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KBRA names Mike Kelley a ‘Na Hoku O’ Ka‘anapali’

By Staff | May 16, 2019

Mike Kelley has seen the evolution of Kaanapali Beach Resort over the last 40-plus years.

KAANAPALI – Mike Kelley, owner of Aqualani, has been named by the Kaanapali Beach Resort Association as a “Na Hoku O’ Ka’anapali.”

Kelley is one of ten “shining stars” who act as ambassadors of KBRA’s public relations campaign, which aims to highlight Kaanapali’s best and brightest individuals and share their stories, thereby increasing the public’s understanding and interest in this dynamic area.

Having seen the evolution of Kaanapali Beach Resort over the last 40-plus years, Kelley is an apt spokesperson for the area. He’s come a long way since jumping on a plane to Maui in 1977 with just a suitcase and a promise of a job selling suntan lotion to resort guests.

Today, Kelley is president of several corporations. Principal operations are Aqualani Beach and Ocean Recreation, Teralani Catamarans, The Grand Lu’au at Honua’ula at the Grand Wailea, The Spa at Black Rock and Kaanapali Surf Club, all employing approximately 275 team members on three islands (Maui, Oahu and Kauai).

Growing up in Las Vegas gave Kelley a good introduction to the hospitality industry, entertainment industry and tourism. As a student at UNLV, he worked poolside at The Sahara, Flamingo and Las Vegas Hilton hotels, and loaded UPS trucks for delivery in the early hours of the morning. When a company called Pool Boys International offered him a job on Maui, he jumped at the chance.

Kelley quickly became immersed in the island community, especially beach and pool service management, concierge and ocean recreation operations. Over the years, he helped design the pool and beach facilities for nine major resort hotels throughout Hawaii. Working through pre-construction to opening, he coordinated layout of facilities, service deliveries, area concepts, staffing and budget guidelines.

Today, Aqualani is the largest pool and ocean recreation services company in Hawaii with over 18 resort locations, including Kaanapali. With daily responsibilities that might range from interviewing and hiring team leaders, to meeting with hotel managers, to working through new marketing and delivery plans, to putting out or starting fires in any number of locations, Kelley said no day at work is ever the same – but that’s what he enjoys.

“I love the ability to create unique, lasting and indelible memories for visitors that have traveled so far to enjoy my island home. I enjoy the creative aspect of daily striving to exceed expectations through positively impacting the lives of those around me,” he said. “Mostly, I enjoy the great relationships that have blossomed from four decades in the resort hospitality industry, working with an ever-changing group of resort partners and managers that come and go, yet nearly always return to Maui.”

Kelley served for four years on the international board of the Young President’s Organization, chairing the International Events Committee for three of those years. He is a past Maui County Small Business Person of the Year, twice selected as a finalist for Ernst & Hawaii Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and was recognized as Retailer of the Year by the Hawaii Retail Merchants Association.

On a flight from Maui to San Francisco in 1982, Kelley met his wife, Olinda, who was working as a flight attendant for United Airlines. They have been married 32 years and have two grown daughters.

Even after so many years in Kaanapali, Kelley said that nothing compares to early mornings on the beach at Pu’u Keka’a (Black Rock). His advice to visitors? “Try an offshore water sport, and of course, embrace every sunset possible!”

“We are pleased to name Mike as one of our Na Hoku O’ Ka’anapali,” said KBRA Executive Director Shelley Kekuna. “Over the years, he has witnessed many changes in our community. Still, the joy that interaction with the ocean environment gives our visitors is something that never changes – they will remember it for a lifetime.”

Na Hoku O’ Ka’anapali embody several essential qualities – they are well-respected in the Kaanapali community, they are 100 percent committed to serving the area, and they are at the top of their game in their professional fields. They are also fascinating individuals with unique interests, and their respect for Hawaiian culture runs deep.

For more information about the Na Hoku O’ Ka’anapali program, e-mail charlene@kauhaneinc.com.