Hale Puna Hotel

The Hale Puna Hotel began as a home for missionaries.
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

The Hale Puna Hotel began as a home for missionaries. Today it is providing an education for local youth as they learn not only the history of the house itself but learn how to work a farm, from planting, growing, and harvesting. After a well-earned harvest, the local Farmer’s Market allows those enrolled in the Hale Puna School to see the result of their hard work by selling their goods at the Farmer's Market.  

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

Formerly known as the Gulick Rowell Mission House, the current Hale Puna Hotel is in the process of restoration. This picturesque and historic property was previously abandoned and subsequently neglected for a span of at least 15 years. Beginning in the Fall of 2012, with an emergency roof repair, the owners of the property have been in a rebuilding mode.

The goal is to completely restore the house and the working farm to provide for the conservation and educational study of this historically significant site.  A great deal towards that end has already been accomplished as the current owners have planted over 75 fruit trees with the help of local students. There are other crops in the work too including avocado, caco, coffee, ‘ulu, rollinia, fig, noni, papaya, basil, sugarcane, chili pepper, banana, citrus and lilikoi jelly and butter. 

This working farm hosts classes and educational workshops that teach valuable information about food, sustainability, permaculture, and the general history of West Kauai agriculture. The house itself will serve as a community center for performances and local events and in so doing will continue to contribute to building the cultural fabric embraced by West Kauai. 

More specifics on these upcoming and current projects at the Hale Puna Hotel property include starting the Hale Puna Farm School. This is a workforce training program for local youth and is now active. It teaches them sustainable agricultural practices, walking them throughout the entire growth process beginning at planting stages and ending at the marketplace. There are even paid student internships that will allow young people to help design, plant, harvest and sell the goods they produce at the Waimea Farmer’s Market which takes place even Thursday afternoon. All proceeds from the Farmer’s Market support the farm school interns from Ke Kula Niihau. Therefore, it is a self-sustaining endeavor.

West Kauai Farms is to be commended for taking on the original task of transforming the 1.3 acres parcel of land from a fallow dry wasteland into the bountiful food forest that it represents today. Hale Puna is also a producing sponsor for the Kauai Old Time Gathering, which is an annual event at the Kokee State Park. The purpose of the gathering is to promote old-time Hawaiian and mainland American music and crafts through various performances and workshops. Hale Puna is also partnering with Kokee Lodge to provide their restaurant with fresh eggs, sugarcane and eggs. In return, they send their food scraps for feed for the Hale Puna chickens. The restaurant is open 365 days of the year in the heart of Kokee State Park. 

What began as a way for missionaries to bring a little of their home, Boston, Massachusetts, into Hawaiian culture by building a traditional English style house set amongst the native grass Hawaiian houses, the Guilick Rowell Hale Puna was built through barter. Many locals were paid in Bibles, window glass, and goats to cut offshore coral in two feet bricks and float them ashore. It is this offshore coral that provided the foundation and walls of the house. The house exchanged hands with new missionaries arriving to serve the area, and in 1927, it underwent extensive renovation to the plumbing and electrical systems. 

Eventually, the house was abandoned and sat vacant for decades. It was of course in desperate need of extensive restoration and stabilization. Jim Ballantine, who is a fourth-generation West Kauai resident who now owns the property, has set up a non-profit organization to establish community groups and has worked alongside the Kauai Historical Society and Malama Kauai to guarantee the survival of Hale Puna for future generations. 

Insider Tips:
-Hale Puna Hotel holds significant history in the Kauai area.
-The house is now situated on a working farm and the owner will continue to use funds to continue renovations of the property. Once renovated completely, the house will be utilized by the community for various events and performances.