A Visit To Manago - A True Local Experience

A Visit To Manago - A True Local Experience

I opened the door to my room at The Manago Hotel on the Big Island of Hawaii to find that it was simple, clean and quiet, with fresh sheets and towels.  The decor made me chuckle.  I felt as though I had just walked into a 1950's-style room with a 1970's flavour.  I remembered my childhood growing up in the 70's where everything seemed to be either brown or tan, (or a mixture of the two drab colors!) and that is exactly how this room was adorned.  The maroon fake-leather cane armchairs were particularly unattractive (think Hawaiian cane furniture meets outdated office chair) as was the dusty grey worn carpet and the pale green wallpaper.  Despite the lack of creativity in the furnishings, I thoroughly enjoyed finally being in the comfort of a clean and simple room.  I promptly fell asleep to the sound of wayward drunkards yelling in the courtyard.

In the morning I awoke to a wonderful view of Kealakekua Bay outside my window.  I was excited to explore the area and ventured downstairs to discover what breakfast options might be available.  I was pleased to find a simple and very cheap offering -  just a few dollars for a plate of eggs, toast, papaya, cereal as well as juice, tea and coffee.  The dinner menu looked simple but also very affordable.  A friend who had dined there had mentioned that it was surprisingly good.  In a region where dining options seemed quite limited, this was good to know.

The dining hall looked like a school mess room or a roadside diner - again no expense was allocated to the very sparse and basic decor - metal and brown linoleum chairs and tables and just a few drab paintings on the walls.  Still, the atmosphere was cheerful and friendly, and I gratefully ate my simple breakfast in the company of a variety of interesting-looking characters, some of which were still rubbing their eyes and trying to wake up after their third cup of strong and awful coffee.

One of the locals informed me that there were some 'fancy' rooms in the hotel also.  I later discovered that there was in fact a Japanese-style room complete with a furo, tatami mat and futon.

As I exited the place I saw that there was an incredible and sizeable Japanese bonsai garden in the back in the courtyard - the Japanese owners obviously have a passion for the tiny plants.  They were also cultivating various tropical plants, and there was a fishpond that was home to a small school of koi (carp).

Despite the drunkards and the quirky nature of the place, I enjoyed my discovery of the eccentric and dowdy Manago Hotel if only for the amusement factor (and of course as a place to just sleep and eat).  Apparently many long term residents of Hawaii knew and loved this outdated yet interesting place, and that no visit to Big Island is complete without a visit to Manago Hotel!  Rather than portraying the idyllic paradisiacal image of Hawaii complete with palm trees, plastic hotels and $12 Mai Tais, a visit to Manago provides an authentic local experience.  No smoke and mirrors, just the real deal.

Leaving the quaint hotel and continuing on my Big Island journey, I chuckled again to myself about having discovered such a classic local icon, and vowed to write about the unique place so that others too may enjoy the delight and uniqueness of the experience.

John Derrick
Published on: 08-07-2020
Published by: John C. Derrick

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