Eschewing routine refurbs at Inn at Mama's Fish House

The Inn at Mama's Fish House has gradually updated all of its 12 cabins and suites. Only three more are left to be done, and the project should finish next year.
The Inn at Mama's Fish House has gradually updated all of its 12 cabins and suites. Only three more are left to be done, and the project should finish next year.

Compared with other Hawaii resorts, renovations are done a little differently at the Inn at Mama's Fish House in Maui. The pace of work is a little slower, the changes are less sweeping, and there is no Los Angeles-based design firm flown in for consultation.

Floyd and Doris Christenson who sailed the South Pacific for four years before settling in Maui and opened Mama's Fish House in 1973, knew they wanted to keep the overarching 1950s Polynesian theme. The Inn's 12 cabins and suites needed some updates, however, so the Christensons worked on each room individually, with consultation from inn manager Lisa Foth and the foreman doing the work.

"We don't really do renovations like a big hotel would," Foth explained. "We don't wait some period of time and then do a big renovation. We do the rooms one by one, or in sets of two. Generally, if a cabin needs something, then we do it. This time around, it has been quite a big change for all of the rooms. We decided to do them from head to toe."

The process started two years ago, and nine cabins are complete. Two are being worked on currently and should be finished around Thanksgiving, Foth said. The final cabin yet to be redone will be completed next year.

Accommodations range from the two bedroom deluxe beachside cabin, featuring a lanai and full kitchen with SubZero and Wolf and Subzero appliances (from $850 per night), to a garden studio with queen-size bed, flat screen TV and DVD player (from $275 per night).

The cost of renovations has been different for each one because the furniture, art and amenities are different in each room. For example, they invested $1.5 million to renovate their beachside cabin.

Every room has its own character and design. One cabin was opened up by replacing a wall with large windows that can be completely opened and pushed aside to create an open-air feel in the kitchen and living room. Another room now has a decorative tin-paneled ceiling, and another is decorated entirely with teak furniture.

"Each room is very different," Foth said. "In general we used some beautiful light colors. All of the artwork is colorful and locally made. We're using mango wood, different types of granite and marble. There are a lot of gorgeous touches."

In another change, four of the rooms have been designated adults-only. The inn is situated on a cove and guests can take advantage of barbecue grills, beach chairs, beach towels, coolers, and complimentary WiFi.

"We weren't sure how the adults-only change would be received, but we decided to try it with a cluster of rooms and it's been really well received," Foth said. "We still welcome families of course, and some of the cabins with kitchens are great for them. The children love the beach here, because there rocky areas for them to explore and climb around, and places to swim. We have turtles and a monk seal that come on to the beach."

The inn is close to Paia, a charming small town with lots of shops and restaurants, and is of course right next door to Mama's Fish House, a very popular seafood restaurant where it is recommended to book well in advance.
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