Island’s newest vacation rental is old, portable, has four wheels

WAILUA HOMESTEADS – A small ad in The Garden Island classified section calls attention to a type of vacation rental quite unique on Kaua’i.

Residents and visitors are welcome to rent this getaway for a two-day minimum, and drive it away.

Drive it away?

Holoholo RV of Kauai at the present consists of one, 25-year-old, 22-foot-long motor home that is a Dodge van easy to drive as a smaller van, and at 9,000 pounds is light enough to cross every one-lane bridge on the island.

No doubt the picture conjures up pleasant memories of tooling up and down the coast for many transplanted Californians.

Steve and Gini Martin, of Wailua Homesteads, were parents of young children who participated in surf contests on weekends up and down the California coast, and hotel bills and related expenses quickly got to be too much to handle.

Why not arrive in style, they thought, aboard a motor home with all the comforts of home, park it very close to the contest sites, and save big money at the same time?

Well, that’s exactly what they did.

Holoholo’s single rig (personalized license plate HOLO-RV) “comes with everything,” Steve Martin said.

“Everything” includes a solar power system with propane backup, fishing poles, indoor and outdoor games, TV, VCR, microwave, stove, hot and cold running water, shower, toilet, refrigerator, ability to comfortably sleep four people, camping equipment, torch lights, tables and chairs for outdoor use, and more.

“All you need is your clothes. Nothing else,” except food, said Martin.

And at only $100 a day, plus a $75 cleaning charge, the home away from home on wheels is a bargain compared to the average-priced hotel room on the island.

The rig is perfect, Martin feels, for those who want to fish all night at a beach, camp at county or state parks, or simply go to a place far from the place you’re staying while on the island, and not have to worry about packing up and making the long drive back to the hotel after a long day of snorkeling, fishing, diving, surfing, windsurfing, hiking, or taking part in other activities.

“You can be on location,” and have the comforts of home wherever you want them. “I want everybody to have a good time with it,” he said.

The newspaper ad has gotten the couple calls from Michigan, New York, other states, and Australia and Canada. A visitor has rented the rig for 18 days beginning today.

The rig also offers folks the chance to go where they want to go, when they want. “Take it at your own pace. Relax,” he said.

“You don’t have to set up for weather.”

The vacation rental is also perfect for family members who like camping but don’t like sleeping on the floor of a tent, something Martin learned from experience. “My wife doesn’t really like roughing it.”

Besides researching hundreds of RV (recreational vehicle) Web sites and custom-designing the rig in a Hawaian-style motif and making sure it is compatible with the island’s roads and parks, Martin has parked the rig at parks from Hanalei to Polihale.

Beach parks at Hanama’ulu, Ha’ena and Polihale allow those with camping permits to park the RV there. It’s OK for Koke’e, and Martin has envisioned a myriad of other potential uses for his portable vacation rental.

Surprise birthday-party pickups, and a pickup service that brings people to the beach for a gourmet dinner at sunset are some of the potential uses.

On Kaua’i, Martin has researched what people do in parks, and designed the rig to accommodate those activities, he said.

“Holoholo” is a Hawaiian word meaning to take a walk, ride or sail, or to go out for pleasure.

Holoholo offers Lihu’e Airport pickup, and the personalized service continues with a one-hour orientation about the features of the rig Martin has customized inside and out.

He purchased the motor home for $5,000, and has put at least $10,000 worth of features inside it. The endeavor has taken five years to put together, after the couple came up with the rental idea in 1997, he said.

While doing the online research, Martin learned that the average cost of a comparable rental is around $1,200 a week, with a man on the Big Island offering newer motor homes for rent at $250 a day.

But more important than the price, Martin is confident it will be the personalized customer service, and fun renters have with the rig, that will mean repeat business and positive word-of-mouth advertising.

“It’s how you take care of the customers that makes the difference,” said Martin, adding that the island of late seems to be lacking in customer service, or what he calls “the hospitality of service.”

His philosophy is simple: Treat people how you would want to be treated. Personalized service, and owners involved in and proud of their product, results in a product that can be offered without many restrictions on its use, he said.

“Sending people away smiling is the best advertising.”

Steve Martin works by day for Bittner Construction, and Gini Martin owns and operates the Merry-go-round Preschool adjacent to their property here.

For more information on Holoholo RV, please call 822-4001, e-mail holorv@msn.com, or see the Web site, www.geocities.com/holoholorv/NEW/index2.htm.

Business Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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