Author’s note: Our trip to Puakea Ranch was in February 2020. While we are not encouraging travel now, we do encourage planning to travel.
We roamed with chickens, relaxed by our private pool, reveled in ocean views with rainbows towering over clear skies and picked fresh produce from a garden. That’s what it’s like to spend time at Puakea Ranch on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Our cottage, one of four on the 33-acre property, was aptly named Miles Away. By my calculations we were more than 4,400 miles away from our home in Atlanta and who-knows-how far from anything resembling a crowd or major traffic jam.
If you’re looking for action, night life or bustling bars down the street, look elsewhere. But for serenity and privacy in a gorgeous setting, Puakea Ranch is an ideal place. This former sugar plantation and cattle ranch is far from the glitzy resort scene, and a perfect place to relax in the natural beauty of the Big Island.
Please view our video on Puakea Ranch with more photos and an interview with Christie Cash, owner of Puakea Ranch. And see me pick a cucumber out of a garden for the first time in my life.
Staying at Puakea Ranch
Miles Away was a 1930s bungalow with two bedrooms, living room, bathroom and full kitchen. One fun feature is the separate bathhouse just outside the back door that houses a wooden tub and shower.
Just a few steps away was our private pool with lounge chairs and a waterfall. As it was February, the water was still a bit chilly for me to take a dip, being a big wimp with cold water, but that didn’t deter my husband from jumping in. One of our favorite features of the cottage was the large deck where we grilled steaks one night and watched the sunset.
The ranch host, Josh Alt, stopped by and told us about harvesting honey from the beehives behind our house and left us a bit from the first batch. He invited us to go to the garden and help ourselves to beets, cucumbers, arugula, kale and asparagus. We did just that one day and picked lettuce, kale and chives to make a salad for dinner. I sprinkled the chives on an omelet the next morning. Laugh if you want, but this garden is the first time this city girl saw a beet in the wild.
There’s also a farm stand where guests are welcome to go and select from the produce and eggs inside.
Other Cottages at Puakea Ranch
Cowboy House has three bedrooms – two with queen beds and one with twin beds. It’s the oldest home at the ranch, built at the beginning of the 20th century and occupied by Zejiro Kawamoto, who moved to Hawaii from Japan.
After his growing family moved to another home, the Cowboy House became the bunkhouse for the workers, giving this home its name. Two of the bedrooms were formerly their bunkrooms.
The home also has a private hot tub, outdoor bath house, lanai with an ocean view and fully equipped kitchen.
Yoshi’s House is a classic Hawaiian bungalow built in the 1940s where ranch foreman Yoshio Kawamoto lived with his family. The two-bedroom home has one bedroom with queen beds and one with twin.
It has a full kitchen, lava rock swimming pool, outdoor shower and detached bathhouse with a copper tub. In addition to a large lanai it has a spacious yard for kids to play.
James Cottage is a large suite with one queen bed and outdoor bath house. The fully equipped kitchen and lanai have ocean views.
To make your stay even more enjoyable you can arrange for a private chef to cook for you, have your groceries waiting for you or arrange for childcare. The cottages have toys and games for children under 10 available.
You’ll also find beach chairs and insulated picnic backpacks for use during your stay and can request some sand toys. The backpacks were perfect to store our snacks and drinks for our hiking excursions.
There are free flowers, no charge for parking because “that’s just ridiculous” and you can enjoy “the charming company of our horses and cows,” Christie told us.
Getting to Puakea Ranch
Puakea Ranch is about an hour drive from Kona International Airport, which is located on the west side of the Big Island. We were a bit early for check-in and wanted to grab some groceries so stopped at Island Gourmet Markets at the Queens Marketplace, right on the way.
Queens Marketplace is a small outdoor mall at Waikoloa Beach Resort where parking was at a bit of a premium during lunchtime.
We bought lunch here and sat outside to eat, then stocked up on beer, wine and groceries to take with us. From experience we knew that once we got to our place, we’d want to settle in with a few supplies.
I am not sure if I’m proud or embarrassed to admit I’ve been to Costco on every Hawaii island to load up for longer stays, but this visit was a brief one so we skipped our traditional run.
You do have to pay attention to the instructions to find the small driveway on the right of the road that marks the entrance to Puakea Ranch. Once we found that, we drove past the gate and quickly found ourselves enveloped by trees and winding our way past wooden signs to our cottage, Miles Away.
We knew our location would be somewhat remote when we saw this note on the website about entering the property. “Be mindful of slow moving animals.”
Things to Do Near Puakea Ranch
Puakea Ranch is a short distance from Hawi on the northern tip of the island, a small town that was once a hub of the sugar industry. Today it’s best known as the spot where bicycles turn around at the IRONMAN™ World Championship held in October.
There are a few shops, art galleries and restaurants here. We had planned to stop at the top-rated Bamboo Restaurant & Gallery one day, but our schedule got too tight so we opted for a quicker lunch at Gill’s Lanai in Kapaau one day. We loved this little shack with red checkered tablecloths and tiny outdoor seating.
If you’re looking for a larger selection of restaurants and shops, head to the bigger town of Waimea, a little over 30 minutes away.
Hiking and Sightseeing
The North Shore has some spectacular scenery and trails for hiking. We drove to Waipio Valley Lookout one day, named after the river that runs through the valley. While there is a paved road descending the 2,000 feet from the lookout to the valley, you can only drive it with a 4-wheel drive. That was fine by me as it’s the steepest road for its length in the country.
Movie fans may be interested to know the valley was featured in the final scene of the movie “Waterworld.” You can hike down to the valley but it’s a steep 6.5-mile trip and we didn’t have the time or proper footwear to undertake the hike. We opted instead for a magnificent hike at Pololu Valley Lookout.
Of course there’s plenty more to do on the Big Island, including boat and snorkeling tours, visiting state parks, Mauna Kea Summit, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Kona Coffee.
While I love big, glitzy resorts with poolside service and balconies overlooking the ocean, for a relaxing trip, opt for Puakea Ranch. Or do what we did and combine this trip with one to a resort for a few nights.
– Jan Schroder, Editor-in-chief