Shelter: The Palmwood
Each spring, the early morning rain showers arrive in Kauai. Around 4 or 5 am, before any of the guests at the Palmwood are awake, the rain comes in to soak the lush, green landscape and move along so that early risers are greeted with sunshine and rainbows.
“It’s like soundscape rain,” says Mychael Henry, who’s up early enough to hear the rain – after all, he’s the social media and marketing manager and sometimes stand-in cook at the Palmwood, which is owned by his mother, “Aunty” Eddi. “You think you’re in a Sharper Image or something, listening to the rain, but it’s real life.”
That’s the entire vibe of the Palmwood, in a nutshell – it’s actually real life. Whether you’re lounging in the picturesque red hammock by the palm trees, sipping a drink poolside, rinsing off in the private outdoor lava rock showers, or enjoying one of the fresh breakfasts Eddi is infamous for cooking up, it takes a pinch here and there to remember that it’s all real.
About ten years ago, after retiring from a career in mortgage banking, Eddi wanted to go into hospitality. She went to Kauai in search of a site for her idea, and she came across a house with beautiful bones, set way out on the northeastern side of the island, removed from the more developed areas to the south. “The layout worked really well for the project that she wanted to do,” says Mychael, “and the land was pretty raw; it was just the house and jungle.”
Eddi turned it into a simple, barebones bed and breakfast – four guests maximum, and she did all the cooking. “It was a super tiny operation,” says Mychael, but there was a spark there, something that was really working and drawing people in, albeit just a few in the early days. Eddi was onto something, and Mychael – who has a background in hospitality – recognized that. “When I came on three and a half years ago, I just repackaged and rebranded what she already had in place.”
The result is the Palmwood’s Instagram — a love song to Kauai and island life, celebrating fresh food, nature, and local exploration. The Palmwood has an irresistible, slow-living draw to urban-centered guests coming in from New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and all around the world: the promise of easy mornings, secret beaches, and slow strolls to get shave ice from the local truck.
Not much has changed from when Eddi first started the Palmwood, but at the same time, a lot has. The entire grounds have been landscaped. There’s a pool. An entire room has been added to bring the grand total of guests that can stay at the Palmwood at once to six – provided couples are sharing rooms. “The things that haven’t been changed are the windows and the tiger wood floors and that’s probably about it,” says Mychael. “It was a lot of work.”
Take your pick of rooms: there’s the Upper Suite, with a shower, private lanai, California King-sized bed, and the entire top floor all to itself; the East Room, the most popular of the three and the quietest, with a wooden outdoor shower; and the West Room, which has a private lanai and the aforementioned lava rock shower. The imperfectly perfect theme of wabi-sabi is present in small details throughout the Palmwood, which is reminiscent of Japanese country houses - a nod to Eddi’s home country. “The Palmwood is very much Eddi,” says Mychael. “It’s very much my mom.”
The size of the Palmwood brings a certain intimacy with it – among the guests themselves, among Mychael and Eddi and the guests, and also with the part of Kauai the Palmwood calls home. “This is our island, our home,” says Mychael. “Everything I recommend guests do here, I’m either doing it regularly or I’ve done it before.”
And breakfast, served daily from 8 to 9 am, is the most important meal of the day for the small, temporary family that’s gathered to sit down and share conversation. “We talk to each guest in the morning, and each guest meets each other and talks. In Hawaii, when you’re just having a regular conversation, it’s called ‘talking story.’ And we take the time to do that every morning.” [H]