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August 16, 2010

PLAY THE PLANTER IN YESTER-YEAR HAWAII


David Ellis

THINK Hawaii and the theatre of the mind conjures up pictures of bustling Honolulu, ice-cream stands and T-shirt shops, outriggers off Waikiki, surfboards and sunset cocktails, cornbeef hash, and prime rib topped with lobster tail…

And high-rise hotels and resorts sprawling to the horizon.

But close the eyes and imagine an Hawaii of a yesteryear. An Hawaii of over a century ago with quiet island lanes, beaches with nary a footprint to be seen, a place of lazing back in wicker chairs and rattan lounges, and for taking cocktails in cool breezes on shaded verandahs of gracious plantation homesteads amid palms and banyans…

If the idea appeals, then go back in time on Hawaii's movie-making isle of Kauai: At the Waimea Plantation Cottages, its possible to holiday in a one-time plantation manager's house, take walks on those beaches, sit out under the banyans, or fire up the gas barbecue for lazy evenings watching sunsets straight from a Hollywood props department.

Waimea's cottages go back to the late 19th century when vast sugar plantations enveloped tens of thousands of hectares of Kauai, each with its resident manager, assistant manager and an engineer overseeing the properties and the local Hawaiian and Chinese labor forces.

But with the motor car replacing the horse and sulky, time and distance between plantations were eroded, and by the 1940s with modernisation of mill plant and machinery there was little need to employ managers, assistants and engineers on all properties. Centralisation meant one small team could run a half dozen plantations.

Thus the late-1800s and early-1900s cottages and homesteads fell idle. Until the Waimea Plantation Cottages company came up with the idea of turning them into retreats for those looking for the unusual in self-catering holidays. At first it was thought that each property could operate as a stand-alone holiday unit, but the needs of maintaining and servicing just two or three cottages on each plantation proved too costly.

So it was decided to instead move the disused cottages to one property, with all services at one central point, and local Kauai residents awoke one morning in the 1990s to the sight of the first of several dozen old homesteads and cottages rumbling through their hamlets on caterpillar-like low-loaders enroute to Waimea on the island's south coast.

Once at Waimea they were set down amid 15ha of ocean-front coconut grove next to an historic sugar mill, all nicely spaced apart from each other, and with the coconut grove landscaped with hibiscus hedges for privacy, mown lawns and all myriad manner of tropical plants.

Each cottage was totally refurbished, maintaining the best of their yesteryear traditions, but with mod-cons demanded by latter-day holidaymakers. Original mahogany, rattan and wicker lounge and dining furniture was restored, kitchens fitted with fridges, microwaves, and cooktops, cupboards outfitted with everything needed for a self-catering holiday, master bedrooms equipped with ensuites, and original bathrooms/toilets modernised for other bedrooms.

Cottages and homesteads range from one- to five-bedrooms, with phones, weekly housekeeping, cable TV, 3m-wide verandahs with gas barbecues that can be wheeled out onto the lawns, selections of local magazines, a black-sand beach for walking and casting a line, a guest's pool beachside, and days of local sightseeing by car… from the vast Waimea Canyon, to the sites where over 100 movies and TV series have been made here on Hawaii's so-called Garden Isle.

There's also an excellent informal restaurant on the property – and for a cold drink on a warm day, its own boutique brewery.

The restaurant offers island favourites of beef and seafoods, as well as pizzas from a brick oven, island luau (underground oven) special evenings… and will deliver "sunset dinner" meals to your bungalow, or pack you a picnic lunch to take on a day's drive to one of Kauai's movie sites or national parks.

And to slake the thirst, the plantation's Waimea Brewing Company serves handcrafted home-brews in a yester-year pub atmosphere with multi-ethnic "plantation era" Polynesian, Asian and European light meals available (including wondrously sinful desserts,) and on select nights Hawaiian or blue grass country music.

There is also a full spa on the property.

Waimea Plantation Cottages can be booked through Canada & Alaska Specialist Holidays, 1300 79 49 59.   


PHOTO CAPTIONS:  

 

[] YESTER-YEAR Hawaiian plantation manager's home updated with all

    today's mod-cons

 

[] LARGER cottages are ideal for families

 

[] WAIMEA Plantation Cottages even has its own boutique brewery – and

   a restaurant

 

[] CURL up beachside in your hammock with a good book


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