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Napili Kai Beach Resort celebrates 50 years

By Staff | Dec 2, 2010

“What continues to draw people back are the people that they meet here,” said John Turner.

NAPILI — “Napili Kai is not about the property — it’s the people,” said John Turner.

“The management, staff, shareholders, condo owners and guests are all part of the ‘ohana. There’s a spirit of warmth and inclusiveness.”

Napili Kai Beach Resort this year is celebrating “50 Years of Aloha.”

Chairman of the Board Turner welcomed staff, owners and guests for events to mark the resort’s 50th anniversary last month.

The first hotel north of Kaanapali — only the Sheraton Maui existed then — began with construction of 12 units in September 1960 at the north end of beautiful Napili Bay.

Turner said the property was discovered in 1958 at the end of Lower Honoapiilani Road, and a group of 12 Canadian and American investors led by Jack and Marg Millar pursued the resort near the old Hui Road G that led to David Fleming’s house.

“This was literally the end of the road,” Turner noted.

He said the resort’s founders liked that the property was remote and featured views of both Molokai and Lanai.

The first units were built next to The Mauian in the Lahaina Building. It was finished in March 1962.

Jack leased adjacent property from the Vockrodt family to build 32 units in the Honolua Building that opened in March 1964. The land was purchased in 1965.

The Tea House of the Maui Moon Restaurant — today the Napili Kai Beach Club — opened in December 1964.

Millar in 1964 also convinced the county to pass zoning at Napili Bay that restricts building heights to two stories — “the height of a coconut tree,” Turner said. “So, he was quite a visionary.”

The Napili Kai Foundation, a nonprofit organization, was founded in 1966 to perpetuate the Hawaiian culture through the children of Maui. Keiki in the foundation perform Tuesday evenings at the 5900 Lower Honoapiilani Road resort.

The Aloha Building, which later became the lobby, was built in 1968 on land that remains leased today. The entryway and hale-style roofs were added in the 1970s.

Thirty-one units in the Keaka Building were completed in 1988, and to complete Millar’s vision of the property, the nearby Puna Point (built in 1970), Puna II (1972) and Lani (1973) condominiums became marketed as part of the resort for a grand total of 167 rooms on ten acres.

Millar passed away in 1987. Donne Bliss of Canada is the only surviving member of the original 12 investors.

Turner, a Chicago resident and shareholder since 1997, said Napili Kai Beach Resort encourages interaction among guests.

Coffee is provided at the beachfront cabana daily at 10 a.m. Staff teach guests about basket weaving, hula, ukulele playing and other facets of island culture.

“It’s become the social gathering place,” Turner commented.

Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m., mai tai parties are held at the Lahaina pool deck, and visitors mingle at the resort’s putting course, shuffle board court, five pools, weekly Hawaiian slack key guitar concert and other amenities.

“What continues to draw people back are the people that they meet here,” said Turner, adding that 65 percent of the visitors that stay at Napili Kai are return guests.

“We have third and fourth generations who visit with us.”

General Manager Gregg Nelson, who was also elected board CEO and president, leads a staff of 138 employees.

Glen Kamaka, who started lighting torches at 13 in 1964 and joined the staff full-time in 1973, has been with Napili Kai the longest. Sea House employee Nancy Sutherland has been with the company for 30 years.