Vacation Rental

When I was looking for a place to live here seven months ago, I saw “For Rent” signs all over the place–some in front of cute houses downtown, others advertising luxurious homes on the water. No problem finding a place, I figured, with so much property for rent.

A hybrid, however, repeatedly got in my way when I called the phone numbers associated with these houses: “Sorry, but this is a vacation rental.”

Okay, so what does that mean?

“Minimum one week, maximum three months.”

I see. Would you consider a six-month or 12-month lease?

“No, I told you, it’s a vacation rental,” each owner or agent would answer every time I asked this, clearly annoyed. “I can get $4000 a week for this. Why would I rent it long-term to anyone?”

I watched these homes during the season. Only a handful were ever occupied–one for a week now and then, another for a month–once. The rest sat empty and idle in all their beauty and luxury. No one, it seemed, was going on vacation, much less able to afford one of these homes if they took one.

But vacation rental owners are a curious breed–they’d rather make no money than some money because they have been spoiled by the big money of years past. The next tenant is but a phone call away. Maybe today. Surely tomorrow. Go away potential long-term, reliable tenant. Let me continue to live my vacation rental dream.


“Have you noticed how these guys are who come into town for a week?” asked a local girl who was sitting across the bar from me on a slow night.

“The fishing boys?” I laughed.

“Yeah, the fishing boys and the bachelor party boys and the reunion boys and the let’s-party-like-we’re-young-again boys,” she said, clearly disgusted.

“They’re just here to have fun, I guess,” I said, taking a sip of my rum and soda. “I try to ignore them.”

“Not so easy to do sometimes, though.”

True enough. Sometimes these boys can be pretty focused on their dual mission to get as drunk as possible and sleep with as many as possible. Lucky for me, I don’t get so many of these boys at my bar, since it is such a locals spot.

“I mean, here they are, wedding ring lines so obvious–if they even bother to take their rings off–and they wonder what’s my problem if I want them to leave me the hell alone.”

Yes, well, I know that, too.

“What the hell do they think the local women are here? Just another vacation rental?”

As if we are included in the lease.

According to certain kinds of visitors, everything and everyone here is up for grabs–all able to be used to complete the vacation of their dreams. Take none of it seriously. Live it all today. Don’t regret it tomorrow. Someone will always clean up the mess left behind. After all, it’s only a vacation rental.


One of my favorite locals came into the bar yesterday. But instead of being witty and charming, he was dull and not at all himself. I offered him bar snacks, which he refused. I only poured the ginger portion of his rum and ginger, which made him angry. I begged him to stay and chill and eat some dinner–I’ll even cook it all myself, I laughed. He said he wasn’t hungry.

As quickly as he had arrived, he was ready to leave. I offered to call a cab, begging him again to stay and have something to eat. He would have none of it. One of my other regulars went outside to offer to drive him, but it was too late, he was gone.

I wrote it up to cover myself, but I was far more worried about him. The brief interlude haunted me for the rest of my shift. Another regular said she’d call him later to make sure he got home safely. Someone else said he’d drive by to check if his car was in the driveway. I heard nothing from either, so I assumed no news was the good news. I found out later, it was all good.

Another customer, who I cajole into a good mood every day, seemed less accepting of my stupid jokes and terrible cooking. As he left, he mentioned he wouldn’t be in for a few days and to say a prayer or two for him.


“Surgery,” he said. “Be back soon, I hope,” he half smiled. I wish I had known. I’d have bought him lunch or something. I’d have said something more than just the usual bar banter.

It would be so easy not to care about my customers if they were simply tourists passing through–here today, please go home tomorrow. Amidst the partying and vacationing and the complete and utter checking out of reality that swirls through this town, the lives of those who live here play out in a very real way.

Sure, we’re all living in paradise. Yeah, it’s all the dream. But it’s no vacation when you’re piecing together work and rent money and trying to keep your health afloat. I am fortunate to have one of the best jobs ever, lucky to be living in my beautiful home, and finally happy in most all else. But some days, it’d be nice to have it all be a care-free moment in a vacation rental.







10 responses to “Vacation Rental”

  1. formercaligal Avatar

    the keys are lucky to have you…enjoyed reading this 🙂

  2. Sarah Avatar

    Thanks for this little slice of life–I wish you were my bartender and I was one of your locals.

  3. Thomas (VetPsychWars) Avatar
    Thomas (VetPsychWars)

    After I got divorced, the manager and day bartender of the place down the street kept me going from day to day. If it weren’t for her, I don’t know what I was going to do. But sometimes it takes time to get that kind of relationship.

  4. L. Avatar

    Hello RG: Nice essay. What an interesting view of the other side (of the tourist trade).

  5. Walter Wright Avatar
    Walter Wright

    Hey, girl, gather round
    Listen to what Im putting down
    Hey babe, Im your handy (vacation rental) man….
    First of all, we ain’t a “breed,” we are individuals, and we aren’t all snooty and annoyed, at least out here in Hawaii. I can’t speak for all vacation rental people (although some folks seem to think they can) but I can tell you what it’s like for me.
    We have a little cottage on our one-acre estate on Kaneohe Bay (now don’t get all riled up: we are waterfront, but the mortgage has put us “under water” if you know what I mean.) It sits literally over the water, fully furnished, about 1,000 square feet, one bedroom, couples preferred. I rent it from time to time at a rate that works out to $3,000 a month or so, which is about what I would get if I rented it long term.
    But this way, we get to use it whenever we want, my daughter and her husband and my grandson or my son and his wife, can come down from Seattle to stay with us, close, but with their privacy and ours intact. We can always offer it to friends. There’s a big debate about vacation rentals down here: some people say vacation renters are noisy, create traffic and parking problems, drink too much, et cetera. But I say–and I know, because I have rented long term properties here in Kaneohe and Kailua for 40 years, that it is the long term tenants, and homeonwers, not the vacation renters, who cause the disturbances in the community. Vacation people don’t send kids to school, don’t use the courts, aren’t on welfare, usually have only one car per household (compared to three cars for the typical family.) They usually don’t have domestic quarrels, and I never heard of one of them shooting somebody. They are here to enjoy themselves, usually in a pretty good mood. While my daughter says she just likes to hang out at the cottage when she’s here (it’s peaceful and quiet), most vacation people in Hawaii aren’t in the vacation rental units during the day, but out touring around, buying shave ice, playing golf, trying surfing, and so on. And they come from all over the world–usually fascinating people to talk to you if you like.
    If we like them especially, we can invite them up for dinner or a drink, and if we’re busy, no matter, they have plenty to do. Vacation renters generally don’t have the time or the facility to make a place really dirty or put holes in the walls to hang up pictures, or forget to tell you about the plumbing backing up because they stuffed something into it. If you do get a bad apple from time to time, we have a way to terminate their rental if they break the agreed upon rules. And in any event, they’re here for a week, two, three, a month, even a season,but then they are gone. If they liked the place, they’ll send their friends back. AND the rent is paid in full, in advance. The downside, of course, is the cleaning and reservations and turnover–and for that reason most of my rentals are for long term tenants, and despite my invidious comparisons between them and vacation renters, only a handful of long-term tenants out of hundreds I have had have been anything less than considerate, courteous, wonderful people. So if you or any of your readers plans to come to Hawaii either on vacation or for a longer term, send me an email at We’d love to see you and–as we say out here in Paradise–we’ll leave the torch on for you. –Aloha, Walter Wright

  6. Mike Avatar

    Really good, RG, really good!

  7. patricia Avatar

    Walter, thanks for the defense of the vacation renter. As a vacation renter in several geographic areas, including one very similar to the Keys, it’s pretty distressing to hear such slamming of the tourists. Yeah, some of us are tacky and we do all the stuff that the locals disdain as “for the tourists” and sometimes we’ll even be classless enough to wander into a local bar and ask you to serve us. But as Walter mentions, usually we’re in a good mood, we’re having a good time, and we’d really like you to be nice to us so we can continue to have a good time. (Note: being nice doesn’t- at least in my case- mean sleep with me. The vacation boys you mention sound dreadful. I’m talking about your larger I-hate-tourists vibe.)

    It’s the same in every place that draws a lot of tourists- the locals say we need your money, but we hate you, and we’ll smile at you through gritted teeth because it’s our job and then we’ll say nasty things about you behind your back. It’s kind of depressing and makes me not want to go back (even to the FL beach I’ve been vacationing at for almost 20 years now).

  8. patricia Avatar

    RG, I’m sure you’ll think I missed the point of your post, and I didn’t. I get what you were saying. It just seems to me that the longer you’re in the Keys, the more anti-tourist you become, and that was what I was addressing. Love your blog, have been reading for a long time.

  9. Restaurant Gal Avatar

    I write about moments and experiences in my time and very small world. I realize that I.can’t expect all my readers to understand that most often, I write very much between the lines. But I always appreciate the commentary.

  10. Jen Avatar

    Oh, RG, people who have never lived in a tourist town and/or worked in the restaurant industry will NEVER get it. No matter how much they may want to feel empathetic, they simply can’t understand our point of view. It must be nice to have such blinders. It must be nice to think that the only kind of experience one can have is the one they are having (or expect to have).

    Just know that there are others of us out there that do appreciate what you have to say and would love for you to continue saying it!