LODGING AND HISTORY
A Maui bed-and-breakfast pays homage to the legacy of sugar production >>
As soon as Sandy Beck Camou and her late husband, John, saw the 2-acre Haiku, Maui, property in 2004, they knew they had found something special. No matter that the five-bedroom, five-bath plantation house on the parcel was more than 130 years old and needed tender loving care.
“There were holes in the floors,” Camou recalled. “We had to repair that and (also the) rot in the bathrooms. We painted, renovated the kitchen and beautified the landscaping. Except for the roof, pretty much everything was in bad shape, but we saw the house’s potential.” Their plan was to upgrade the bed-and-breakfast that was already operating there. Although they had never run an inn before, Camou had worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years, including owning a destination management company, and John was an electrician, skilled handyman and affable people person with a green thumb. They renamed the hostelry the Haiku Plantation Inn, which in 2009 became the first B&B to be permitted under Maui County’s new ordinance for such accommodations.
One of the property’s draws is its history. Delving into research, Camou learned that King Kamehameha III granted the Rev. Richard Armstrong, a missionary who had arrived on Maui in 1835, the first deed to it during the Great Mahele land division of 1848 (en. wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Mahele). Armstrong was one of the men who founded Haiku Sugar Co. a decade later, and the house, which was built in about 1870, was the office and residence for a succession of plantation doctors and their families.
In 1905 Haiku Sugar Co. merged with Paia Plantation to form Maui Agricultural Co., which, in turn, merged with Puunene-based Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. in 1948. HC&S, Hawaii’s last sugar plantation, just closed, marking the demise of an industry that had endured for more than 180 years. “There’s so much history here,” Camou said. “John passed away in 2010, and I know he would’ve wanted me to continue to help preserve it.”
Indeed, although the house has been renovated over the years, it exudes the look and feel of old Hawaii. Camou has collected Hawaiiana for years; among the items on display are cane knives, old milk and soda bottles, a poi pounder and a plantation worker’s lunch tin. She found them, as well as dishes, furniture, art, photos and more, at auctions, garage sales, antique and thrift stores, and even on the property. Several of the pieces date from the 1800s.
“A lot of thought went into the decor, but I didn’t want the house to look as though it had been designed,” Camou said. “I wanted it to be comfortable and realistic — what you would find if you walked into a plantation home on Maui from the mid1800s to the mid-1900s.” The inn’s four guest rooms reflect a nostalgic theme, with vintage furniture, ceiling fans, Hawaiian quilt bedspreads and an eclectic assortment of antiques, including vases, lamps and mirrors. When the doctors lived in the house, the Haiku Suite was their office, and the Aloha Suite was the master bedroom and study. Part of the original 1870 house, those two rooms have 12foot ceilings and double-hung windows made of hand-blown glass.
The Maui Suite was the laundry; its big, deep porcelain sink is from the late 1800s and has never been refinished. The Plumeria Suite’s bedroom was once part of a wraparound lanai. Its bathroom, formerly the children’s bedroom, features a turn-of-the-last-century pedestal sink and a cast-iron claw-foot tub.
All of the rooms have the original pinewood floors and open to pretty garden views. Many of the trees, including mango and Norfolk pine, are more than a century old. Also among the abundant greenery are ti, banana, coconut, avocado, breadfruit, plumeria, hibiscus and heliconia. Guests are welcome to pick whatever is ripe.
Leisure time can be spent in the ohana (family) room, which is stocked with games, books (from novels to guidebooks
to Hawaii histories) and music (LPs featuring Alfred Apaka, Don Ho and other renowned island vocalists from bygone days can be played on a replica of a 1950s record player). Camou is the consummate hostess, handling check-ins, joining breakfast conversations and sharing tips on things to see and do. Guests are immersed in aloha from the moment they arrive.
“When they’re here I don’t want them to feel like they’re at a hotel,” Camou said. “I want them to feel like they’re at home.”
An abundance of trees, plants and flowers surrounds the Haiku Plantation Inn, including ti, banana, coconut, avocado, breadfruit, hibiscus, heliconia, palms and ferns, at left. The entrance and dining room of the inn, which exudes the charm of old Hawaii. Breakfast is served here every morning, center. The Maui Suite’s color scheme is burnt orange, cream and white, which complements the natural wood walls, bottom photo. It was originally a laundry/ washroom, and its bathroom features the original large, deep sink.