Getting Serious About Sustainability

Honua Kai appeals to eco-minded guests

By: By Marty Wentzel

(c) Honua Kai Resort & Spa

Pool, grounds and one side of the building at Honua Kai Resort & Spa, Maui.

When you hear that a hotel has its own director of sustainability, you have to take its conservation efforts seriously. That’s the case at Honua Kai Resort and Spa, a new hotel on Maui’s Kaanapali Beach. As it commits itself to the traditional Hawaiian concept of malama aina (caring for the land), Honua Kai has been implementing cutting-edge eco-friendly initiatives affecting everything from the ocean and beach to its accommodations and back-of-house operations.

The resort’s director of sustainability Lance Gilliland likes to refer to Honua Kai’s conservation programs as “eco-nomics.”

“Our practices are ecologically sound and economically feasible,” says Gilliland. “It just makes sense to conserve energy, re-use, recycle and protect the beautiful natural environment for the resort guests who visit the property.”

Honua Kai made its debut in January 2009. Since then, its water conservation program has been keeping the nearly 40 acres of landscaped gardens and grounds healthy and green without wasting precious drops.

The resort’s reef awareness and wildlife protection initiatives include posting signs at each bridge leading to the ocean that explain how to treat the area respectfully. Guests might also notice that retention ponds have been landscaped into the property to protect the ocean against soil runoff during an unusually heavy rain storm.

As the only resort on Maui with a wetland pond, Honua Kai has restored the micro-ecosystem with native shoreline plants. Already, several species of seabirds — including the aukuu (black-crowned night heron) and kolea (Pacific golden plover) — have begun spending time in the area. To protect the dunes, the resort removed non-native trees and replaced them with low-lying indigenous plants that spread their root systems and prevent wind and ocean erosion.

Honua Kai is turning heads with its energy conservation as well. In fact, it received Maui Electric Company’s largest-ever rebate for energy savings. Creative efforts include taking heat generated from the air conditioning system and using it to warm up the swimming pool water. Its green compactor runs on soy oil and solar power. Its beachside restrooms are solar-powered. The appliances selected for its guestroom kitchens have the highest energy-efficient ratings, and compact fluorescent light bulbs are used throughout the property.

Accommodations come with an information card describing how clients can participate in the resort’s environmental efforts. Guests can get into the eco-act by doing such good turns as reusing their bath towels and recycling their paper goods.

Honua Kai has been opening in phases. Clients currently have access to the Hokulani building with its 318 guest suites, gourmet market, pool, fitness center, concierge desk, family club and pool and beach activities operation. Duke’s beachside restaurant opens in late 2009, and the Konea building opens early next year with 310 guest suites, lobby cafe, two pools and spa.