Island Chic: The Guest Houses At Malanai (Hana, Maui)
Sept 23, 2012 - While I made mention of our accommodation in the last blog, I didn’t go into any detail about it. That’s just because I wanted to selfishly keep it to myself for a bit. So what's it like? In a word, heavenly.
As we hadn’t stayed at The Guest Houses At Malanai before, Peter and I wondered what our cottage would be like as we drove towards Hana. I’ve learnt after years of travel never to trust the photos on a website completely as they can hide a multitude of cracks and flaws. So we approached this accommodation with our usual “Let’s wait and see.”
“We’re not too far now, love ... marker 49 to the left ......, okay there’s the small bridge under the trees .... there’s the yellow fire hydrant, and then the neighbors mailboxes to the right. And there’s the driveway. That’s us! ”, I confirmed as co-pilot.
Driving right across the verdant front lawn, we parked in front of our cottage, walked up the concrete steps and walked right in - the door was left open for us with keys on the front table. The photographs on their website did not do it justice. What greeted us was a charming one-bedroom cottage that exuded pure Island Chic: East meets West, meets Polynesia. Rustic rattan furniture, furnished with oriental inspired cushions in tones of eggplant and mauve, teamed with nipa floor mats on top of warm polished floor boards. Gorgeous batiks acted as a room divider between the bedroom and lounge, accenting terra cotta hued walls and crisp white wall skirtings and ceiling beams. The white-cupboard granite-top kitchen was spacious, modern, and extremely well-equipped. The overall effect was a barefoot elegance that spelt “home”, and it was ours for 6 days.
Meeting our hosts:
Half an hour after we had arrived, one of our hosts, Chris Harrington, walked in. “Oh you guys are early! We were going to fill the place with fresh flowers and everything!”
Wondering how much more beautiful and welcoming the place could look, Peter said, “Sorry we’re early but we had bought fresh food in Paia before driving up and just had to get it refrigerated. The place is beautiful as it is, Chris!”
“Thank you, but we just would have liked you to see it at its best. Anyhow, Aloha and welcome, and glad you made it!”, Chris said, arms outstretched and beaming from ear to ear.
After our orientation and a short chat, including the rundown on how safe Hana is, Chris went off to sort out a minor internet mishap while Peter and I began unpacking. We were loving our cottage more by the minute. Surrounded by yards of lush garden and the expanse of ocean in front of us, and not another person in sight, this was the tranquility that we associate with Hana and have grown to love.
Before the afternoon was over, we met Leokane Pryor, Chris’ life partner and owner of The Guest Houses At Malanai, named after the gentle breezes that caress this area of East Maui. Leokane is also one of Hawaii's premiere falsetto Hawaiian singer and would be performing at the Hotel Hana Maui that evening. Would we care to see him perform?
“Love to!”, we said.
“Great! The show is between 6:30-8:30. You can stop by and just have drinks; you don’t need to dine to see the show.”
Leokane Pryor at the Hotel Hana Maui:
After dinner at the cottage, shower, and change of clothes, we made the 10 minute drive to the Hotel Hana Maui. Now called the Travaasa Hana Hotel, this 5-star hotel is nestled along 70 acres of verdant shoreline above Kaihalulu Bay. Offering an ambience of luxurious peace, the accommodation is set out across the property in the form of cottages.
“Show’s in the Ka'uiki Restaurant.", said the lady at reception. "You’ll hear the music as you get closer.”
Seating ourselves down and ordering our drinks, we settled in to watch the show. Transported to a Hawai'i of another era, we listened to Leokane and his group share their passion for their land and its culture through instrument and song. As time stood still, they sang in both Hawaiian and English about love, the land and the sea, about a simpler life, and, of course their Mother Earth, Hawai’i. By the end of the performance at 8:30, we were left with the indelible warmth of “aloha” that will remain with Peter and I for the rest of our lives.
Joining us for a drink afterwards, we spoke with Leokane about the land that he loves and in particular, his guest cottages at Malanai. Purchasing the property in Hāna in 2001, it was not until 2004 that Leokane was able to move to Malanai full- time, where he now shares his life with Chris, playing his music, spending time with family and friends and their rascally dogs, Ua and Kimo.
When asked what sort of guests they get, Leokane responded after a thoughtful pause,“The kind of people that end up staying with us are those who resonate with our values. Our cottages are not decorated with random prints that we’ve purchased in bulk from KMart. They’ve been decorated with great care and love; they’re filled with things that we’ve handpicked over the years. We want our guests to cherish our home the way we would and to thoroughly enjoy their experience in Hana.”
“I can sense what a guest will be like the moment they contact us via email. You can tell if they're going to be hard work if they don’t start their emails with a ‘hello’, and they start demanding things even before they arrive. We’d rather not have them. I’m always honest and tell them that this may not be the experience that they want. Let them stay in Wailea!”, Leokone says with a laugh, referring to a very chi-chi area of Maui that offers a world-class golf course, homes with high walls and manicured lawns, 5-star hotels, and a shopping center brimming with designer boutiques.
“We don’t have a shortage of guests wanting to stay with us. We’re fully booked over the next few months.”, says Leo. And it isn’t high season in Maui yet. Leokane and Chris can boast their fair share of celebrity guests that have eventually become friends, like a certain Aussie star known for his portrayal of a knife-yielding crocodile-wrestling larrikin.
“The people that come to stay inevitably become friends because we form personal relationships with them. They end up returning again and again.”, Leokane concludes.
So too have Peter and I fallen under Chris and Leokane’s charm, hospitality, generosity of spirit and love of Hana. As there are fewer people in the world that offer this level of care and attention in such exquisite surroundings, we're already planning our next trip back. Mahalo, Leokane & Chris.
The Guest Houses At Malanai Leokane Pryor & Chris Harrington www.hanaguesthouses.com 6780 Hana H'way, Hana, HI 96713 Ph (808) 248 8706