Listen to the Podcast About The Hawaii Concierge

Podcast for The Hawaii Concierge

Podcast Summary

Iris Jarnesky, the concierge behind The Hawaii Concierge, shared insightful details with Jake Carter from Felix and Fingers Dueling Pianos. With 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry and being a fourth-generation Maui resident, Iris holds a treasure trove of connections and know-how to ensure visitors have an unforgettable time on the island.

During the interview, Iris highlighted her passion for curating unique experiences tailored to each visitor’s preferences. She emphasized the importance of personalization, debunking the misconception that one size fits all when it comes to recommending activities like luaus. Iris thrives on providing choices and honing in on what makes each experience special for the individual.

The conversation delved into the inception of Iris’s impressive Coming to Maui Facebook Group, which has now grown to approximately 60,000 members. Originally born out of a desire to assist vacation planners with valuable information, the group has evolved into a hub for up-to-date and positive insights on all things Maui. Iris’s dedication to offering accurate and current details on events, especially during challenging times like the recent fires and the COVID-19 pandemic, underscores her commitment to ensuring visitors have a seamless and enjoyable stay.

Through her group, Iris not only shares her expertise but also fosters a sense of community among members, creating a space where individuals can access insider tips and the latest happenings on the island effortlessly. Iris’s genuine enthusiasm for showcasing the best of Maui shines through in her approach, making her a valuable resource for anyone looking to make the most out of their Hawaiian getaway.

This interview was provided by Felix and Fingers Dueling Pianos.

Podcast Transcript

Jake (00:25)
Hello, I’m Jake Carter with Felix and Fingers Dueling Pianos, and this is Iris Jarnesky with Coming to Maui Facebook Group. You are a concierge that books events and all kinds of fun experiences in Maui. You are a fourth generation Maui resident with 30 years of hospitality industry experience, and you have a bunch of great relationships with operators and venues and all of the planners and people all over Maui. And so you work with tourism and making sure that people have an amazing time when they’re here.

Iris Jarnesky (00:55)
do. Yeah.

Jake (00:56)
Yeah, awesome. So I’m going to ask you some questions. Thank you so much for joining the podcast. I appreciate it. And your Facebook group is amazing. Yeah, your Facebook group is amazing. We were just chatting about that. I know that you kind of just explained that, but do you want to give me some more color on that?

Iris Jarnesky (01:03)
I’m happy to be here. Thanks.

Yeah, absolutely. So again, I’ve been a concierge for years here on the island. I’m from the island. And it’s really fun for me to be able to give people information. Planning a vacation can be completely overwhelming. And with the years of experience that I have, I really enjoy when people tell me what their interests are and what they’re looking to do.


helping to filter out all of the noise and give them really the experience they’re looking for. Everything, everyone is so different and every experience is so different. What’s good for me isn’t necessarily good for you. So when you ask a question, like what’s the best luau? Well, guess what? The best luau for me isn’t necessarily the best luau for you.

So to give people choices and find out exactly what they’re looking for is really important to make the memorable experiences that I strive for.

Jake (02:22)
Awesome, yeah, so everything’s very much like tailored to the person and then you’re not just like, this is what I’m gonna sell you every time, you know, so it’s very much personalized. Awesome, very cool. And your Facebook group that you have started a couple years ago, right?

Iris Jarnesky (02:29)
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Yes, yes. It basically, it started as me as a concierge kind of bored looking thumbing through Facebook and found that so many people had so many questions about planning their vacations coming to Maui. And because I have the knowledge that I do, I thought I’d go in and answer some of the questions and found that.

Jake (02:39)
Yeah, and what’s it currently at? It’s like 50 or 60 ,000?

Iris Jarnesky (03:09)
Yeah, I was soliciting my concierge services. So got kind of banned from some of the groups. And I thought, you know what, I’m just going to go out there and start my own. And, you know, went from a couple hundred people to thousands. I have close to six thousand or sixty thousand people now in the Coming to Maui group. And I try and keep everything positive. Give just the most updated information. There’s so much stuff.

that is out there that’s negative. And me being a Maui resident, it’s really interesting for me because I have the family life, but I also work in the tourism industry. And to find that sweet medium that everybody can be happy with has been challenging with things like the fire, things with COVID. And…

So yeah, that’s where my coming to Maui group, I really want to give people the most updated information, the most accurate information and you know, all of the events that are coming up. If you were to sit online trying to find these things, it would take you hours. It’s all you’d be doing. And so like I said, for me, it’s fun for me to be able to share, you know, all the happenings and fun things to do here.

Jake (04:38)


It’s a great group for that and I’d love like I feel like I sort of you know Try to keep a good eye on what’s going on But I always love when I find people that are like oh Did you hear about this and did you hear about this and this other thing going on? I’m like, oh you are gonna be my best friend Like I need to know all of the things that are going on all the time because it’s just I love going to do things So yeah, and your group is amazing That’s just so so many people and so many questions and all like it’s very supportive and good and it’s actually run well which is amazing with that many people because I know a lot of times with like

Iris Jarnesky (04:54)


Jake (05:09)
big groups that ends up just being like spam and like not that you get all the bad stuff in there and that one doesn’t have that which is crazy so hands down you know hats off to you you crush it with that. So to go over some questions about some things that you have experienced and what you do what are some current trends that you’re seeing in wedding or event industry?

Iris Jarnesky (05:19)

What I’ve noticed is right after the fires, of course, everything tourism -wise dropped off. We’re definitely seeing an uptick in reservations, especially for spring and summer. A lot of the events that were canceled are now being rebooked. Some of them were rebooked to other islands, but it seems like the interest to come back to Maui is really starting to appear again. It’s really a nice…

Uh, it’s nice to see because we rely so much on tourism here, um, to see weddings coming back home, you know, people coming back, I should say to do weddings back here on Maui, you know, it’s just, there’s a lot more interest. And again, it’s really nice to see it trickling back in, but it looks like we’re going to have a really busy spring and summer this year.

Jake (06:19)

I love it. Love that. I know I tell people the same thing. I’m like, we need tourism, like bad. So it’s good. It was, yeah, it was really scary to see everything drop off and see people. You know, I have friends that I know, like there’s a photographer I knew that literally left like a week or two after because she was like, I went from having like all this business to nothing for months. And she was just like, I can’t survive, you know? So the fact that it’s coming back is amazing. I know that all of us are feeling that.

Iris Jarnesky (07:00)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I, right after the fires, I actually talked to a couple of friends, vendor friends and all of their bookings for September and October fell off the books and, you know, refunds and whatnot. And finally things are starting to trickle back in and, you know, it’s the interest is coming back, you know,


Jake (07:30)

Iris Jarnesky (07:30)
People want to come to Maui. There’s so many people that love this place and were completely broken hearted and they were torn. Should we come? Should we not? And it’s definitely time to start coming back. Our restaurants are starting to open back up. It’s beautiful. Most of the island is open and operating like normal. So come on back. We’re ready for you. Yeah. Yeah.

Jake (07:36)


Yeah, I mean, basically 99 % of it. Yeah. I’m really excited to see your answer to this next question because I think that I think you’re going to have some good, good stories here. So what

Iris Jarnesky (08:04)

Jake (08:04)
are some things that couples should never do and cringe worthy things that you hate seeing in events? And you can answer this however you want. If you want to just take it as people in general, like I’m very excited. These are, this is my favorite question.

Iris Jarnesky (08:19)
Hmm, okay. A couple of things actually that come to mind. When you’re coming to Maui, don’t try and cram everything into one trip. Overbook things. I have people that want to do two or three activities in a day. They try and plan activities the day they arrive. Don’t do that to yourselves. If you have a flight delay, you’re going to come to Maui being stressed.

and we don’t live a stressed life here. We live a very chill life. We plan things, but not over plan. You’ve got to give yourself some time to enjoy the island. Stop and smell the roses here, because it’s so beautiful. Another thing, don’t wear matching clothes.

Jake (08:50)
and upset. Yeah. Yeah.


You are the second person that has said that. I love that. That is so funny. There was another planner that I was talking to and he was like…

Iris Jarnesky (09:18)
You do not need to go to a luau and wear matching clothes.

Jake (09:23)
Oh my gosh.

Iris Jarnesky (09:25)

Jake (09:27)
I love that. This is a theme. This is a theme now because it’s like, don’t, don’t be that person. Don’t do it. It doesn’t look good. And they were talking about weddings. They were talking about, apparently the guy that I was talking about, or that I have interviewed in past, um, he was saying that they would like do that for a wedding. And he was like, no, don’t wear the like a low. He’s like, don’t wear a mu mu is your wedding dress. You know, wear a wedding dress. Like don’t match everything. Oh my gosh.

Iris Jarnesky (09:28)

Don’t do that. You’re gonna get a lot of really strange looks. What’s that? I’m sorry.


Yeah, yeah, exactly. But I mean, I really think that’s just about it. Those are, I think, the only cringe -worthy things that I see. Overplanning, overbooking, and wearing matching clothes. Don’t do it.

Jake (10:18)
I love it. Oh my gosh. Yeah. And that’s so funny. Yeah. And I think you have a really good point with just like why come to Maui and be stressed. That’s not what we do. It’s island, you know, come, come be happy. Don’t make yourself miserable. Why would you do that? It’s not, you know, yeah.

Iris Jarnesky (10:30)
Yeah. Right. And you know, honestly, there’s so many beautiful things to see here. If you’re stressed just trying to get from one place to another, you’re not going to stop and really enjoy what you’re, what’s around you. Even just a drive from the airport to the hotels. It’s beautiful. You’re right along the shoreline. There’s whales, you know, don’t worry about getting to your final destination. Look around.

Jake (10:47)

Yeah. Yeah.

Iris Jarnesky (11:00)
and see what’s surrounding you because yeah, it’ll put you in a completely different frame of mind.

Jake (11:08)
Yeah. I always tell people that like when I meet people that are asking me about Hana, you know, and I’m like, there’s nothing in Hana. Like that’s my opinion. Like, so I’m like,

Iris Jarnesky (11:13)

Jake (11:19)
Don’t care if you get to Hana. Like that is not the point. Cause people are like, I’m gonna go, I’m gonna drive as fast as I can as early in the morning. And I’m like, no, that’s like, you’re gonna get there to find that there’s nothing there. And you just wasted a couple hours being miserable, like on a, on a crazy road. I’m like, the point is to go slow and enjoy the jungle. Like you can turn around at any point. Don’t get to Hana. I don’t go to Hana most times. I turn around before I get to Hana. Like if I’m doing, gonna go through Hana, it’s cause I’m gonna go all the way around, but yeah.

Iris Jarnesky (11:19)
Yeah. Right.



Yeah. Right.

Mm -hmm. Yeah. That’s…

Jake (11:47)
I’m just like drive through the jungle until you’re sick of driving through the jungle.

Iris Jarnesky (11:50)
One of my favorite things to say is, Hanna is your destination, but it doesn’t need to be your only destination. Getting to Hanna is really what the road to Hanna is all about. It’s a road going from one town to another, your final town is Hanna, but you’re driving through a rainforest with waterfalls right next to you with.

Jake (11:59)



Iris Jarnesky (12:17)
flowers in the trees with the most beautiful coastline. It’s one of the most scenic drives in the country. If you just get in a car and go straight there, look at everything that you’re gonna miss. How many times do you have the opportunity to swim in a waterfall or go to a black sand beach or stop and have some of the best banana bread you’ll ever have? That’s the road to Hana. Yeah. Yeah.

Jake (12:19)

Yeah, yeah, exactly, yeah. So what is the most unique, fun idea that you’ve seen at a wedding or event, something that people have done?

Iris Jarnesky (12:54)

I absolutely love the flower drops. The weddings that have flower drops, beautiful. Yeah. I’ve actually been at a wedding that as the vows were being said, it was right next to the ocean. Two whales came up and breached as the vows were being done. Breathtaking, that is just so magical.

Jake (12:58)
Oh yeah.


Those are really cool. I, yeah.


Iris Jarnesky (13:23)
You know, when you’re looking at a wedding here on Maui, doing it right around whale season at sunset is absolutely stunning. That’s, you won’t get that type of magic anywhere else in the world. Yeah.

Jake (13:32)

So make sure and pay extra for the breaching whale package. Yeah. Yeah. You have to get the trained whales for, you know, during your wedding. It’s an extra. That’s so funny.

Iris Jarnesky (13:45)
Yeah, they’re on cue.

Jake (13:50)
And the flower drop just for everyone listening, because I know what you’re talking about, but I think that might be kind of a Maui thing. I don’t know if they do that everywhere, but I know what it is is they take a bunch of flowers and put them in a helicopter and then they drop them out like way off up in the sky. And so it’s just like raining flowers during the wedding or different points of the wedding. And it’s really, really cool. Really, really cool. So.

Iris Jarnesky (14:13)
Yeah. And people don’t really think about that. Maybe it is just a Maui thing. But when you’ve got flowers falling from the sky right after you say your vows, it’s like, wow, that is a memorable experience, not just for you, but for all of your guests as well.

Jake (14:19)

Thank you.

Yeah, yeah, that is definitely super cool. I like that you brought that up. So what is your advice for someone that is just starting their planning journey?

Iris Jarnesky (14:42)
Get somebody to help you.

Jake (14:46)

Iris Jarnesky (14:47)
have someone here on the island to help you with your plans. Because there’s so much stuff on the internet and some of it’s just garbage. Some of it’s people have gone out of business and their websites are still up. So, you know, that’s a really important one when you’re starting your planning is find someone that’s here on the island to help you decipher.

all of the stuff that’s good information and bad information.

Jake (15:21)
Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s, I think you’re totally right. I think that getting started with someone that actually knows what’s going on, don’t just try to do

Iris Jarnesky (15:28)

Jake (15:28)
it yourself because you don’t, that’s not what you do for work. Like you’re not a professional planner. No one is. So it’s like, why don’t you just hire someone? You would hire a person to come do your plumbing, you know, or your electrical. Why would you not hire someone to do this other thing that you don’t do? You know, makes total sense. So yeah. Um, what makes your service unique?

Iris Jarnesky (15:42)
Yeah, I agree.

Well, I I work for a concierge company that deals with a lot of high -end travel agents and their guests. So my company is unique because we offer a lot of different private experiences. I have, of course, the group tours that you can buy in any hotel, but I also have a lot of vendors that I work with that are really geared to giving people unique experiences.

One of my tour operators is amazing. He’s a Hawaiian culturalist. So if you’re looking for something that you just want to get Hawaiian culture and not go to the Rodehana or go to the Haleakala, I can get really amazing cultural experiences for you going out to a taro farm, going out to do some of the food tastings or go out to historical sacred sites that aren’t even available to the public.

So I have those types of experiences to offer along with all of the different group tours.

Jake (16:59)
Yeah, that is really cool. That is awesome. And I think that comes with one that you’re, you’ve been here forever and you’re from here, right? And you, you’ve done this, you have those relationships with the people and you’re like, here you go. Here’s the most unique, like once again, get with people that do this for their job because they know how to do it and they do it well. Otherwise they wouldn’t, you know,

Iris Jarnesky (17:06)
Oh yeah.

Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. And you know, the companies that we work with have to be vetted. They have to have the proper insurances. And there’s so many people out there that are doing tours and activities that aren’t licensed. So when you’re looking at getting a good company, that’s another thing to really think about is are they a legal company? Are they?

working legitimately here within the state and you know, you get hurt out there. You don’t want just anybody doing your tour. You want to make sure that you’ve got somebody that’s good that is going to take care of you if something happens on your tour.

Jake (18:00)
Yeah, for sure.

Okay, so now I’m gonna ask some logistical questions about events and just kind of, you don’t have to get super colorful with these, but you can if you would like to. So what is the current availability that you have for like booking events and how far in advance do people normally book?

Iris Jarnesky (18:01)
Mm -hmm.


That’s a really great question because we have groups that we’re working on right now that are booking for June of 2025. Yeah, and like I said, summertime is extremely busy. You want to do your best to plan ahead. If you’re looking at a smaller group, let’s say 25 to 35 people, I’m working with a group right now that’s 25.

Jake (18:30)

Iris Jarnesky (18:50)
They’re coming this summer, so in June. I’m able to get them just about everything that they’d like to get. We have some people that rent out private homes and we can do private luau’s at the private home. So if it’s a smaller group, I would say, you know, three, four months out is a good time to plan. But if you’re looking for, you know, two, 300 people,

You definitely want to give it that good nine months to a year window to be able to prepare properly.

Jake (19:29)
Yeah, that is good. I agree. I think the more ahead of you get ahead of the game that you get with things, the better it’s going to work out, you know, and it just makes it so much less stressful when you’re like, yep, everything’s done and I’m just going to go and do it. You know, when you’ve done it a year

Iris Jarnesky (19:41)
Yeah. Right.

Jake (19:41)
ago and you just forgot about all that. Yeah. You’re not up against all the deadlines. And yeah, I think, I think that’s totally right. What is an average event size for things that you do? I know that you said like between you, you do stuff for 20 and also 400. So what, what is normal for you?

Iris Jarnesky (19:58)
Normal would be I would say 25 to 50 Yeah, especially for the destination weddings that we have 25 to 50 people is pretty average Yeah

Jake (20:03)

Awesome. Do you have a preferred vendor list? I’m sure you do. And do you require that people use them if you’re working on an event with them?

Iris Jarnesky (20:22)

like them to use our preferred vendors, however, because every group is unique. We have hundreds of activities that we have access to. I book activities, in fact, for the entire state of Hawaii. So we have certain people that we like to use because, again, they’re vetted. They’ve got great guest satisfaction ratings.

But we really do try and find out what your guests are looking for and give them the experience that they’re looking for versus just working off specific vendors.

Jake (21:06)
Yeah. Yeah. Um, so I was also going to ask you, um, I know that you’re very involved in the planning process. Are you, do you go, if like you book a big event and are you there on site when their event is happening?

Iris Jarnesky (21:22)
Not normally, no. I usually work with the event planner and they shoot me an email, hey Iris, I have a group of 25 coming over, this is what they wanna do. On my website, we’ve even done things where I have their own specific group that, let’s say for instance, they wanna have their wedding reception at a luau. So the…

Jake (21:22)


Iris Jarnesky (21:50)
ride and groom will take care of that portion, but guests want to go out on a snorkel trip. Some want to do a helicopter ride. We can set it up so that they can get on the website and pick certain activities and pay for it individually, not necessarily doing it as a group. So we try and work, you know, sometimes they want to take care of everything, which, you know, lucky guest.

Jake (22:06)
Oh, that’s cool.

Hmm. Once again, just…



Iris Jarnesky (22:19)
But yeah, we can definitely work it out both ways so that everybody’s happy.

Jake (22:27)
So you mentioned that if there was an event that was going on, you would have a planner on site. Would that be the main point of contact? Or do you kind of

Iris Jarnesky (22:35)

Jake (22:35)
do like game time logistical work just not there?

Iris Jarnesky (22:39)
Um, well, there’s usually an event planner that reaches out and they’re the ones that are there on site with the bride and groom to, you know, walk them through the logistics and they contact me if there’s any issues or, you know, change of number of guests or, you know, let’s say that we have a weather event and they, you know, get canceled. I’ve had luaus to cancel and 25 people are looking to go to a luaus.

Jake (22:47)


Iris Jarnesky (23:09)
and hopefully we can get them rescheduled. But if that’s the case, the refunds, I take care of all of

Jake (23:12)

Yeah. Okay. So I mean, in the event that there are weather issues, you guys do try to reschedule or you will refund people.

Awesome. And how, so I know you also just mentioned, this is another good question for you is the payment for events and all of that. Um, you said that people can book just directly on your website. Um, or yeah.

Iris Jarnesky (23:23)

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. With the large groups or if it’s a private event, we have a seven -day cancellation policy. If it’s just a group tour, let’s say somebody goes on a helicopter and they decide, I don’t want to go on Monday, we want to go on Thursday. It’s two days prior to the activity date to change or cancel with no penalty. And most of the activities are the same.

Jake (23:48)
Mm -hmm.

Mm -hmm.

Iris Jarnesky (24:04)
So a private would have seven days, a group would have 48 hours to change or cancel with no penalty.

Jake (24:12)
Awesome. Do you have a standard deposit that you take for everything or does it vary? Okay.

Iris Jarnesky (24:16)
We usually take everything upfront. So payment in full in the beginning. And, you know, if we’re doing like a big event, we’ll have usually a deadline date that everything needs to be paid for. That’s usually a month or two in advance. And then, yeah, just

like booking anything online, if you, you know, most things you have to pay for upfront. So we’re the same.

Jake (24:39)


Iris Jarnesky (24:45)
But I’ve had people, you know, hey, it’s not convenient for me to pay right now. I’m going to be there in June. Can I pay for all of this in April? Absolutely. We work really, really well. You’re flexible.

Jake (24:55)
Yeah. Yeah. Awesome. Cool. Well, so I know, like we mentioned at the beginning, Coming to Maui is the Facebook group with, you can get all of the great information and see all of the things and network with all the people. And that’s the one that you run and manage and people can reach out to tours through that group and also through your email. Do you want to say your email just so that we have it here?

Iris Jarnesky (25:14)
Yep. Yeah, my email address is

Jake (25:26)
Awesome. And that’s the best way to reach out and book things with you, right? Great. And then I, gosh, was there a special offer with this or no? Did I, let’s see.

Iris Jarnesky (25:38)
You know,

we really try hard to keep integrity with all of our pricing. So our pricing is across the board, the same as it would be if you were to walk into our concierge desk in our hotel. So unfortunately I don’t have discounts and not very many people are discounting just trying to keep ahead of, you know, the fires and COVID, everybody’s trying to come back. So I wish I could say yes.

Jake (25:43)
for sure.



The special offer is working with you. The special offer is working with you and then you don’t have to be so stressed. That’s the special offer. Yes. Yes, exactly. How fun. I love it. Yes. Amazing. Cool. Well, thank you so much for joining. I appreciate your time and I appreciate you doing this with me today. Thank you. Aloha. Yeah.

Iris Jarnesky (26:08)

Yes, you get me.

Thanks Jacob, it’s really nice meeting you and I am happy to help. This is really fun for me. I like to say that I get to help everybody have fun and they pay me to do that. So I got a pretty good gig.

Jake (26:36)
Yeah, I totally agree. I think I kind of do the same thing on a different level. Generally it’s drunk people, but you know, they’re even more

Iris Jarnesky (26:44)
Yeah. Oh yeah, absolutely. Well, thanks again so much.

Jake (26:44)
fun though. So yeah. Awesome. Thank you.


Iris Jarnesky (26:53)

This interview was made possible by Felix & Fingers Dueling Pianos

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