Although they had vacationed regularly for two decades on Kauai’s South Shore, Silicon Valley attorney Terry McMahon and his wife, Cindie, made a bold move in late 2007 when they decided to be founding members of the Garden Isle’s most luxurious resort community, Kukuiula.
The couple put down a check for a custom house lot in the former sugarcane fields near Poipu and returned home to Monte Sereno in time for Cindie McMahon to undergo her annual mammogram. It was then she learned she had breast cancer.
“It was crazy timing, so we backed out,” recalled Cindie McMahon, who retired three years ago from her 20-year-old psychotherapy practice in Los Gatos. “But then I got a call before I had my surgery from a Realtor asking us to take a look at another piece of property, and we decided we’re not going to let cancer define what we do with our lives. We re-upped again and gave them a check and never looked back.”
“It was a life-affirming decision that Cindie was going to be fine and life was going forward,” said Terry McMahon, who heads the worldwide intellectual property practice of McDermott Will & Emery at the firm’s Menlo Park office.
And life has gone forward, both for the McMahons and the exclusive 1,000-acre development that the Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch.com once characterized – or mischaracterized, according to the McMahons – as a “ghost town.”
Kukuiula now claims 101 owner families, 30 completed houses and eight vacation-rental “club cottages,” with another 10 houses and eight rental cottages under construction, according to Brent Herrington, president of Kukuiula Development Co. The members-only amenities include an 18-hole golf course designed by Tom Weiskopf; a clubhouse complex with restaurant, pools and spa; and a 6-acre farm and lake stocked with peacock bass.
Zoned for up to 1,500 housing units, Kukuiula offers land from about a third of an acre to a full acre for just under a million to the mid $4 millions. Lots with built cottages are priced from $2 to almost $4 million, Herrington said.
Like the McMahons, the majority of property owners, guests and visitors come from California, with many from the Bay Area. “It’s been clear to us from the beginning that there really is a special relationship between Kauai and the Bay Area,” Herrington said.
“The country charm really appeals to people from the Bay Area,” said Paul Horner, formerly manager of Napa’s Carneros Inn and now general manager of the Club at Kukuiula, to which all property owners belong. “You can stay connected here – we have some of the finest Internet connectivity in the islands – yet they’re so far away and disconnected at the same time.”
To build their 6,000-square-foot hillside getaway, the McMahons chose Scottsdale, Ariz., architect Don Ziebell, who designed Kukuiula’s graceful plantation-style clubhouse and sumptuous yet understated spa. Ziebell is “good at sticking with what should be in the environment, rather than sticking a postmodern house where it shouldn’t be,” Cindie McMahon said.
Completed in July 2011, the house includes four bedrooms, four full baths, two half baths, an 1,800-square-foot lanai, pool and a one-bedroom ohana suite, as in-law units in the islands are called. The main level features two master suites, each with an outdoor shower garden, while the 40-by-40-foot rec room above the garage boasts what Terry McMahon calls a “270-degree view” of the coast, from lush green mountains in the east and the Spouting Horn blowhole to the west.
For interior design, the McMahons turned to the woman who had worked on their Monte Sereno home, Marie Peterson of Chelsea Court Designs in Los Gatos and San Francisco, while C. Mariani Antiques of San Francisco created some antique reproductions. Dode Martin, co-owner of MartinRoberts Design, based in San Francisco and Kauai helped find the art. “She knows all of the local artists, and we were able to find some nice pieces of art for the wall,” Terry McMahon said.
The result? “It’s our refuge, our place of peace – it’s literally magical,” he said. The magic included a gift of a small watercolor of the view from their house by one of the artists represented on their walls to a blessing by Kauilani Kahalekai, a kahu (priest) who gave the couple their Hawaiian names.
Kahalekai chose Nanimakamae (precious beauty) for Cindie McMahon and Makaiolani (eyes of the royal hawk) for Terry McMahon, and now most folks on Kauai know them as Nani and Maka. Kahalekai named their house Ka Hale O Mauli Ola, House of the Breath of Life.
Last year, the couple spent about 13 weeks in their Kauai haven, joined at times by children Katie, 33, and Patrick, 35. The senior McMahons have racked up 10 weeks so far this year.
“We were just talking about when we can come back,” Terry McMahon said.
Former Chronicle Travel Editor Jeanne Cooper writes the Aloha Friday column and Hawaii Insider blog for SFGate.com.