Kokua Line has received several questions about Volcano House, the historic hotel overlooking Kilauea’s Halemaumau Crater. It has been closed since mid-May, along with Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, because of the eruption. Here’s more information, from Orin McCann, the hotel’s general manager, who, like the rest of the staff, has been displaced:
Question: Some friends who will be visiting soon said Volcano House is reopening Sept. 16. Can that be right? Do they know something we don’t?
Answer: Not necessarily. A notice on the hotel’s website (hawaiivolcano house.com) that says the hotel will remain closed through Sept. 15 should say it will be closed through at least that date. The website will be corrected, perhaps by the time this answer is published. Reservations are being taken for dates after Sept. 15, but they will be canceled if the closure is extended.
Q: What does someone do if they already charged a room in advance at Volcano House? I haven’t been able to get through to cancel and get a refund for a room for my brother in January.
A: Call 866-406-2782, a Honolulu-based, toll-free customer service line for Aqua-Aston Hospitality, which is handling reservations and cancellations. Don’t call the Big Island property directly; no one’s there to answer. A different toll-free number listed on the hotel’s website is forwarded to Aqua-Aston, which partners with Ortega Family Enterprises, the company hired by the National Park Service to run the hotel.
You can also try modifying or canceling your reservation on the hotel’s website; the online tool was working as of deadline Thursday.
Q: I understand that the eruption is out of the hotel’s control, but I expected to have my refund by now.
A: McCann apologized for initial delays refunding deposits for past dates within the closure period. Refunds for dates within the currently stated closure period (through Sept. 15) are being processed as quickly as possible, with no action needed on the guest’s part. The process is smoother now that the hotel’s computer system has been repaired, which occurred only within the last week. Previously, the computer system was disrupted by thousands of earthquakes — sometimes dozens a day — and no technician was allowed on the property (too dangerous) to restore remote access. The earthquakes subsided enough to allow the needed repairs, and “we’re catching up on processing the refunds.”
Q: When will Volcano House reopen? We made reservations for this winter, and I am wondering whether we should cancel or when it’s time to make other arrangements.
A: McCann wouldn’t predict a reopening date. It depends on when the national park reopens; the hotel is within the park. Safety is the main concern. Even after risks from the eruption subside, there must be a careful damage assessment of the hotel and grounds. Plus, it will take time to reassemble staff for the hotel, restaurant and gift shop. Speaking personally, we wouldn’t cancel a winter reservation just yet. If Volcano House reopens in time for your visit, a room overlooking the reshaped Halemaumau Crater is sure to be in high demand. If it doesn’t reopen by then, your deposit would be refunded. Hotel rooms elsewhere on the Big Island seem to be widely available, according to news reports, so you should have time to make your decision.
Q: Why are they taking reservations if the hotel is closed?
A: It does expect to reopen at some point. As we said, reservations are available for dates after Sept. 15, although that doesn’t guarantee Volcano House will be open by then. One night’s deposit is required to guarantee a reservation, which will be refunded if the closure period is extended.
Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email email@example.com.