Buying Advice

Key Amenities of a Succesful Hawaii Vacation Rental Property

I enjoy representing buyers and sellers on vacation rental properties here in Hawaii. Optimizing said properties with this list of 12 things your Hawaii Vacation Rental property should be a great start to your success. These recommendations are based on my own personal experience of selling, owning a vacation rental at Honua Kai, and managing a top performing portfolio of properties through Hawaii Life Vacations here on Maui. I specialize in Maui, but we have an incredible team of specialists around the entire state. If you need assistance on other islands — please do continue to reach out to me directly and I will connect you.

Scrupulously Clean Property

I feel that cleanliness is the most important component of a vacation rental that guests are looking for. It is extremely important that your cleaning crew has the right toolkit to get the properties in top-notch condition for arrival. In our portfolio, we go back to back on many reservations. With this, advanced planning and teamwork is imperative to prepare the properties properly. Every company/owner has a different philosophy on booking back to back reservations, so it’s important that you connect with your manager or cleaners to make sure that they can perform at a high level within a restricted time period.

I also highly recommend that all of our owner clients invest in deep cleans (between longer periods of vacancies or before owner arrivals) in order to keep everything up to par. I also highly recommend that you use all white linens and towels so that they can be treated with bleach to properly address staining, which does happen a fair amount.

Furthermore, I think it is also important for owners to consider furnishing their property so that a proper clean doesn’t take an exorbitant amount of time. With this, fake plants in the residence are a cleaner’s nightmare, and anything with slats is really unnecessary both from an aesthetic and cleaning standpoint.

Have a door or other furniture with slats? This is what you are likely to get.

Well Stocked Residence

With all of our vacation rental properties, we try to equip them thoroughly as a home away from home. This is a major point of distinction from staying in vacation rental properties rather than hotel units, and I encourage all owners to take full advantage of it. The amount of gear that you have in your property is often dictated by storage space, so being efficient in this process is imperative. Keep in mind that practicality will almost always transcend flashy but less often used tools/items. For those more speciality items like Pack n Plays, High Chairs, etc. if you are not able to fit them in the residence — it would be prudent that your management company have off-site storage and the ability to deliver said items or at a minimum, be able to connect with an outside vendor to provide this service.

This is what 137 packages from Macy’s looks like in front of our garage for all of our supplies ready to install — something like 3,000 items or so!

Soft/Clean Linens and Towels

I highly recommend that you and/or your property manager properly invest in durable/high-thread count white cotton sheets and towels. Having them be white is imperative so that they can be bleached and most people really prefer white so that they can see they are clean. We purchase almost all of our linens and towels at Macy’s about once per year to equip our new properties and to refresh our existing inventory. Shopping properly can save you quite a bit. Our 550 count King Sheets normally retail for $220 a set, but we can often get them for $70-80 per set during the right sale. We donate all of our old linens because for many people they are still totally acceptable.


Here is a snapshot of one of our property weblinks- check it out in full here- Whaler 102 Weblink.

Home Book or Online App

Every good vacation rental should have either a book, weblink, or online app that can be sent to the guest once their booking confirmation is made that has lots of useful information pertaining to the property, surrounding attractions, arrival instructions, and an FAQ section. For each one of our properties, we have created a custom weblink that is informative and easy to use. This will provide your guest with great value and will also drastically reduce the amount of calls, text, emails that you receive that could be easily answered with this information readily available.

Truly High-Speed Internet

Hawaii has two main high-speed internet providers: Spectrum and Hawaiian Tel. In my opinion (I’ve had both in my personal home and investment properties), both have their pros and cons. Many condos here on Maui include basic cable and internet in their HOA fees. It is my personal opinion that getting the highest speed internet as possible by purchasing increased bandwidth and having the proper equipment to broadcast these signals is of utmost importance.

I know you are thinking: why do people come to Hawaii and spend time on their computer or in front of the TV? This is a valid point, but it is important to consider that many visitors do still need to conduct some business here while on vacation. They want to be able to Facetime or Skype friends or family, and have the ability to properly stream their Netflix, Apple TV, Hulu, etc when it comes time to get out of the sun and relax in some A/C.

If you have a larger home, condo unit, or are in a resort that offers WiFi, consider investing in a booster or other devices that will help to optimize speed and performance.

Lastly, make sure that your WiFi information is readily displayed in several different locations that are visible in the property or in your arrival instructions. You are still going to get calls from oblivious guests or those who chose not to read instructions, but this will help curtail this.

Kabba lock

Kabba lock pictured above

Electronic Access

After your long flight to Maui, you shouldn’t need to meet someone to collect keys, or worse have to arrange flights around a restrictive check-in schedule. The vast majority of short term vacation rental properties will have electronic lockboxes where a unique code will be provided to you by the owner or property manager and should be changed for each reservation. Our team of managers has a master code as does our cleaning crew. This makes the arrival and departure process much easier for the guest. However, I do caution to not provide your guest with the code for entry until the property is clean and prepared for arrival. We have had numerous guests in the past who showed up early to put pressure on the cleaning crew or whomever, and this is not a good idea.

When installing an electronic lock on your property, it is imperative that you check with the HOA on their specific regulations for said locks as many resorts have restrictions on the specific type and even color of the lock to be installed.

In some resorts (typically more high-end ones), guests will need to check-in at the front desk or with the bell valet team to receive keys for the property. Every resort has their own unique protocol.

Some of the most popular electronic locking systems that I see here are Kabba, Resort Lock, and sometimes Schlage.

royal kahana laundry

Royal Kahana #610 has a high-efficiency Bosch washer dryer stacker with a killer ocean view that we purchased at Hamai Appliance in Kahului, where we try to purchase all of our appliances from because they have higher quality items, they will only service what they sell, and they have by far the best service department on the island.

In-Residence Laundry

Another reason people choose vacation rental condos, in particular on longer stays, is for the ability to pack less and wash (and dry) their clothes in the condo. Some vacation rental companies will offer intermittent cleaning or laundry services, but most don’t. Not all vacation rental properties have the physical space to house a washer/dryer, but most do even if it is limited space. If this is the case, the stacker washer/dryer combos or the all-in-one ventless machines can be a great option. It is always nice if you equip your property with some basic laundry supplies for your guests so they don’t need to take care of picking these up especially considering the small quantities that they will be using.

Professional Photos/Video

This is an absolute must as it pertains to the marketing of a short term vacation rental. I often tell my clients, “Web-appeal is the new curb appeal.” As sophisticated as many of our phone cameras are, if you don’t have the proper apps or knowledge to take excellent photos of your property, it makes all the sense in the world to invest in a fantastic local photographer who can properly capture all that your property has to offer. Many vacation rental listings are now going the extra mile with professional videos of the property and surrounding areas as well as creating true walk through Matterport tours like this one of our premiere 3 bedroom residence at Honua Kai, Hokulani 825 Matterport tour.

beach gear

What better way to enjoy North Kaanapali Beach right in front of Honua Kai looking at Molokai.

Quality Beach Gear

The vast majority of our visitors that come to Hawaii are doing so in order to experience many of our spectacular beaches around the state. It is nice to equip them with at least basic beach gear. For all of our vacation rental properties, we supply them with high quality and newer beach gear consisting of: beach chairs that can be strapped to one’s back, beach umbrellas that easily sling over the shoulder, a cooler (preferably with wheels) or cooler bag, and sand toys for the little ones. It is personal policy to exclude boogie boards and snorkel gear from our vacation rental units. I do so because boogie boards are a huge liability should someone get hurt and the snorkel gear for sanitation/liability reasons as well.

Locking Safe

There are some traveling guests who are very adamant about having a locking safe that is properly and physically secured to the residence, and some couldn’t care less. For $150 or so, it is probably worth the investment to have this amenity for your guest if possible. We just recently found some at Costco that work great for our program at $80 a piece.

Nohonani #403 doesn’t have air conditioning but this 3b./2ba. direct beachfront vacation rental in Honokowai, Maui does extremely well in our program. We are sure to equip with multiple fans in every room in addition to the excellent trade wind exposure that the property gets.

Cold A/C

I don’t think having air conditioning is a must for all guests, but I do know many people, including myself who would not rent a property that does not have a well-functioning air conditioning system. If central A/C is not available, split A/C systems are the most efficient and do a great job. The portable units and wall mounted box units are certainly not the most attractive, but I think it’s well worth having one in lieu of none. It’s important that you have your A/C serviced on a regular basis and I think you should strongly consider cleaning/replacing your filters every quarter.

There are a number of condo complexes in Hawaii that don’t allow A/C units, so it is very important that you conduct your due diligence before making your purchase if this is important to you.

At a minimum, if you don’t have A/C it is imperative that you are in area that gets good trade wind exposure and have many fans in the residence.

Newer Furniture and Attractive Staging

One of my real estate clients who just recently purchased their second direct beachfront 2bd./2ba. vacation rental at the Royal Kahana complex in upper West Maui has done an incredible job with a very cost-effecient transformation of the property to help raise its bar to its true potential. I encourage you to take a look at the above links to compare the before and after. For your reference here are both of their rental properties offered through our program.


Have the Ability to Fulfill a Special Guest Request

We recently had a guest who loved pinot noir and backgammon; it’s important to be willing and have the ability to go the extra mile for your guests. Although not every guest says, “thank you” (yes, this does drive me nuts), I am confident that they probably appreciate it. Celebrating special events with champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, rose petals, and birthday gifts for the kids are all things we have done in the past and have ingratiated us with many of our clients.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope you enjoyed and found value in this article, please feel free to leave me a public comment or reach out to me directly if I can be of service to you.

Jeremy Stice R(B) at Your Service

As the director of Hawaii Life’s West Maui Vacation Rental portfolio and one of Hawaii Life’s top-selling Brokers, my team and I are here at your service. I was born and raised here in Maui, am a third generation Realtor, and my wife and I have called West Maui home for the last 10 years and enjoy sharing our passion for it with all who are interested. I make a commitment to pick up my cell phone as best as I can, return voicemails, text messages, and email in a timely fashion. I also work 7 days a week so feel free to call me anytime you need me. However, if I am busy at the time, I will get back to you shortly. I am here at your service, I look forward to sharing my passion and expertise with you. Want to follow my blog via email updates? Please enter it below. This will not be used for any other reason than automatic blog updates that I post. Subscribe to the Jeremy Stice Blog Roll Here 

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September 12, 2019

I could not agree more!!! I have stayed in dozens of rentals, and some had so much clutter I was afraid to move around freely. Sheets that were old and ugly, internet that was total crap etc. Layered dust in some areas, yuk.

These are rules to live by for owners!

Tracy S Stice

September 12, 2019

This is a very informative blog , written by an expert, my son !


September 13, 2019

Good blog – fluffy white towels are the best!

Scott Conrad

September 18, 2019

Great post Jeremy. Having stayed in a bunch of vacation rentals, i think the deep clean every few months is a great tip. Also I hadn’t thought of using white sheets and towels, most do.

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