I have a new favorite hotel! If you’re hesitant to try an “Eco Retreat,” I have the perfect introductory experience for you. Volcano Eco Retreat by Heart Core Hotels is one of the best accommodations I’ve ever tried, anywhere in the world. Emily, the manager, has a true knack for details, and Chef Court has the absolute touch when it comes to flavors at breakfast time. I can’t wait to give you a sneak peek inside this gorgeous Hawai’ian resort, so without further ado, e komo mai. That’s Hawaiian for “welcome!”
Located on the Island of Hawai’i (also called the Big Island), this retreat is just minutes away from Volcanoes National Park, downtown Hilo, the Mauna Loa farm and factory, and more! It’s a perfect jumping-off point for the east side of the island, yet it’s utterly remote at the same time. Not to worry, though! You’ll be as connected as you want to be with wifi (and a really nice flat-screen TV), or as disconnected as you need to be.
With just four bungalows on the property, you’ll have personal and individualized service during your stay. This adults-only resort blends in with its secluded, 4-acre ohi’a tree forest. I love that the buildings on the property were made in Polynesian styles, using Hawai’ian materials. Both of these elements add to the sustainability and eco-friendliness of the resort while also giving it a truly local vibe.
Each bungalow is made of LEED-certified bamboo and comes with its own private, covered lanai. If I’m totally honest, I have to say sitting on the lanai was my favorite part! I loved sitting out there and listening to the rain (the Hilo side commonly has showers) before breakfast each morning. It was the most peaceful experience of our trip.
Inside, we found the comfiest bed I’ve ever experienced in a hotel, with soft sheets and perfect pillows. Honestly, I think I had some of the best sleep of my life here! The mattress is memory foam, and it was just right for my hard mattress-loving husband and me, a big soft mattress girl. We also appreciated the soft robes, Turkish towels, and slippers for our ultimate comfort. The mini fridge was also stocked with a variety of chilled beverages.
Yes, this eco retreat has indoor plumbing! This was the first question someone asked me when I said we were staying at an eco retreat. (The second question was, “What’s an eco retreat?”) Honestly, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I made sure to verify that we would definitely have an indoor, private bathroom before we booked! I didn’t need to worry, though, because “eco-friendly” and “luxury” are not mutually exclusive here.
My husband and I were both very impressed with the large shower, great water pressure (straight from their water catchment system), and near-instant hot water (better than the hotel where we stayed in Kona later in the trip!). The shower had multiple shower head options, including both rainfall and hand-held. We also appreciated the bamboo shelving next to the sink that was both effective and out-of-the-way.
Other notable details were the cushy bathroom towels and dedicated make-up washcloth. It’s so rare that any hotel or resort towels are anything but scratchy! The toiletries came from local businesses (which I love), and yes, the toilet flushed (no composting toilet smells here).
Full disclosure: I’m not vegan! But I was excited to try out their 100% plant-based breakfast, which is included in every stay. Many ingredients are grown right on the property, and all others are locally-sourced. Best of all, it arrived each morning right on our private lanai. First came the local coffee in a French press, served with oat milk.
Breakfast options are different seasonally and daily! I love that they are committed to not using produce that had to be shipped in. Whatever you eat here will be truly local, fresh, and tasty. The one exception we experienced came with Day 2’s breakfast, so keep reading to find out what it was!
Chef Court has a magical way with fresh ingredients and flavors; I honestly wouldn’t have even noticed it was vegan except that I knew it in advance! In fact, I could eat Day 1’s appetizer course every morning. I knew I love fresh papaya, but who knew semolina pudding with tahini, pumpkin seeds, pistachio, and almond milk would rise to the top of my new favorites list?
But the main course blew me away just as much! We were served fresh flat bread and North African shakshuka, made with tomatoes, eggplant, asparagus, spinach, and vegan feta. The real shock? I’m now a fan of vegan feta!
Come to find out, Chef Court is from Tennessee, just like me! So, it’s no wonder she did this Southern-style breakfast so well. Appetizers included cassava hash browns (cassava is similar to a potato and commonly used for fries in Hawai’i) with herbs from their garden, as well as eggplant “bacon.” While it’s definitely different from “bacon bacon,” the seasonings used on it made it so tasty! I wish we’d had more!
The sweetest treat, though, was the sweet potato bread pudding with cranberry vegan butter. Chef Court did an amazing job of using fall flavors, while staying true to Hawai’ian ingredients at the same time. Something else I think is sweet? The pecans on the bread pudding were a gift from fellow guests from San Antonio, Texas! This was the one “exception” to their local-only produce policy. Chef Court incorporated them into everyone’s breakfast so we could all feel (and taste) the love.
A little light reading with breakfast: The Best Books to Read Before You Visit Hawai’i
The Onsite Massage
When you’re an up-tight, anxiety-prone traveler, you take advantage of the right kind of self-care when it’s available. I’d say a private massage on your own lanai qualifies! Candice, the masseuse, gave me one of the best massages of my life–perhaps the best ever. Everything was set up right on our lanai, including privacy screens, oils, lotions, and massage table.
But the massage itself wasn’t the only good part. When we finished up my treatment, Emily brought out a tray of refreshments, including fresh-cut pineapple, a hot, scented towel, and a magic, butterfly pea flower tea beverage. Why magic? It changed color from blue to purple with the addition of a little lemon and lilikoi juice!
Speaking of secluded bliss: The Most Remote Places in Hawai’i You Can Actually Visit
Will the Weimaraner
Potential guests need to know that dogs are welcome here, and there is a “Chief Marketing Officer” here: A sweet Weimaraner named Will! Dog lovers will love it here, but those with pet allergies may find this to be a deal-breaker. Either way, this is “need to know before you go” info! Click here for more on their pet policy.
Personally, my husband and I love dogs, but especially my husband! I tease that he’s the “dog whisperer” because all dogs love Steve! Even dogs that don’t generally like people will fall at Steve’s feet for a petting. Will the Weimaraner was truly a sweetheart, and he and Steve played so well together. Even when I was the one with the treats, Will mostly wanted to play fetch-the-ball with Steve. It was so sweet to see them become friends!
More here: The Best Pro Tips for Your Trip to Hawai’i
“Eco-friendliness” is no longer synonymous with “sub-par,” “smelly,” or “inconvenient.” You won’t be choosing between luxury and environmental consciousness here, since you’ll be able to enjoy both! You’ll be showering with triple-filtered Hawai’ian rainwater, and your bungalow is made of natural, sustainable, energy-efficient bamboo to keep you comfortable without air conditioning–something that’s actually surprisingly common in Hawai’i.
Single-use plastics are not used here, and even their cleaning products are biodegradable. I was shocked to know that their ultra-soft linens are washed with an eco-friendly laundry detergent. Even their toilet paper is eco-friendly and made of bamboo. They also offered natural mosquito repellent in the room–those details matter!
Coming soon: The Best Ways to Travel Sustainably in Hawai’i
Need more? Check out everything you need to plan your Hawaiian getaway on my dedicated Hawai’ian Islands Page!
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