Island Address Book 12-7-2007

Mike Paulin, Aqua Hotels founder, on island running

By: Dawna L. Robertson

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Mike Paulin, Aqua Hotels Founder
In the fast-paced world of Hawaii’s tourism industry, two things remain steady for hotelier Mike Paulin his passion for running Aqua Hotels & Resorts and his passion for running.

Often recognized as the founding father of the “condotel” resort concept in Hawaii, Paulin cut his teeth in the Islands just over 40 years ago after graduating from the University of Southern California. He and his buddy, well-known Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Peter Ueberroth, purchased a Los Angeles travel agency and began merchandising vacation homes and apartments in Hawaii as travel packages. Their venture eventually led to the formation of Colony Hotels in 1969 and Paulin’s relocation to Hawaii in 1971.

Always striving to stay ahead of the pack, Paulin joined forces with Hawaii hotelier Andre S. Tatibouet to help create Aston Hotels & Resorts in 1978. Then in 1987, he sprinted off to create his own management company, Marc Hotels & Resorts. After selling Marc in 1997, Paulin remained its CEO for three years.

Then in 2000, Paulin founded Aqua Hotels & Resorts to manage and operate hotels and condotels. Aqua has since gained ground, operating as Hawaii’s only boutique hotel chain, with 10 properties exclusively in Waikiki.

With this impressive track record, it makes sense that Paulin spends what little free time he carves out for himself on Hawaii’s running routes.

“I’ve had high-stress positions, so running became my outlet,” said Paulin.

This longtime ritual extends beyond his own personal gratification, however.

“I can’t wait to get home, jump into my running shoes and take off on a four-mile run at Kapiolani Park with my wife,” he said.

What appeals to Paulin about this route are its diversions.

“There’s always something different,” he said. “You can hear the animals at the Waikiki Zoo, and it’s especially interesting in the morning when they are just waking up.”

Paulin also considers the Ala Wai Canal a great morning jaunt.

“When you’re running toward Diamond Head in the morning, you get its reflection in the canal,” he said.

Time permitting, Paulin will add a dip at San Souci Beach afterward.

“It’s safe and it’s a great way to cool off after a run,” he said.

When he’s on Maui, Paulin takes off from Kaanapali toward Kapalua early in the morning.

“You get a beautiful view of the sun rising over Lanai and Molokai,” he said. “It’s gorgeous! And on the way back, you have a slight downhill wind at your back.”

Paulin and a group of friends also participate in the Big Island’s annual Volcano Run each July.

While memories of his Hawaii roadwork bring a smile to his face, Paulin’s favorite running memory was carrying the Olympic torch for the 1984 games in Los Angeles.

“It was a remarkable experience,” said Paulin.

He still proudly displays the torch in his office.

As part of Aqua’s Seven Pillars program, all guests have hotline access to Paulin 24/7.

“For years, my number has been in every Aqua room,” Paulin said. “The only time I don’t have my phone with me is when I’m running.”

Apparently, even Paulin realizes that everyone deserves a break from time to time.


Casual and serious runners can take off with a variety of events across the Islands.

Feb. 18: Great Aloha Run
8½-mile run from Aloha Tower to Aloha Stadium

Dec. 14, 2008: Honolulu Marathon
26.2-mile run from Ala Moana Beach Park to Hawaii Kai and finishing at Kapiolani Park.

Sept. 21: Maui Marathon & Half Marathon
26.2-mile run from Kahului to Kaanapali and a 13.1-mile run held concurrently beginning and ending at the marathon’s finish line in Kaanapali

July 26: Kilauea Volcanoes Run
26.2-mile Volcano Marathon, 10-mile Rim Run, five-mile Kilauea Caldera Run and five-mile non-competitive Kilauea Caldera Walk in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.