2021 Hale ‘Aina Award Winners: Hau Tree Restaurant at the Kaimana Beach Hotel Wins Gold for Best Outdoor Dining in Hawai‘i
Shade of the Century: Come for the tree, stay for the food.
Last December, as the Hau Tree restaurant at the Kaimana Beach Hotel readied to debut a new menu and décor, its iconic hau trees were also refreshed. Like people emerging from sheltering in place, the trees got a trim. Sure, the restaurant is beloved for its eggs Benedicts (updated with new versions that include lobster or spinach) but without the hau trees, which arborist Dudley Hulbert guesses are more than 100 years old, there would be no Hau Tree restaurant.
Hulbert, along with arborist Heidi Bornhurst, was brought in to care for the trees. “They hadn’t been touched in a long time,” he says. “There were branches that were really too low—they had napkins and other kinds of flags so you wouldn’t bonk your head on them.”
When trimming the canopy, both below and above, to open up the ocean view from the bar, he says, “you work with what the tree is, which, in this case, is a twisted turning gnarly Fangorn Forest—[Treebeard] and all those guys. [A] hau tree is dark, shady by nature, it wanders all over itself.”
Hulbert’s goal was to find the “real bones inside the tree—because you can’t add anything. Pruning is a subtraction art.” He began cutting some branches to highlight the bend of others and trimming wood to throw certain shadows, to create texture and dimension. “The art is from the inside out—if you can see what is making the tree stand up and what is supporting the leaves, the visual impact is dramatically enhanced as is the overall appreciation for the subject matter. It’s just beautiful. You just go, ‘Oh damn, what a cool looking tree.’”
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