Hostel environment

KAPAA — Jessie-Jeanne Fletcher of Alberta, Canada, came to Kauai two weeks ago looking for sand, sun and nature. There was one other item on her must-do list: stay in a hostel.

She found what she was looking for at the International Hostel in Kapaa. It was inexpensive, social and clean, with a kind staff, she said.

“They are always so helpful and they know so much about the island,” Fletcher said. “Everyone here is always happy and smiling. I really like it here.”

Managers Bill and Autumn Miller are celebrating their third anniversary at the hostel with an open house at 6 tonight. With only registered guests allowed on property, today is the one day that the public can see the traveler’s oasis. 

The “hostel behind Bubba’s” opened in 1992. The Millers became managers on Oct. 1, 2011.

“Every year we have a little party on Oct. 1,” Autumn said. “It’s been pretty smooth running and we try to give back and everyone is invited.”

Some people prefer the hostel setting and the people who frequent them.

“It is very different,” said Autumn Miller. “Everything is shared.”

Hostels resemble dorm life with a few responsibilities. Depending on timing, a guest might have an eight-person room to themselves. 

The guests share common area restrooms, showers, a kitchen and meeting areas. There is no maid service. The guests are expected to “treat it as their own home” and clean up after themselves.

The two structures have room for 36 guests with a variety of configurations; three dorm-style rooms that sleep eight on four bunk beds; five private rooms with space for two guests; and six mixed-use bathrooms on the property with showers toilets and one for women only.

“We really like that people can come here and not have a large budget and still see this gorgeous island that we live on and really enjoy themselves,” said Autumn Miller.

Since they took over management of the International Hostel from their uncle, the Millers have painted and put up a new fencing to provide a quiet space. The next goal for the resident-managers is to plant a garden.

The dorm room at the hostel is $30 per night. A couple may spend $5 more each on a $65 private room or $70 for an exclusive private room in the main house with only one other room sharing the bath.

The hostel is nonsmoking and guests are asked to drink responsibly. Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. The average stay is about a week, but people have the option to stay up to two weeks when available.

The Millers say their guests, from teens to seniors, come from Asia, North and South America.

“We get quite a bit of international travelers,” said Autumn Miller, who was born in Kekaha. “We get students and backpackers to business people and all walks life.”

Many guests arrive alone and meet other travelers. While on Kauai, they hike, snorkel and share tours. They are gone during the day and return in the evening to talk about their day with one another. 

“Some remain friends for life. Others have wound up getting married,” Autumn said.

The Millers know guests by name and usually learn a lot about them and their trip by the time their stay comes to an end.

“Some of them say they loved it so much and come to me crying before they leave,” she said. “They say it is so beautiful here and of course I agree.”

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