• Hikes: we took two—Kuilau Ridge Trail (see Ultimate Kauai Guidebook for details, amazing views, easy to moderate hike) and Kalalau Trail (we did the first two miles. Challenging but worth it for the views. We bought some hiking poles at a snorkel shop and they helped. We’re in our mid-60’s and one of us has had two foot surgeries and has post polio and the other lower back issues. You can do this!) You have Mark’s hottub to soak in when you return and it is just right. Oh my, loved it.

• Highlight Experiences that Float:

Kaua’i’s Hindu Monastery (before the Kalalau Trail Hike)—incredible place. Call ahead for free tour and you can take a self-guided tour as well. They have daily services, about 1 ½ hours long and we participated, our first Hindu service. Absolutely beautiful place and so welcoming. See guidebook for directions.

Limahuli Gardens—just down the road from you. A “living” Hawaiian landscape with ancient roots, indigenous and nearly extinct plants and hope for the future. They are reconstructing what the landscape might have looked liked in ancient times and also preserving what matters here. Excellent self-guided tour and also you can schedule a tour.

Snorkeling at Tunnels Beach. We had two glorious days before the high surf rolled in. Turtle-sighting and so clear, lots of fish.

Get up early and just listen on the lanai, keep the doors and windows open. Don’t busy up all your days here. Soak in Aloha time, let the humidity open your pores and the peace and soft environ open your hearts. Be here. Now.

Mahalo Nui Loa,
We shall return to Riverhouse and practice Aloha in between.

Room Tip: Two properties available. Riverhouse has the hot tub and is larger than the other house.
See more room tips
  • Stayed October 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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31 reviews from our community

Traveler rating
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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (2)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 18, 2013

There has been so much said about River Estate that any superlatives I might add are just added verbiage.

All I might add is this. If you do not stay here, you're doing yourself a huge disservice.

While trying to submit this review it seems I must add more characters.

Let me add, if I must.

Mark is awesome. The residence is awesome. If you stay elsewhere, you've really missed out on a special experience.

  • Stayed August 2013
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 28, 2013

The property is as advertised and can be a great location depending on your activities. Hanalei is a bit expensive so you are better to pick up groceries at Walmart near the air port. We loved the beaches there and the extras that Mark left for us, beach chairs & boogie boards. The kitchen area/living area was a bit dark especially since the light over the table was out. The only thing that we were disappointed with was the list of expectations he left. It was a warning of how expensive electricity was for Kauai so don't be leaving the a/c on if you aren't there. You are asked to recycle, but we didn't have any recycle bins to separate our trash into, asked us to put in a load of laundry before we left( I believe there's a hefty cleaning fee that should take care of that) and not to put anything abnormal in the toilet, which we didn't and the toilet did overflow the day we left. It was oblivious that it overflowed before we came because there were bath rugs in the trash. There is no cell service at the house but there was for us before going through the gate to the property. Plenty of movies to watch and Internet was available.

  • Stayed June 2013, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 20, 2013

We had such a great time staying at the Guest House at River Estate and two months later, we still dream of the great times we had celebrating our 10th anniversary in Kauai after a 5-year gap since our last trip.

The owner (Mark) was great to work with and very accommodating when we ran into a couple of hurdles, including us losing our keys and getting locked out the house the last day. The guy taking care of the landscaping was a huge help to us too! Since this place is located on the North Shore (by far our favorite part of the island) it is located close to some awesome beaches and our favorite little town of Hanalei. There, we shopped at the BEST Quicksilver surf shop and we stumbled across a farmer's market, which was fantastic.

The House: comfortable, stylish, relaxing, private, secluded, clean
The Grounds: gorgeous! (I still want to find a way to get an inflatable raft and take it from the house to the beach downstream from the river.)
The Owner: friendly, local, helpful, accommodating

The only very small thing that would have been nice is to have some kind of AC turned on the day of our arrival. It was extremely hot in the house when we arrived and it took a few hours for things to cool down. Maybe we are just spoiled with our cold AC's here in Texas! :-)

We cannot wait to come back and stay here again one of these years and possibly bring our kiddoes along next time.

  • Stayed May 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
5 reviews 5 reviews
3 hotel reviews
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 14, 2013

I just returned from my annual (at least) pilgrimage to River Estate and Guest House...I've lost count how many times I've stayed at Guest House but at this point I know I left a dozen behind a few trips ago. If you want to experience the true true island lifestyle, get personalized treatment and amenities a hotel can't touch (and at a reasonable price), look no more.

At River Estate Mark provides a beautiful house with everything you could possibly want in the middle of complete paradise! I've had the pleasure of watching the jungle grow for over ten years now and even though it seems impossible, it just keeps getting more beautiful with each visit.

The location can't be beat...close enough to Hanalei and Princeville if you simply must connect with civilization, but if you want time to rejuvenate and connect with nature and some of the most beautiful (and accessible) beaches in Hawaii, just head across the double bridges and take your pick. I really recommend picking up groceries on the way in and planning to have a few meals on the lanai...the house is stocked with a variety of condiments and spices (it's kind of fun to see and use what's there) and anything you barbeque and eat in that setting will taste fabulous.

If you need to catch up on your sleep, this is the place! The song of the river will soothe you and you will get the best sleep of your life. I've done a bit of traveling in my time and visited quite a few locations in the Caribbean and the other Hawaiian Islands, but at this point, I see no reason to go anywhere else.

Mark is the perfect host...responsive if you need something (but doubt you will) and you'll wonder how that house is so clean!

Leave your slippahs at the bottom of those stairs and forget about them...you won't be needing them. I recommend you also read russellliesch's review - it is spot on..."be here now". I think of River Estate as my second home. I'm always plotting my return as soon as I leave.

  • Stayed July 2013, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Great Falls, Virginia
1 review
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed July 8, 2013

We loved Kauai but would not return to this location.

What worked:

- Great location for north shore activities like snorkeling and hiking Na Pali trail.
- House is very clean and kitchen well-stocked with appliances
- Plenty of hot water. Great water pressure
- Pleasantly landscaped setting with stream nearby
- Good wifi and free phone
- Feels private and secure

We discovered that our host had been sick in weeks proceeding the trip and during our stay. While we truly wish him well, we also wish he'd gotten some support or back up as we felt quite unsupported.

What didn't work:

- Owner failed to respond to weeks of emails and phone calls requesting information as we approached beginning of trip
- Owner failed to provide us with critical information about how to get in the house, leaving us stranded the first day
- Owner failed to respond to requests for maintenance issues: (hot tub wasn't hot, washing machine didn't work)
- House has low ceilings and was kind of dark. We didn't find it a comfortable place to hang out
- There is a dog kennel or something similar nearby with incessant barking
- Bed in master bedroom is soft. We had asked if it was firm and was told it was. We had to move to another room with a smaller, firmer bed.
- House was not stocked with enough toilet paper, paper towels, garbage bags and dishing washing liquid.

  • Stayed June 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 1 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
mbeqd, Owner at River Estate, responded to this review, July 16, 2013
Reviews are a fact of life now. I think it's obvious this person probably would never have been happy. That being said there are a couple of issues that I will agree on. I was inattentive to their needs prior to arrival due to six weeks down with bronchitis twice for a period of 6 weeks out in the period of eight weeks. The hot tub had a tripped breaker on the exterior plug and was repaired the next day. The washing machine front loader door hinges need replacing and they happened to stay when the parts were in transit. I'm sure I told them to use the washer on the deck of the Guest House. The ceilings are standard height and in 15 years of doing this nobody has ever said it was not pleasant to "hang out" in. The master bedroom mattress is more comfortable to me than my Tempurpedic. We stock the houses with what we feel is a good minimum amount of everything. I don't hear them saying they ran out nor did I ever get a call asking for more. It would have been provided to them.
I am very concerned about my not being able to cover my self in the office when I'm out for an extended period and had already started making those arrangements before I saw this review. These last three months have brought this to light as it is a new phenomena for me since expanding my services to include concierge services and a solidly booked calendar for both homes. To me this review smacks of "punishment" from a reviewer for my perceived "failures". It's just the way it is now in the internet age. I didn't fail them at all. Every failure or unhappiness can easily be addressed in detail. I'm not going to do that here. We learn, improve and move on.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 26, 2013

If you've just landed at Lihui airport and can't wait to go south to Poipu with its popular beaches, arid climate, sea vistas unbroken by the soggy jungle mountains to the north, plenty of like-minded other visitors to get to know and socialize with, and numerous resorts to choose from, River Estate probably isn't for you.

Located in Haena, Mark's place might seem a little remote at first. Here's how you get there: instead of heading south from Lihui, go north to Princeville where you'll come to the only significant elevation change you're likely to encounter on Kauai as you descend down a narrow road into the Hanalei Valley. Wait for your turn, then cross the first of seven one-lane bridges to the end of the island. For the next five miles the road meanders along the coastline, revealing unbelievable knock-your-socks-off landscapes around every turn. To your right is the Pacific like you've never seen it, turquoise beyond belief; on your right are four million year old cliffs carved jagged as sharks teeth,entirely covered in jungle foliage. Straight ahead is the Na Pali shoreline, looking like something straight out of Robinson Caruso. Five miles down the road from Hanalei you'll come to the fifth bridge, a two-section affair with a sharp right a third of the way in. Don't go across this bridge; you're here. Mark's place is on the left (obviously, there's a river and the ocean on the right) at the very end of the path that leads off the road from just in front of the two-section bridge.
When you drive onto the property and down the path you'll be driving through an amazing botanical garden. All around are house plants like you've seen many times but these are huge house-size house plants that nearly block the jungle and bamboo forest that lies just beyond. Flowing down the right side of the property is the Wainiha River, which can rage during a strong rain, something not unheard of on the North Shore. About a tenth of a mile down the path from the main road is the place. You'll first see it about a hundred yards away, sitting by itself on ten-foot stilts with nothing but jungle and river all around.
After fourteen steps up you'll get to the lanai that goes around the river side and the back side of the house. There's the usual amenities on the lanai - BBQ, washer, dryer, teak table, four teak chairs, river view, sunlight filtered through the canopy of the surrounding eighty feet high hardwoods. At the front door you'll find a ceramic tile that says, basically, take your shoes off in the house. When you open the door, you'll know why. The place is immaculate. Cherry floors throughout, great furniture, beds that will make you reluctant to get up on the mornings. And in the mornings... set the coffee to start at five forty five, wake up by then anyway (if the river doesn't wake you up, the roosters will), be lazy about crawling out of bed to just be amazed at the view you've woken up to. Grab a cup and drive the half mile toward Hanalei to Lumahai Beach and get set for a sunrise walk along a mile long crescent beach you're not likely to forget - amazing turquoise waves, amazing sand, Wainiha River flowing into the ocean along the north end, a curious little cove at the other. And no footprints. After an hour or so, you'll be ready to head back to the house for breakfast on the lanai - the kitchen is totally equipped (and often as not has a pretty thoroughly stocked bar, everybody just leaves what they don't drink) - then have to decide how much of the day to spend just sitting there. It doesn't take long to realize you don't really feel compelled to venture too far from here, that being tucked into this little corner of Haena sets your soul free, that being here is everything it needs to be. Thanks, Mark, for this simply amazing place.

  • Stayed May 2013
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 6
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about River Estate

Address: 5-6691 Kuhio Highway, Hanalei, Kauai, HI 96714
Phone Number:
Location: United States > Hawaii > Kauai > Hanalei
Beach Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Kitchenette Suites
Hotel Style:
Ranked #3 of 7 B&Bs / Inns in Hanalei
Number of rooms: 5
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
A personal message to my potential guests.... 'I have lived on Kauai for 43 years now, owned and managed River Estate for the past 18 of them and I provide complimentary concierge services to all my guests from the moment they book. Please feel free to ask me about all Kauai has to offer and let me help you make the most of your vacation time here.'Mark Barbanell, Owner of River Estate There are two homes at River Estate (One 2 bedroom 2 bath called the Guest House and one 3 bedroom 2 bath called the Riverhouse) Both homes are on the estate grounds next to the river in the same proximity to the water yet far apart. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
River Estate Hanalei, Kauai

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