Identical twin sisters Gabrielle and Nicole Naughten had a dream of one day partnering up on a bed and breakfast. The notion was nurtured during high school when they both worked part time at a bed and breakfast in the San Francisco Bay Area, and truly flourished during a trip through Europe with their mother.
What they did not expect was to end up on Hawaii Island mere minutes from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Both sisters had visited Maui independently when they were younger, and it was at the top of their minds when they first started looking for a property.
"We'd always thought of Maui, maybe the Kihei or Wailea area. We were looking for some beach and sun," Gabrielle said. "We definitely don't have that here. It's been raining nonstop for days."
The twins are not hospitality and business neophytes. Nicole has a degree in travel and hospitality management, and Gabrielle studied international relations. The Maui goal slipped away as the island grew more expensive and properties were gobbled up. The sisters started to cast a wide net, looking around New York's Finger Lakes and Washington's San Juan islands. Then, in the spring of 2016 they spotted an ad for a bed and breakfast on Hawaii Island, and they booked a trip to see it.
"We realized how close it is to the park and how it's one of the top attractions in Hawaii," Gabrielle said. "The light bulbs started going off that this could be a good spot for us."
The property, previously called My Island Inn, needed "some serious TLC," Gabrielle said. The sisters wanted to live in one building and rent out the main house, but the previous owners did not live on site and had only kept up with one building.
So far, they have invested more than $125,000 in improvements including redoing a bathroom and the kitchen, upgrading the suites and completing other features in phases. The Naughtens, who have no employees and are running the property themselves, opened Hale Ohu Bed and Breakfast in Volcano Village in July. They offer three suites set on five acres sitting at 4,000 feet of elevation, and it is a five-minute drive to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
"We completely redid the suites down to the studs," Nicole said. "We updated the WiFi, added USB ports, and made huge improvements to the bathrooms. We wanted things to be up the standards of today's traveler, and we took inspiration from our own travels around the world."
Instead of a traditional-style bed and breakfast with a focus on coziness and Victorian style, they went for a more modern motif including floating shelves, sleek furniture and stone work in the bathrooms.
The licensed bed and breakfast is only permitted by the county to serve continental breakfast, which means no hot dishes. At Hale Ohu, Gabrielle stocks the suite refrigerators each evening so guests can enjoy breakfast at their leisure in the morning. A highlight is her homemade banana bread, and meals typically include fresh fruit, boiled eggs, yogurt, juice and a frittata or other main dish.
They are implementing ecofriendly practices like collecting their own water, installing soap and shampoo dispensers in place of tiny disposable bottles and exploring the installation of solar panels. They also are permitted for two additional rooms, and could expand in the future.
"It's a lot of work, but we are loving it," Gabrielle said. "We don't feel the stress of the daily grind and the commute. We are our own bosses now, and we have no more performance reviews. We thought we would do this in 10 years, but the opportunity came up, and we just said let's jump in and do it."