Maliko Retreat

This short-term rental is long on history.

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Mailko Retreat living room
Creative touches live happily amid the living room’s vintage and reclaimed furnishings—from diagonal four-by-fours that do double duty as bookshelves, to river-smoothed stones set into the wall behind the wood-burning stove.

Maliko Retreat was a dilapidated shack when they acquired the property. “You could stick your fingers through the walls,” Sydney says. There was no electricity, no closet, no bathroom sink, and no toilet — only an outhouse. The bathtub, on a deck outside, relied on fifty feet of black hose as a water heater; the primitive kitchen had a gas ring and a sink. The building itself was set on an eroded slope so steep, it took the Smiths three years of hauling boulders and soil to create a terrace that allows one to walk all the way around the house. The stream in the gulch was clogged with decades’ worth of garbage people had dumped from the bridge above.

Sydney was undeterred. “I bought the property to clean it up,” she says. “I just love it.” And the garbage-strewn shack proved worth saving. Sydney’s father undertook a renovation and discovered it was old-growth redwood and cedar, held together with antique joinery pegs instead of nails. The Smiths put in a cesspool, underground water pipes and power, and were prescient enough, in the 1990s, to install fiber optic cable. They hired Maui architect Tom Cannon to do a historical assessment so they could persuade the County to permit the house to keep its low ceilings. Sydney herself dove in a few years ago and did another painstaking renovation that highlights the building’s charms.

Now the cottage is a jewel worthy of its setting, its wide windows and decks offering views of jungle, ocean and mountain, with a seasonal waterfall a few hundred feet away. The site is so scenic that missionary-artist Edward Bailey painted it in the mid-1800s, showing Hawaiian hale (traditional grass houses) on the ridge where Maliko Retreat now stands. Today the painting hangs in his former home, the Bailey House Museum in Wailuku.

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