The Akina Family Story
The Akina Family tradition was born out of necessity in 1928, at a time when outer island residents had to perform all nature of things to survive. Alexander Boniface Akina, native of the island of Kaho’olawe, homesteaded his family in Kihei when few people inhabited Maui’s southern shore. Outposted far from Wailuku town, his kids were not able to walk over 12 miles to school. So, Alexander drove his kids, and eventually those of his neighbors in a transport bus aptly nicknamed, the “banana wagon”. Filling a need, Alexander quickly established an ever-growing transportation company equipping it with banana wagons, buses, and taxis. He later even provided taxi service for the U.S. government during WWII.
A Second Generation Brings Innovation
In 1984, Douglas Akina took the reins when he purchased Akina Bus Service from his father. He and his wife, Sandra, established “Akina Aloha Tours” in 1988 in response to the growing Japanese market. A 6-year application process earned them a coveted PUC license to operate larger vehicles up to 26 passengers or more. They added Ford vans, Crown Victoria limousines, and in a bold move, they became the first transportation company to bring Van Hool Motorcoaches to the state of Hawaii. Committed to every facet of his business, Douglas personally traveled to the factory in Belgium and met with the Van Hool family there to ensure success. He also traveled to Florida where the buses were brought into the US to witness the engines being installed. His competitors thought Douglas was crazy for bringing in such luxury buses and raised criticism, clamoring that the vehicles were not made in the US. They perhaps weren’t aware that Van Hool engines were manufactured by the legendary Cummins motor company, the same American-made engines sported in Dodge RAM trucks, heavy-duty tractor-trailers and fire trucks. Only the bus shell was made in Belgium. After resounding acceptance and success of the vehicles on Maui, Douglas “Butch” Akina then partnered with the Cornell family, owners of the ABC Bus Company, who were the exclusive importers of Van Hool buses to America. Until his passing in 2012, Butch Akina and the Cornell’s remained lifelong friends. That is how he conducted his business. A few years later, other Hawaii companies followed suit and purchased Van Hools because of their excellent turning radius and special braking system, allowing buses to travel safely down Haleakala highway.
Ever innovators, the Akina’s worked with the Kihei community in 1989 to establish the “Kihei Shoppers Shuttle”, South Maui’s first public transportation service, running daily from then Maui Intercontinental Hotel (now Maui Andaz Wailea), to the old Suda Store (now ABC Store at 61 South Kihei Road). Then in 2002, Maui Bus service was started as the Holo Kaʻa service as a joint venture between the private company Akina Aloha Tours, the non-profit organization Maui Economic Opportunity, and the county government in a subsidized joint venture to provide bus service for South, West, and Central Maui. However, low ridership due to lack of advertising for the system made participation impossible, and the Akina’s shifted their focus back to the private sector.
Douglas Akina was a visionary. His vision was not to be the biggest, but to be the best in transportation throughout the state. He prided himself in having the newest, safest and cleanest fleet, setting a high bar for others to follow because both he and his clients demanded it.
As Maui tourism grew in the 1980s, so did the Akina fleet. Douglas Akina was insistent on bringing the latest features to Hawaii. By 2002, Akina’s earned the distinction of being ranked one of the Top Ten Most Innovative Motorcoach Operators in the nation by Metro Magazine. As well, Akina’s has been chosen to represent the State of Hawaii by National School Bus Magazine.
Akina Bus Service
The Akina Family founded their company through providing bus service to Maui’s schools. Through the years, Sandra Akina has been actively involved, wearing many hats: wife, mother, even local school teacher, Vice Principal, and yes a bus driver. She became accustomed to getting up extra early and driving her own kids to school in a yellow bus along with many others. Then each afternoon, her husband, Douglas, would come and collect the bus keys from her classroom and drive the keiki home each afternoon. However, in 1990 things took a sudden change when they lost their bus contract. From 1991 to 1996 their focus had to be on the tour side of the business and it seemed like an end to an era. Fortunately, in 1997, Akina Bus Service reestablished itself in the school bus industry when it was awarded the Kamehameha School contract. The company started with only one school bus and the fleet has grown in response to their needs. Today, the company operates a fleet of 13 school buses for Kamehameha schools.
Three Generations of Commitment to Akina Family Companies
Akina’s is now Maui’s longest continuously run passenger transportation service, in 2018 celebrating 90 years in the transportation industry. The Hawaiian family-owned and operated business is proud of its quality control, continuing to set the highest marks for employees, vehicles and operations in Hawaii. Located in the heart of Kihei, Akina’s is easily less than 10 minutes from the popular resort of Wailea, 30 minutes from the Kahului Airport and Ma’alaea Harbor, and approximately 45 minutes from the Lahaina and Ka’anapali resort areas.
Company services have expanded from passenger transport to all aspects of the tour & hospitality industry. The Akina company operates to and from all resort destinations, hosts unique and private island tours, provides arrival meet and greeting services, arranges optional activities, as well as organizes customized events. Akina’s goal is to provide unique tours, quality service, and share the Aloha Spirit with its customers.
In January 2018, the company updated its brand, refreshing the look of Maui’s official flower, the pink Lokelani Rose, and adding a Hawaiian canoe which floats the letters of the family name. As a native Hawaiian-owned and operated company, the canoe has been the core model for inspiration and training of its staff members, setting example of how to work together to achieve a common goal. At the same time, Akina Aloha Tours changed its operational name to ultimately become, Akina Tours & Transportation, conveying its focus and commitment to the transportation industry. Rest assured, although the word aloha no longer appears in the name, the aloha is still ever present in Akina’s service and their smiles!
Now, the company is run by a third generation: daughter Cassie Akina-Ancog. As General Manager, she remains as hands-on has her parents and the generations ever were before her. With the combined effort of more than 45 employees at Akina Tours & Transportation and Akina Bus Service, as well nearly a century of experience, the Akina’s companies provide transportation services second to none. Akina Tours & Transportation is an acknowledged industry leader for its on-time performance and superior personalized service. Absolutely no exceptions have been made with regards to providing the best equipment, the best staff, and ultimately, The Best In Service and Hawaiian Hospitality!