The Hawaiian Islands…the mere mention of the destination evokes a longing to return. I’ve made untold trips to the islands. I lived with a family on Oahu many moons ago when I was a teenager. Smitten since a fifteen year-old, the very same aphrodisiac like qualities that seduced me as a kid remain as the reason why I love spending time in the islands today. I’m on Maui now, at the Westin Maui Resort & Spa at Ka’anapali. But the journey I share with you is not your puff-piece destination hotel-story; it’s very much a people story. You see, I have had decades to figure out the essence of just what it is that makes Hawaii so magical, and truly distinctive. Yes, of course it’s the dreamy temperature that’s bound to be in the heavenly 80s. It’s the balmy trade winds, the lush tropical foliage, and brilliant flowers, accented by the call of exotic birds.
But, the essence of Hawaii is all about the people and the Aloha Spirit. Come along and join me as we visit with Tony Bruno, the General Manager at the Westin Maui as he shares his passion for island life and why he’s so proud of the Westin Maui.
And then we meet Duane Sparkman who works at the Westin as their landscape Manager…and Duane is much more than a gardener—he’s spent years working on projects such as the Haleakala National Park’s mission to eradicate non-native invasive species while nurturing native vegetation. He serves on the board of Directors of the Maui Multicultural Lands organization–with a primary mission of education, archeology and reforestation projects. One of Sparkman’s primary quests at the Westin is planting native species, with a special emphasis on plants that serve as filters to minimize nitrate and phosphorous intrusion into the sea and reef.
Eric Frankum is a fairly recent transplant from Houston. He instantly fell in love with Maui and figured out a way to move here and now works at the Westin Maui as a marketing coordinator. Eric shares his special focus on social media campaigns to engage with current, past, and prospective guests. I was introduced to Mike Schenk, owner of Tropical Agriculture Maui, as he manned his display table set up next to a Koi pond at the Westin. Mike was showcasing his locally grown orchids…and his organically grown vanilla beans—I had no clue until I met Mike that vanilla beans are a product of the orchid. Mike, like most everyone else I met at the Westin Maui, is an exceptionally engaging and fascinating person. And just like Duane Sparkman, he’s more than just an expert in his field—he was invited by the Smithsonian Museum to come and lecture about his orchids.
While attending a dinner at the Sheraton Maui, I met Shonna Pinheiro who works as Director of Marketing for Hawaii Sea Spirits. I was fascinated by Shonna’s story of how her employers, the Smith family, started producing Ocean Organic Vodka from their Maui estate grown sugar cane, along with deep-ocean mineral water sourced from 3,000 feet below sea level off the Kona Coast on the Big Island. Their organic vodka, sold in distinctive globe-shaped bottles is so eye-catching that I suspect that the distinctive bottle-shape alone is responsible for quite a few sales. The Smith family’s latest foray is their creation of Deep Island Hawaiian Rum that’s so new it’s only available locally but before too long your bound to see their rum around the world.