We were driving along and passed through a small village called Hawi on the Big Island. It was too early for lunch so we stopped for coffee to go. When I walked out of the coffee shop I took this photo of an old plantation-style building across the street.
I poked my head in the Bamboo Restaurant’s door and asked when it was built. It turns out nobody knows a concrete answer but it was probably around 1915, maybe a little earlier. It was originally built as a hotel and the majority of the guests were contract laborers working on sugar cane plantations.
It’s not too difficult to imagine wagon traffic rolling by and horses tied up out front. It reminds me of a Hawaiian version of the saloon in Gunsmoke.
When the building was only 10 to 15 years old it was already in poor condition with a collapsed roof and destroyed floors–I suspect there must have been a few to many drunken brawls. The building was bought in 1926, the roof and floors were replaced, and it then became a family-owned grocery/dry goods market for over six decades.
When the sugar plantations closed, the village became deserted, the grocery market closed and the owners took their business elsewhere. In 1993, the restaurant opened. At the time, there was only one other business across the street and all of the other buildings were vacant and rundown.
It took 16 months to renovate before Bamboo opened. The green exterior is original as well as most of the interior colors. And now the village of Hawi has turned itself around and is a must-stop-and-see if you happen to be passing through.
Traveling to the Big Island? e-mail me with a travel-related question.