Normally, on the Lodge’s anniversary, free pizza, beer, and sodas would be served to guests seated in the outside dining area, lit by kerosene lamps. But on this particular day, the lodge is booked beyond capacity at discounted rates, mostly to accommodate paddlers from Neighbor Islands who came to Hilo to participate in the HCRA (Hawaii Canoe Racing Association) State Championship Regatta (race).
A participant in the regatta who didn’t book room reservations in a timely manner, I’m referred to Doug Arnott, the Lodge’s owner, originally from Sydney, Australia. Doug offers me a ride to his Lodge, a spot on his couch, and some Aussie hospitality—befriending me as he did my friend who referred me to his lodge.
We arrive after dark at Arnott’s Lodge, which is bustling with teenage boys and women clad in swim suits and Pareos from Hanalei, Kaua‘i, who paddled in the regatta. Doug’s name is called out every few minutes and he responds, making his guests feel at home, pulling out a new futon bed, coming up with change for the vending machines, and going into his special stash of refrigerated chocolate candies for some guests. I can see where he gets his youthful appearance at the age of sixty something.
Not only does he go out of his way for guests, he maintains the property with minimal assistance, mowing the large yard, where tents now house paddlers and other tourists from around the world. He also oversees the maintenance of the Lodge’s three dormitory style rooms with shared kitchens and bathrooms; 30 private bedrooms and kitchens and its six new deluxe rooms with private bathrooms and kitchens.
“The Lodge has something for everyone, at half the price you’d find it elsewhere,” says Doug.
I agree, as I nod off on the couch to the sound of muffled conversations from the communal living area nearby. The next morning, I’m reminded of California Disneyland’s Tiki Room when I awake to drizzling rain and chirping birds. Rain or shine, I’ve already eyed the numerous bikes for rent at the Lodge.
Doug offers me a bike for the day—just what I need for my R& R. I choose the beach cruiser. No gears. Very simple. My path, suggested by Doug, down Kalanianaole Highway, leads me past black sand beaches and lagoons formed by black, jagged rocks. On this overcast, yet muggy day, the water seems cooler and cleaner than on Oahu. The thick granules of sand at Richardson Beach, where I park my bike, wash off my feet and legs easily. I lay my head on a banyan tree root that supports one of the many trees on the beach and rest on pine needles.
Relaxing shouldn’t be so difficult, but I’ve had several cups of coffee at Bears Restaurant in Hilo town that morning. Ants biting me add to my inability to relax. But the few others on the beach are picnicking, snorkeling, or hanging out with friends. Then I see the turtle…and thoughts of too much coffee and ants disappear. The huge turtle is grazing like a cow on plankton on the rocks just inches from my toes.
I’m sure that Doug could tell me stories and details about these turtles, as he can talk about the Big Island’s geology and history like only someone who has lived there and hosted visitors for the past 19 years can. Although I won’t be going on any of Arnott’s Lodge Hiking Adventures this trip, they are undoubtedly uplifting and learning experiences. Doug has taken visitors on unique and varied expeditions, from viewing lava flows to hiking near the top of Mauna Kea Volcano. His tailored expeditions are popular with travelers, especially backpackers, hikers, bikers, astronomers, and climbers who visit Arnott’s Lodge specifically for these adventures.
My return to Arnott’s Lodge from Richardson’s Beach is surprisingly melancholy. Not only have I gotten rid of the “must wear” rash guard, I’m turning my bicycle handle bars from side to side and zig zagging my way back. I must have dumped some stressors.
In my lightened mood, I stop by the Hilo Tropical Mart and buy two turkey sandwiches and Doritos. Healthy enough for me. But when I offer them to Doug, he’s already prepared avocado spread on Rye crackers and a blended concoction from the refrigerator. No, not a margarita (darn), but a blended mix of fresh pineapple, oranges, and ginger. I should eat like this more often.
A week at Arnott’s Lodge might have a positive effect on me. It definitely provided me with a relaxing day.
For more info: www.arnottslodge.com
Things to do near Hilo:
Arnott’s Lava Hike Aventure
Arnott’s Maunakea summit Expedition
Arnott’s Valleys and Waterfalls Saturday Tour
Watch turtles at Onekahakaha Beach Park
Stroll Liliukalani Park and Coconut Island
See Rainbow Falls
Pack a lunch and go to Wailoa State Park
Shop at Hilo’s Farmer’s Market for fresh fruits, veggies, and Hawaiian crafts on Wednesdays & Saturdays
Go for a drive along the Hamakua Coast and stop at Akaka Falls, Honoka’a Town & Waipio valley
Visit Mauna Loa Macnut Farm and Factory
For chocolate and shortbread, visit Big Island Candies
Visit Imiloa Astonomy Center
Check out the Tsunami museum
Shop at Prince Kuhio Plaza, Wal Mart, and Borders
See a movie for $1 at Kress Cinemas downtown, Hilo
Take a free bus ride to Pahoa or Kona
Places to Eat and Drink in Hilo:
Bears Coffee Shop, downtown, or Ken’s House of Pancakes (open 24 hours and serves senior discounts from 3 – 8 p.m.)
Check out “What’s Shakin” Smoothie Shack on the scenic route 7 miles north of Hilo
Have coffee at Kope Kope
Have lunch/dinner at Café Pesto, downtown
Have Japanese food at Miyo’s
Dine out at Hilo Bay Café’