Aloha! My name is Doug, and I am the Kauai Tour Guy. Kauai tours are my passion, and people are always curious about how I came to live on one of the most beautiful islands in the world. This is my story…
A florist friend of mine was invited to do an exhibition for the Kauai County Fair back in 1993. He couldn’t go at the last minute and asked me if I would like to go instead. I jumped at the chance, since I had been a bit envious when he first told me about his trip to Kauai. At that time, I had just started my floral business in Long Beach, California and had little opportunity to travel. Working with the florals in Kauai, I learned a lot about tropical flowers, but the locals who came to my demonstrations on floral design wanted to see roses and other mainland flowers! But I wanted to explore the tropical world…
I came and fell in love with Kauai and the wonderful people I met here during my working vacation. At that time, Kauai had just gone through the trials and tribulations of the category 4-5 Hurricane Iniki the year before on September 11, 1992. The citizens of Kauai experienced a direct hit by this monster storm near Poipu, and it had decimated the south shore and caused 3 billion dollars worth of damage. Some areas of the island were without power for 3 months. To this day, Iniki is remembered by locals who were here every hurricane season (June through November). I remember thinking that the trees on the mountain ridges looked like toothpicks silhouetted against the blue sky and popcorn clouds.
As my business became more successful, I had the opportunity to visit Europe and other parts of the world, but it was Kauai’s siren song that kept calling me back. If you are familiar with the song “Bali Hai” (“Bali Hai, calling me, Bali Hai”) from South Pacific then you know it is one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most beautiful songs from the movie. South Pacific was the first major film shot here in 1958. Mount Makana is the real name of the mountain called Bali Hai, but to this day it is still known as Bali Hai.
After several years, three visits and life’s ups and downs, I decided that I had to live there. I finally moved on April 23, 2007, and it’s what I consider the birthday of my new life on the Garden Isle.
My first job on Kauai was folding T-shirts at the Kilauea Lighthouse. I’d taken a couple months off after selling my successful flower shop in Santa Barbara (how I got to Santa Barbara via Santa Fe, NM, Washington, DC and LA is another story) but I needed a job so that I didn’t lose track of time visiting glorious beaches on my new island home. When things were slow, I would go see if there was a Hawaiian monk seal hauled up in the bay down below the lighthouse. If there was a seal, I would come back into the gift shop and have people follow me out to see the seal. Then they would come in and want to buy one of our stuffed toy seals! I guess I was playing tour guide even then!
That lasted a while until I went to driving the local school bus at the Island School, our private school on Kauai and a very good one, I might add. I drove the bus for four years, and I loved driving down the steep hill overlooking Hanalei Bay. In the winter months, the sun would be rising just as I reached the overlook of Hanalei Bay. If there was a full moon, that was a bonus—and a spectacular one at that!
I moved on to driving for a tour company and the Kauai County Bus. I admit that having been my own boss for 25 years and then working for others was difficult—not only for me, but for my bosses as well. I went on to work at the largest private plant nursery in Hawaii here on Kauai and then I got a job as a concierge. I hoped my concierge job was going to be my last job, but corporate style management and I were foreign to one another.
The concierge job is where the idea for the Kauai Tour Guy began. I became familiar with how the internet and smartphones were revolutionizing the tourism business, let alone the rest of society. I soon realized that people were booking before they got to the island or finding activity information on their smartphones after they arrived. I saw indications that the live concierge was going the way of the travel agent and bank teller. I saw that out of the tourists staying at the hotels I worked at, I was booking a very small percentage of them. The old model of concierge/activity booking was in steep decline.
It was after two years of being a concierge that I thought of going back into business for myself. I had considerable knowledge of Kauai from my bus driving days, I knew a lot about the flora and fauna from my plant nursery days, I liked to drive and I loved telling people about all the activities and beautiful places they were going to see during their visit. I knew people were not always excited about doing a big bus tour, and I realized I could offer an alternative.
Being a concierge would be my last “job”.
I could build a website, I had a nice touring car, and Kauai Tour Guy could hit the road offering Kauai tours, private island tours and sightseeing day trips. You can follow a guidebook or you can join me on a private tour and experience Kauai as I learned to love it.