Mike White has been general manager of Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel since 1985, but has even deeper roots in Hawai‘i: He’s a direct descendant of the Scottish-born Sinclair family, who purchased the island of Ni‘ihau from King Kamehameha III in 1864.
Fun fact: The hotel’s gift shop carries a beautiful reproduction of “Indigenous Flowers of the Hawaiian Islands,” a book of illustrations by Mike’s many-times-removed-cousin Isabella McHutcheson Sinclair, who originally published them in 1885.
We spoke with Mike just after he returned from a family reunion on the island of Hawai‘i, home of two of his former employers, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and Mauna Lani Bay Hotel.
What was your first impression of Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel?
I had come from very high-end properties that had very strict guest codes at the time and so my first impression was that Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel had a sense of simplicity to it and a far more relaxed environment. I felt this was much more of a reflection of what Hawai‘i was than the hotels I had worked at before, and I immediately felt this could be molded into something very different because of its simplicity. There’s a lot to be said of a relaxed environment.
What has changed since then?
We have built out that dream, so that it is a place that can be more relaxed and more Hawaiian.
What’s your favorite thing about going to work?
Seeing employees who are relaxed and happy in what they’re doing, and largely because they’re doing it for reasons other than it just being a job.
What is one word to describe your hotel?
Aloha. But if I could add a few more words, culturally rich and kuleana (a combination of “responsibility” and “privilege.”) While other resorts have one cultural advisor, we have 12 to 14 practitioners. One of the driving feelings when we first started our cultural programs back in 1986 with Kenny Brown and George Kanahele is that hotels have a responsibility to do what we’re doing.