Updated: November 28, 2023
Kahulu De Santos has been appointed Kāʻanapali Beach Hotel’s new Director of ʻImipoʻokela, providing Hawaiian cultural education to all departments through music, hula, guest activities, special programming and events.
“Kahulu’s experience with venerable hospitality brands and decades-long commitment to hula, combined with her formal education in Hawaiian studies and language, will serve her well in her [new] role,” General Manager Mike White said.
She will revitalize the hotelʻs Poʻokela employee training program, providing cultural guidance and leadership training to staff across all aspects of the hotel’s management and daily operations.
Since launching in 1986, all Kāʻanapali Beach Hotel staff have participated in the ʻImipoʻokela program, from the groundskeepers to the general manager. Through regular Po‘okela classes, the team studies topics such as Hawaiian language, geography, religion, mythology, economics and history. They also participate in field trips to significant cultural sites to deepen their Hawaiian understanding.
De Santos previously served as the cultural advisor for Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa on Oʻahu for more than a decade, advising on appropriate cultural and organizational protocol, reviewing messaging to ensure accuracy and cultural sensitivity, and developing an educational program for all Aulani staff including basic Hawaiian language.
She also worked to partner with local leaders, including the educational community and travel industry, on opportunities to support the perpetuation of the Hawaiian language and culture, the preservation of the natural environment, and engagement with the community.
Prior to joining Aulani Resort, De Santos held positions at the Outrigger, Wyndham, Aston Hotels & Resorts, Hawaiian Airlines, Hawaii Visitors Bureau and the Bishop Museum.
De Santos received her bachelor’s degree in Hawaiian Studies with an emphasis in Hawaiian language from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She is a kumu hula graduate of Hālau Mōhala ʻIlima and has attended every Merrie Monarch Festival, the internationally acclaimed hula competition and Hawaiian fair, since 1978.
From hula to aloha ‘āina to ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, her decades of study with Māpuana de Silva informs her work with an inspiring vision.