Our Hawaii History

A Love For Hawaii

Harrison & Sharene in KonaFor a large portion of our adult lives, the story of our life together was the story of our love for Hawaii. Each of us fell in love with Hawaii on our first visits in the 1980s. We started making one or two trips a year, traveling extensively throughout the islands. With some planning and some luck, we both developed business interests in Hawaii, which brought us to the islands even more often. Within a few years we had traveled just about every public road in Hawaii—and a few not-so-public ones! Harrison, a private pilot, toured every island by small airplane. We explored the trails, beaches, parks and towns, creating new adventures and wonderful memories with every trip.

After a Hawaii Flight

Each time we returned we learned a bit more about the land and people of Hawaii, and our love for Hawaii deepened. We started listening to Hawaiian music and attending performances regularly, both in Hawaii and on the Mainland. We learned a little of the Hawaiian language. We developed a strong interest in Hawaiian culture, music, and history, and a great admiration for the Hawaiian people.

Becoming Hawaii Travel Experts

We had been interested in the business of travel and lodging for years. When Sharene lived in San Francisco before we were married, she opened her home to bed and breakfast guests from around the world. Later, she owned and operated Bed & Breakfast California, a reservation service for several hundred B&Bs throughout California. We built one of the earliest web sites devoted to accommodation rentals.

With Llamas in KonaWe stayed in a variety of accommodations during our first trips to Hawaii, including large and small hotels, condominiums, bed and breakfasts, and private homes (including this llama ranch on the Big Island). Whenever we visited someplace new, we took an interest in seeing local hotels and other types of accommodations. Over the years, our knowledge of Hawaii and its places to stay gave us a reputation as the people to contact when planning a trip to the islands.

A Wedding and an Eclipse

At Our WeddingEach of us had started visiting Hawaii before we met, and our mutual love for Hawaii played a major part in our own relationship. When we decided to get married, we knew it had to be in Hawaii, and the solar eclipse of 1991 seemed like the perfect opportunity. The eclipse was to be one of the best of the century, with the path of totality passing directly over the Big Island.

Knowing how many people the eclipse would bring to Hawaii, we had made plans two years before to stay at the home of friends in Kona. When we suggested having our wedding there the day before the eclipse, they happily obliged, and we were married on their beautiful lanai overlooking the Pacific. The eclipse the following day disappointed many people, because much of the normally sunny Kona coast turned cloudy, but the skies over the house cleared after an early morning rain and the eclipse was perfect. We took it as a good sign!

Our First Hawaii Homes

Like many visitors, we dreamed of having a home in Hawaii. It took years of planning (and saving), but finally we were ready to purchase our first property. It was tough to choose a location, because we loved all of Hawaii and each island offered something unique. We finally settled on Kihei, Maui, because it has a great combination of attractions for a visitor. Kihei’s location in South Maui, on the leeward side of Mt. Haleakala, gives it the sunniest weather on the island. The area near Kihei offers a string of great beaches. South Kihei’s location next to the luxury hotels and resorts of Wailea makes it upscale but affordable.

Kihei Akahi D-614It took several visits to find the right property, but we found it at the Kihei Akahi condominium complex. From the instant we saw the spectacular view, we knew it had the “Wow Factor” we wanted. We completely redecorated the unit, incorporating everything we learned from our years of being both travelers and hosts. Makai means “toward the sea” in Hawaiian, so we named our unit Makai Vista because of its sweeping ocean and island panorama.

Not long after we finished decorating Makai Vista, we saw a unit at the oceanfront Kihei Surfside complex that seemed a perfect complement to Makai Vista. Surfside’s beautifully landscaped grounds are just steps away from Keawakapu, Wailea’s first beach, and the view of ocean and palm trees gave the unit its own Wow! Factor. We named it Makai Surf to reflect its oceanfront location, and we did another complete redecoration to make it a place we could be proud to send guests.

Hale Kakahi

Hale KakahiBy this time Hawaii felt like home, but we still treated each visit as a new adventure. We kept exploring each island and discovering new things to do and new places to stay. Then just as we started to look for a 3rd vacation rental condo, we discovered our dream house in Puna on the Big Island. We had expected the search for our own Hawaiian hale (house) to take years, but this property was so perfect we had to act fast. The house and grounds were so extraordinary that the Hawaiian word kakahi—unique, outstanding—seemed the only fitting name, so the house became Hale Kakahi.

It took us awhile, but in Spring 2001 we left our California jobs, packed our possessions, and moved to Hale Kakahi full time—proving that sometimes dreams really can come true.

We will never have a home like Hale Kakahi again. We felt more like caretakers than owners of that spectacular property, and we will always feel incredibly grateful for the privilege of spending so many years there. Both before we moved to Hawaii and near the end of our time there, we used Hale Kakahi as a vacation rental, and so everyone who visited (or just wanted to) can always remember what it looked like, we still maintain the Hale Kakahi website (the virtual tour mentioned on the home page was provided by a third party and no longer operates, sorry).

The Rest of the Story

We had a magical life during our years in Hawaii. We had the joy of simply living in Paradise and we tried not to take it for granted. Along the way we continued to purchase real estate, including two beautiful condominium units in Honolulu’s Chinatown area: Honolulu Tower 2002 and 2003. We also created our own business, Hawaii Holiday Hospitality, a marketing and management company for accommodations throughout Hawaii. That business included MauiHotels.com, a family of websites allowing travelers to book hotel reservations throughout Hawaii, and Hawaii Holiday Vacation Rentals, a vacation rental service for Maui and the Big Island.

After nearly a decade in Hawaii we decided it was time for a change. It’s hard to appreciate living in Paradise when you’re always working, so in 2010 we sold both Hale Kakahi and Hawaii Holiday Vacation Rentals and decided to take some time for ourselves. At the beginning of 2011 we left Hawaii for a year-long adventure that took us across the U.S. and Canada and on to Europe. You can read a full account of that year in our Blog archives. We had wonderful experiences living for extended periods in Seattle, Boston and Amsterdam. We fell in love with Amsterdam, decided to move there, and arrived back in our new hometown in October 2012.

We continued to manage our three remaining Hawaii rentals for several years after moving to Amsterdam, but in a continuing attempt to simplify our lives, we sold Honolulu Tower 2002 in 2015, Honolulu Tower 2003 in June 2017, and our beloved Makai Vista in November 2017. Even though we no longer have a tangible connection to Hawaii, it will always have a big place in our history and our hearts.

Harrison & Sharene in Hawaii