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Hale Ohia Cottages: A Hidden Charm

Updated: Jun 9, 2018

Published By Ke Ola Magazine

Article By: Alan D. McNarie

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Nestled among a grove of sugi pine trees, a mile or two from the entrance to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, is a unique lodging experience—or rather, twelve experiences.

It all began with a large residence, a gardener’s cottage and various other rustic structures dating back to the 1920s and 1930s. “James Johnston, the manager of Ola‘a sugar plantation, bought it and built Hale Ohia”, explains Mike Tuttle, who bought the property 25 years ago. “He owned it for ten years, then sold it to Hawaiian Dredging. This was their corporate retreat for around 40 years.”

Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co. is the state’s oldest and probably best-known general service building contractor. Responsible for the construction of everything from the Ala Wai Canal to much of Pearl Harbor’s facilities to Ala Moana Center, its founder, Walter Dillingham, was known as “The Baron of Hawai‘i.”

The company’s charming little rustic retreat in Volcano, however, was known to almost no one; when Mike moved there in 1992, he met people in Volcano who had never known it existed. In fact, even Volcano itself was not that well known, despite having a national park and a volcano on its doorstep. When people thought of a Hawaiian vacation, they thought ocean.

“When I first started, very broke, I would drive around to the hotels and pass out brochures on Hale Ohia, and found people on the island who had never been to Volcano. People who grew up here—they’d never been in Volcano!” Mike muses.

Mike first came to the islands on vacation in 1983. “I kept coming every winter, and ended up moving, first to Lanikai on O‘ahu in 1987,” he recounts. “I loved it. Somehow I connected with Hawai‘i.” Originally, he says, he was looking to settle on O‘ahu, but one day his Realtor told him, “Mike, you’ve gotta see this.” ‘This’ was a historic property in Volcano that originally had been called ‘Uluwena (Hidden Place).

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