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
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
“I’ve had high-stress positions, so running became my outlet,”
This longtime ritual extends beyond his own personal
“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
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
“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
“It’s safe and it’s a great way to cool off after a run,” he
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
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
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.