Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

Work on a $1.1 million refresh to the Waimea Plantation Cottages resort on Kauai’s southwestern coast has entered its final phase, with a range of improvements already complete in many of the property’s more than 60 historical small homes.

“We’re not messing with the ambience, because that’s what makes this place special,” said Tim Alex, the director of sales and marketing at the 27-acre resort. “But we wanted to freshen it up, and we want people to come to the cottages and feel that they are being well cared for.” 

The list of improvements in all of the cottages includes new mattresses and box springs; interior and exterior paint, bedsheets and towels; new curtains; and a major development for those familiar with the property: new air conditioners.

“We now have at least one air-conditioning unit in every single cottage, which is huge,” Alex said, noting that most of the new machines are located in the master bedroom.

The oceanfront property, a collection of charming little homes all built and lived in during Kauai’s robust sugar plantation era, provides some of the most distinctive and authentic accommodations in the Hawaiian Islands, with some of the cottages dating back as far as 1884.

Coast Hotels USA took over management of the property in 2014, after it had been run for nearly 19 years by Aston Hotels & Resorts, and work to freshen up the cottages began in 2015.

“They hadn’t received any TLC on a regular basis in the last few years,” Alex said. “So we wanted to keep it really simple [and] make them brighter and cleaner looking, with the end goal of [making them] more user-friendly for all of our guests.”

Other improvements included resurfacing the property’s pool deck and the addition of outdoor gas barbecue grills for guest use along with replacing some cottage roofs and woodwork inside some of the homes or on their lanais. According to Alex, work to replace damaged wood has been done one unit at a time as occupancy allows, and there are still a number of cottages that need improvements in that area.

Landscaping has also been upgraded at the property, including clearing overgrowth along the beach.

“We haven’t lopped trees down,” Alex said. “But we’ve trimmed the trees back, and we removed lots of shrubbery, so the view planes are light-years ahead of where they used to be. Instead of looking at a shrub with just a glimmer of the ocean in the background, you can actually see the ocean now.”

And while the Waimea Plantation Cottages certainly possess a loyal group of adoring and regularly returning patrons, it’s probably safe to say the property isn’t for everyone.

“People who want the pampered spa experience with granite counter tops and Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances, they’re not a good fit,” Alex said. “I’m not saying you have to be a camper, but there will be nature. We have birds and chickens and geckos and so on, but to me that’s what makes it so darn cool.”

Alex added that for travelers interested in a truly authentic Hawaiian vacation experience, it’s tough to top the little resort’s unique connection to the past and its singular atmosphere. 

“Nothing against Waikiki, but we are a very refreshing alternative to Waikiki,” he said, noting the property draws many repeat visitors. “This is like traveling back in time. It’s like the Hawaii of 100 years ago, where everything is much, much slower paced.” 

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