Hawaii’s largest island — affectionately called Big Island because of its enormity, but officially known as the island of Hawai’i — features peak levels of natural diversity. With walk-in cameos from ten of the world’s fourteen climate zones, ranging from the tropical and continuously wet climate of Hilo and Akaka Falls to the hot semi-desert of Kailua-Kona, all the way up to the snow-capped and summer-dry climate of Mauna Loa, we knew we were in for all kinds of shenanigans trekking through the island. Desperate to soak in as much of Hawai’i’s variety as possible, we booked three Airbnbs in different spots over our six day visit: one in a hot and humid fern forest, one on a sparse and dry lava field, and one on a California coast-feeling mango farm.
While these Airbnbs all offered stupidly beautiful architectural design, we were most attracted to them due to their off-the-grid nature, running solely on solar energy and reusing captured rainwater. Traveling inherently leaves a nasty carbon footprint, something we’ve been eagerly trying to offset in as many ways as possible; with that in mind, these Airbnbs appealed to our goal of traveling as sustainably as possible.
Which one of the Airbnbs most appeals to you?
Pro Tip: Unique accommodations similar to these Airbnbs will book up quickly, so plan far in advance. We booked 9 months in advance this time around.
The Dreamy Tropical Treehouse
Fern Forest, Hawaii
It’s hard to do justice to this Airbnb through words. Set back a quick walk from an increasingly uneven gravel road (a high clearance vehicle required), this Airbnb treehouse in Fern Forest captures the quintessential nature of off-the-grid living. Perched atop a set of stilts, the 180 degree views from the bedroom offer unobstructed views of the forest canopy around you; meanwhile, the provided binoculars and wrap-around porch give ample opportunity to go watching for the family of wild pigs that live in the underbrush. Oh, and you can’t forget the outdoor-indoor shower where you can soak in even more views in the buff. Maybe most magical, at least to me — and Jen might disagree — is the lullaby the forest provides at night through the orchestral performance of the onomatopoeically named coqui frog.
The Phoenix House (Lava Field)
Some landscapes just speak to you; the lava fields on which Phoenix House stands, however, yell and challenge you not to be taken in by their stark beauty. Built atop the site of a former coastal town that was subsumed by a volcanic lava flow in the 1990s, Phoenix House — and the Kalapana Gardens neighborhood in which it is a part — truly rose from the ashes. With a homey but industrial vibe, and with the host of Phoenix House offering a full spectrum of additional amenities (tours of sacred spaces in the area, yoga classes, and traditional Hawaiian massages), Phoenix House is a must stay.
The Nature Ohana (Mango Farm)
Captain Cook, Hawaii
Ah, living that sweet indoor-outdoor life. Life is good on the first floor of this tiered Airbnb on a mango farm; wander through it and eat fresh fruit to your heart’s content. Feeling tired? Laze around in the hammocks, play with the farm’s friendly cats, and watch geckos chase each other on the ceilings overhead. And, if somehow you get tired of this life of luxury, Captain Cook, Kailua-Kona, and the finest snorkeling on Big Island lay just a ten minute drive away.
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