For hotelier Jonathan McManus, getting his Hotel Wailea designated by Relais & Châteaux is just one more chapter in his multifaceted life.
Jonathan Mcmanus is successful enough for people to assume that he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. after all, Mcmanus is an owner at Hotel Wailea, the state’s only hotel and restaurant to carry the prestigious Relais & Châteaux designation – a vetting reserved for world’s best smaller, intimate properties. The property’s $20 million transformation from a Japanese-owned private club to a top Maui hotel has been lauded in publications from Vogue to Architectural Digest, Travel + Leisure, Esquire and the New York Times. It’s also been recognized by Condé Nast Traveler, which proclaimed it one of the world’s most romantic hotels.
He’s also the owner of Saba Rock, a small private island, which boasts one of the British Virgin Islands’ most exclusive hotels. That purchase made him neighbor to Sir Richard Branson, whom he refers to as “just one of the lads.”
He’s working with a promising young chef Chris Kajioka to upgrade Hawai’i’s dining experience by investing in Senia, which recently opened in Honolulu’s Chinatown. Friends and colleagues also credit him with pioneering the boutique hotel concept in Waikiki with his former property the now-Aqua Bamboo Waikiki Hotel, which they say was a front-runner of the current Kuhio Street renaissance.
He briefly appeared in the George Clooney movie, The Descendants. And he counts among his friends – powerful movers and shakers like Peter Ho, Bank of Hawaii president, CEO and chairman, who calls him a “thought leader” and a “trend setter.”
Current pedigree aside, if McManus was given any eating utensils by his parents, they were more likely made of commercial grade stainless steel – the kind self-made restaurateurs give to their kids to cut up 600 papaya before hungry travelers start arriving for the breakfast shift.
McManus’ parents John and Andrea McManus founded Waikiki’s food scene much in the way that their contemporaries Roy and Estelle Kelley, pioneered modern-day tourism. The self-made pair built a restaurant empire from an inauspicious start at the former Mike’s Grog ‘n Sirloin on Seaside Avenue in Waikiki. McManus’ mom, a Californian, moved here to attend the University of Hawai’i and became the restaurant’s hostess.
His father, also from California, was a stevedore, turned waiter. Eventually, he became Mike’s Grog ‘n Sirloin’s general manager, a role that he parlayed into ownership of some 50 restaurants in Waikiki over a 50-year career. McManus’ father developed The Shorebird and Ocean House concepts, which still operate in Outrigger hotels today. The family’s restaurant interests also extend into the California Bay Area, where they own Buena Vista Café and the Napa Valley Burger.
McManus’ parents had high hopes for their son, too. They sent him to Robert Louis Stevenson School, a select private boarding and day school on California’s Monterey Peninsula. In return for that stellar education,
photography by OWEN BUGGY PHOTOGRAPHY