Taking Refuge

While inner accord can seem unattainable when glimpsed from the daily milieu of modern life, these three retreats on the Big Island, Maui, and O‘ahu let you check out of reality and check into peaceful surrounds to rediscover the bliss of balance.

Text by Andy Beth Miller and Kelli Gratz
Images by Megan Spelman and John Hook

kalani hawaii lei lgbt

Pahoa, Hawai‘i Island

With the ocean mere steps away, there’s a natural ebb and flow to life at Kalani Honua Oceanside Retreat. Translated as “harmony between heaven and earth,” Kalani’s moniker is reflective of the positive energy that radiates from the Puna district oasis.

Here, there is a strong sense of community. This can be experienced every day at the open-air cafeteria, where retreat guests are invited to enjoy wholesome meals sourced on the grounds and served by volunteers alongside one another, or via an empowering group yoga workshop open to all. Kalani’s no-frills guest accommodations, which range from simple lodges to private cottages, emphasize the outdoors, with bright windows and billowing sea breezes (no air conditioning is found—or needed—here), encouraging guests to get out and mingle.

Richard Koob opened the retreat in 1975 with Earnest Morgan, his partner who passed away in 1992 during the couple’s 22nd year together. “Morgan and I envisioned Kalani Honua as being … a balance of physical and spiritual, manifesting through immersion in nature, culture, wellness, and sustainable living practices,” Koob says. Today, the Big Island educational retreat continues to fulfill that legacy, empowering guests to achieve their inner bliss through group workshops, sabbaticals, and bodywork.


A big part of the experience is the community. Long before Koob moved to Big Island with Morgan, he had learned the value of “the village” in Minnesota, where he was raised by a large, loving family. “Our family of eight, plus grandparents and several aunts and uncles a block away, was like a mini village within the Iona village of 365 people that I grew up with,” Koob recalls. “I remember all the families and organizations as essentially collaborating for the betterment of all. Kalani is quite similar, immersed in nature, cooperative, although much more cosmopolitan, with visiting students, faculty, and volunteers from around the world.”

Kalani is located at 12-6860 Kalapana-Kapoho Rd. For more information, visit kalani.com.



Makawao, Maui

In 2009, Xorin Balbes, a legendary interior designer based in Los Angeles, set to work renovating a dilapidated building and reimagining the six acres of land it rested on in Upcountry Maui. He named the estate Lumeria. A dream of seclusion, this property is now one of east Maui’s top getaways, where guests stay in one of the garden- or ocean-view rooms or suites that are hidden away on historic preservation lands.

At this retreat, Balbes made a point of not providing televisions. Instead, guests are encouraged to take advantage of the lush grounds that he enhanced with an outdoor yoga platform, outdoor fire pits with seating areas, a saline swimming pool, and a sunken garden area that is used for martial arts, tai chi, stargazing, and gatherings. One can literally get lost wandering the property, and can easily escape for a couple of hours in a hammock or one of the property’s numerous meditation nooks. A self-proclaimed educational retreat, Lumeria offers multiple classes daily, including hula, meditation, and the Chinese healing practice of wild goose qigong, which incorporates physical postures, breathing techniques, and mental focus to maintain health and increase vitality.

Walking through the retreat’s lobby, with its artfully restored framework and enchanting décor, it’s hard to imagine the space in its previous state. The building was designed in 1910 by Honolulu architect H.R. Kerr to house aging plantation laborers, and is the oldest wooden structure still standing on Maui today. Paintings, furnishings, and four-foot-tall amethysts, sourced from Tibet, China, Japan, and Indonesia, catch your eye in every direction.

While the retreat is now managed by Filament Hospitality Group, Balbes’ vision for it hasn’t changed. However, some new faces can now be seen on its mystical grounds. Among them are Evan Schauss, a renowned glass blower from Washington who creates beautiful glass sculptures on-site, and New Zealander Douglas Drummond, the new general manager.

Today, Lumeria serves the purpose Balbes always imagined for it, helping guests unplug, rest, and rejuvenate their minds, bodies, and spirits. He explains it perfectly: “[It is] a place to inspire people to live their true life, and connect to their souls and to something authentic.”

Lumeria is located at 1813 Baldwin Ave. For more information, visit lumeriamaui.com.


oahu retreat lei magazine

Wai‘anae, O‘ahu

Amidst birdsong and rustling breezes, the lush grounds of Kahumana Organic Farm on O‘ahu’s west side hum with activity. Farmers working against the backdrop of the Wai‘anae mountain range tend to crops and provide vocational learning for volunteers and program participants contributing to the harvest.

When priest Phil Harmon and sociologist Frances Sydow founded Kahumana Community in 1974 under the name Alternative Structures International, they aspired to create such an intentional, collaborative community. Originally a group home in Makiki serving adults with special needs, Kahumana Community has grown into an expansive, farm-based nonprofit. Today, it is located on four distinct campuses spread over 50 acres in Lualualei Valley, each serving a purpose such as offering transitional housing for the homeless, day programs for adults with developmental disabilities, a farm-to-school youth program, or a retreat center to aid guests in self-improvement and to provide an idyllic escape from the hectic everyday.


At this retreat and learning center, guests enjoy wholesome offerings from Kahumana Café (which is staffed by volunteer workers, and supplied with produce grown on-site), learn about organic farming, and attend customized yoga sessions during the day. When nightfall arrives, they head home to one of the farm’s two retreat structures, which—with their hexagonal shapes, natural wood compositions, and open, airy layouts complete with stained glass windows—are charmingly reminiscent of the treehouse design depicted in the Disney epic Swiss Family Robinson.

Such whimsical aesthetics serve a deliberate purpose, Kahumana’s executive director Tom McDonald explains. “The architect and carpenter came from a Waldorf School mentality, which believes spaces and materials can be enlivened through design and aesthetics,” he says. “In order to heal or lead a holistically healthy life, the space you live in influences that, so the goal is to create a place of healing.”

So who may partake of these healing surroundings? All are welcome at Kahumana, says McDonald. “We are a place that celebrates diversity of all faiths, races, genders and orientations. Not only do we uphold diversity, we seek it out.” As guests nourish their souls with yoga classes offered several times weekly, feed their bodies with fresh farm-to-table food at on-site Kahumana Café, and wake up each morning satisfied by a restful night’s sleep, they are surrounded by a richly diverse community greeting each day together.

Kahumana Organic Farm is located at 86-660 Lualualei Homestead Rd. For more information, visit kahumana.org.