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Palms Cliff House Inn
The Real Hawaii

by Joe Lalaina

ith a landscape that includes rainbow-hued horizons and jagged mountains, profuse tropical vegetation, active as well as dormant volcanoes, and multi-colored sand beaches (ranging from white, black, red, and even green sand), Hawaii’s bountiful natural beauty elicits awe — it’s no surprise that many of its most splendid sites are in the best-selling book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Unfortunately, with sprawling development in many parts of the islands, the real Hawaii can be hard to find. But you’ll find it in all its glory at the Palms Cliff House Inn, a serene eight-room hideaway on the waterfall-laden eastern side of Hawaii’s Big Island, just outside of Hilo.

Originally a private estate, it was a single-family residence when John and Michelle Gamble purchased the property in 1999. “We were able to find the original architect who built the home in 1995,” John explains, “and he helped us design a free-standing guest wing with private bathrooms and a breezeway so people can walk between the main building and the guest wing.”

I stayed in the room dubbed Tropical Splendor, on the second floor, directly fronting the ocean. The four-poster bed was so comfortable that it lulled me into a deep, peaceful sleep. The sunrise view from my lanai was spectacular.

Running a B&B or a small inn is the fulfillment of a dream the Gambles have envisioned since their college days. “This was the first of eight homes that we looked at,” says Michelle. “The house and the view just bowled us over. The view encompasses more than 180 degrees of ocean and overlooks two points with waves crashing. It is just so drop-dead gorgeous.”

For those who enjoy privacy and tranquility, this is the place to be. A stay at the Palms Cliffs House Inn is like being the lucky guest of someone’s private, stately residence. It exudes a Zen-like ambiance that is difficult to find in most hotels. What makes this place especially welcoming is John and Michelle’s warm hospitality.

“We treat our guests graciously,” says John. “Whatever they need, we are there to help; but we don’t intrude on their privacy should they care to be left alone.”

For me, what really stirred my soul about the Palms Cliff was the sheer lushness of its grounds. “We planted more than 150 palm trees,” says John. “We have a macadamia nut orchard and fruit trees including star fruit, mango, ruby-red grapefruit, lychee, mandarin orange, lemon, lime, pineapple, and three varieties of banana. Depending on which are in season, we serve these to our guests at breakfast. I grew up in the Detroit suburbs, where you have to work hard to make things grow. Here, you plant something and you work hard to keep it from overgrowing.”

A stay at the Palms Cliffs House Inn is like being the lucky guest of someone’s private, stately residence.

Indeed, the eastern side of the Big Island is very verdant. Nature lovers will rejoice, as there is much to see close to the property. Just a five-minute drive north is the renowned Akaka Falls, which plunges more than 400 feet into a spectacular gorge. Drive south about 10 minutes and you will be at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, a rain forest preserve regarded as one of the most beautiful gardens in Hawaii. Rainbow Falls in Hilo is nearby, and about an hour’s drive from the inn is Volcano National Park, the most popular tourist site on the island.

The Palms Cliff House Inn is the perfect place to enjoy the unparalleled beauty that the Big Island has to offer. Why stay anywhere else on the island if you can stay here!

Palms Cliff House Inn: www.palmscliffhouse.com.

Joe Lalaina is a New York-based journalist.

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One Picture Says It All —
Sunrise at Breakfast Time
Joe Lalaina photo

The Palms Cliff House Inn Overlooks the Pacific Ocean from its Cliffside Perch
Joe Lalaina