My wife and I stayed at the Palms Cliff House for three nights in December 2005. We wanted to stay on the Big Island so that we could go to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and we chose to spend most of our time on the Eastern side of the island to be closer to the park.
Having made that choice, our options for lodging were more limited. Kona, on the Western side of the island, is the main tourist destination on the island and, as a result, has many nice hotel options. Hilo on the other hand is quite different -- the weather isn't as nice as on the other side of the island and nearly everyone in Hilo is local, so there is little reason to build nice new hotels. We were disappointed in Hilo's selection of hotels, so we searched for B&Bs and found the Palms Cliff House about 15 minutes North of Hilo.
The Palms Cliff House was a single residence when purchased by its current owners and they built an additional wing to the house which contains the 8 guest rooms. The guest wing and the house itself are connected by a short (about 15 foot) open-air walkway. The guests have 24-hour access to the guest lounge that is part of the original house. In the guest lounge, there is a refrigerator with soft drinks, an ice machine, snacks available for purchase, and a large collection of DVDs which guests are welcome to take to their rooms. (Other reviewers have mentioned some of these details already.)
We stayed in the "Ballissimo [sic] Suite" at a rate of $395/night. Our room was very nicely appointed and we enjoyed having the whirlpool tub in the bay window. The pictures of the suite on the website are exactly what the room looks like. We found the room and bathroom to be very clean and well-maintained. Our room had an air conditioner and we used it frequently during the day -- I definitely recommend getting one of the rooms with A/C. (At night, we turned off the A/C & left the windows open so that we could listen to the ocean hitting the rocks at the base of the cliff as we went to sleep.) The rooms have private balconies and sliding screen doors in addition to the sliding glass doors leading on to the balcony. From the balcony, you have a nice view of the ocean, although there are trees and tropical plants growing on the grounds. We liked the vegetation, but obviously (from other reviews) some people don't. Take a look at the pictures on the website and you'll see what to expect.
The house has a large, wrap-around porch that faces the ocean. Breakfast is served at several tables on the end of the porch, so guests have a beautiful view of the ocean as you eat. We enjoyed the breakfast itself the morning we were able to eat (more on that later). We had a nice quiche, some type of non-pork sausage (maybe turkey, I forget), and a fruit mix of mango and banana. Because we stayed on Christmas Day, breakfast was not served. The owners made it clear well in advance that we should not expect breakfast that morning, so we were prepared. Additionally, they put together a list of area restaurants that would be open so that guests would have an easier time finding a place to eat. We appreciated that.
The only disappointment about breakfast came on the day that we left. Our flight left Hilo at 7:00 so we had to check-out early to get to the airport. As other reviewers have noted, breakfast at the Palms Cliff House is served from 8:00-8:20. See the problem? We knew we'd be missing the nice breakfast, but we were disappointed that we weren't even able to get a cup of coffee before we left (we asked that morning when we turned in our key). At $395/night, an early cup of coffee isn't too much to ask. While I'm suggesting improvements, it would be nice if early-departing guests could get a banana or cellophane-wrapped muffin along with a cup of coffee.
Others have commented on the owners' hospitality, demeanor, attitute, or whatever you want to call it. My wife and I found the owners to be friendly, helpful when needed, and willing to provide suggestions and information about the area when asked. The important part of that last sentence is "when asked." Once the owner showed us to our room, we were left alone to do our own thing. That was exactly what we wanted. When we go on vacation, we research things to do before we reach our destination. We have a general idea of what we want to do when we get there and then we get a little advice from the locals to go from place to place or to change our plans. Not everyone is like us. From reading other reviews, some people want a lot of interaction with the owners at a B&B. If that's what you're looking for, this may not be the place for you to stay. John and Michele are great people, but they pretty much stay out of your way. We liked that.
We certainly felt welcome at the Palms Cliff House. The night we arrived, John and Michele were hosting a Christmas party for their friends at the house. They invited the guests, but did not pressure us to attend. We went to the party, planning to stay for 30 minutes at the most and then go to dinner somewhere in Hilo. When we got to the kitchen, they had prepared two or three tables of food and had probably a dozen various bottles of wine open on the porch. We met some of the guests as well as some of John and Michele's friends and family, including a fascinating couple who had spent time living in Newfoundland, all the Pacific Coast states, and too many other places to name. In the end, we spent several hours at the party, never left for dinner, and had a great time. We were treated like we "belonged" in the group and were made to feel very welcome.
Other reviews have mentioned the "shoes off" policy. This seems to be mandatory for the guest rooms & optional for the rest of the house. We made sure we took our shoes off when we were in our room. We also took our shoes off at the Christmas party because the other party guests did but were quickly told that we were welcome to wear our shoes if we would be more comfortable with them on. (We kept them off.) As I understand it, it is a traditional sign of respect to remove your shoes when you are a guest in someone else's home in Hawaii. It was an easy decision for us. Decide for yourself whether you are willing to participate in the "shoes off" tradition.
If we had it to do over, we'd stay here again. The price is more than you'd want to pay, but so is just about everything else here. We enjoyed the location & the Palms Cliff House is a nice place to stay. We thought the hosts did a good job, but they aren't long-time professional hoteliers. If you require concierge service at your hotels, you'll be better off somewhere else. On the other hand, if you're looking for the nicest place to stay on the Hilo side of the island, then you've found it.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- This 3.5 acre private estate offers sweeping ocean views perched ocean side atop a 100 foot cliff. Delicious full breakfasts are included in the regular room rates. Honored in Song and depicted in hula, this inn specializes in catering to couples seeking a quiet and romantic get away that embodies the feeling of the Old Hawaii we all dream about. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- The Palms Cliff House Hotel Honomu
- The Palms Cliff Hotel
- Palms Cliff Hotel
- The Palms Cliff House Inn Hawaii/Honomu