Dawna L. Robertson - The Write Words

Feature Writing
I've always been a writer. Even as a child, I wrote poems and lyrics to songs I'd pound out in the easy key of C on my antique upright piano. In the sixth grade, I launched my elementary school's inaugural newspaper. A few years later, I was tapped as editor my junior high's newspaper and crowned my teenage tenure as co-editor of my high school's yearbook. Little wonder I majored in Journalism during my college career at the University of Oklahoma.

With a little luck and a lot of perseverance, I landed an internship with a daily newspaper during my senior year at OU. No, it wasn't my college paper. It was a genuine daily published for an entire state rather than a campus. And for me, it was quite a fast track from writing obituaries and weddings to that pinnacle of feature articles.

Along the way, I always loved to interview. I craved meeting strangers from all walks of life and asking the questions that would shed some light on who these individual were and what made them tick. I still do. And I continue to love the research process. I thrive on diving into what's below the surface rather than simply sifting through what's within easy reach.

Graduating with a degree in Advertising Journalism and a minor in Public Relations, I considered it a no-brainer to bolt the newsroom and charge toward the seemingly glamorous life that could only be achieved as a copywriter at an Oklahoma City advertising agency. There were actually times when I believed life could never be more rewarding than it was at that exact moment. Fortunately, I was very, very wrong.

Shortly after landing a writing gig at an agency that serviced primarily business to business accounts, I was quickly assigned to its new consumer-focused Oklahoma Tourism account. We then scored a five-state regional tourism account, upping my responsibilities to convince travelers that their was no finer place to vacation than in the Ozarks area.

At that point, I was hooked. It was tourism or bust. Yet while I was enjoying the industry, I began to weigh my options. This was after the revelation that there was at least one better place to vacation - and to live. So one winter morning, I hopped a flight to Hawaii. And I never looked back.

My 25 years in Hawaii took me from the state's second largest advertising agency to an in-house corporate communications position to freelancing for some of the Hawaiian Islands' most high profile accounts.

Then strangely, it all came full circle when I was approached for feature writing assignments for publications running Hawaii editorial. And these ran the gamut - in-flights, sports pubs, travel trades, metro magazines and major market newspapers.

It's been quite a ride - or flight - depending on the situation. But the bottom line is I feel extremely fortunate to have covered so many communications arenas for so many varied accounts. And while I've traveled the world in the process, I realize that sometime there's really no need to travel too far since there's a story around every corner. 

Leisure Travel


It’s no doubt a grand time to be Ivanka Marie Trump.

This summer, she has gotten engaged, celebrated the second anniversary of her jewelry boutique with a new line of 18K yellow gold adornments, had her first book published and opened Trump’s stellar new Hawaii property. And in January, she’ll return to prime time as an adviser on the third season of her father’s reality TV hit, The Celebrity Apprentice.

Yet pigeonholing Ivanka as an over-achiever is a fairly off-base statement. She’s simply living up to her potential.

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Cyprus Delights
Try this,” urged Zoe Anastasiou, my well-versed docent who was much more at ease driving on “the other side of the road” than I was. “You’ve never tasted anything like it.”

“Mochi in Cyprus?” I asked. We were both off-base. Anastasiou had introduced me to Cyprus Delights, a traditional confection that resembles the Japanese delicacy in both appearance and flavor. The sweet treat’s name seems symbolic of this Mediterranean island that is truly one pleasure after another.
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Sustainable Hawaii
When Dr. Gerritt P. Judd purchased a 622-acre parcel at Kualoa from King Kamehameha III in 1850, the missionary doctor and royal advisor landed an ahupua’a — a sustainable strip of land on Windward Oahu that had once supported Native Hawaiians with fishing, farming and aquaculture.

A decade later, Dr. Judd’s son upped the acreage to 4,000 by purchasing adjacent Hakipuu and Kaaawa valleys from Queen Kalama’s land holdings. Over time, the family raised cattle and produced sugarcane, but these endeavors eventually fell short in generating adequate revenue to efficiently maintain the land.

In order to be financially sustainable without selling out to large developers, Judd descendent John Morgan launched Kualoa Ranch in 1985 on the sprawling land that has remained in his family for six generations. Morgan has found a balance of costs and benefits to visitors, the local community and the natural environment.
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Macau Ups The Ante
When Macau's 40-year gambling monopoly was liberated from the grips of billionaire entrepreneur Stanley Ho in 2002, it opened the floodgates to any developer with enough fiscal clout and moxie to play the game. The payoff is a mother lode of glitzy casino hotels mirroring the Las Vegas Strip.

In less than a decade, the former Portuguese colony has gone gaming gangbusters. Once little more than an afterthought among Hong Kong day-trippers testing Lady Luck at the Hotel Lisboa, the city is now referred to as "Las Vegas East" and celebrated as the entertainment capital of Asia.
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Fantasy Island
The instant he grabbed my hand to help me step from my South Sea Cruises shuttle boat onto the sugary-white sand fringing Castaway Island Resort, Lingo Reece seemed like someone I knew my entire life. As the day unfolded, that became the case with everyone I met at this 174-acre island paradise. Who thought that traveling 5,600 miles from where I live would find me feeling so at home?
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CuisinArt Anguilla
When U.S. entrepreneur Leandro Rizzuto purchased a sprawling parcel of land hugging Anguilla’s Rendezvous Bay, he envisioned building a luxe home where he could entertain family and peers. But that plan was unplugged when he learned of a local law restricting foreign residential development on the Caribbean island’s beachfront.
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Connecting The Spots
During a recent visit to Perth, I learned that this Western Australia capital is much more than a friendly, sophisticated city brimming with history and culture. It’s also the springboard to an aquatic paradise known as the Coral Coast — home to the world’s largest fringing reefs accessible simply by stepping offshore.

Eager to pursue ocean activities beyond the norm, I decided to get out of town to see how the remote area sized up to the more celebrated diving sites I’d explored in the past.
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A new program helps direct visitors to the most impressive locales Down Under

While much of the spotlight during the recent Australia Tourism Exchange 2008 (ATE08) was cast on the upcoming international release of Twentieth Century Fox’s epic movie “Australia,” tourism officials from the Land Down Under premiered a line-up of blockbuster programs all their own.

Tourism Australia (TA) capitalized on ATE08’s platform to announce new initiatives providing travel trade and consumer marketers with a clearer picture of the country’s vast tourism offerings and how to most effectively target these to potential visitors.

Globus puts a spin on escorted travel

As Charles Lindberg was celebrating the world's first trans-Atlantic solo flight from New York to Paris in 1927, Antonio Mantegazza was laying the groundwork for a lofty adventure of his own.

Transporting lumber in his family’s rowboat across southern Switzerland’s Lake Lugano, the young Swiss grew mesmerized by its natural beauty. Inspired by the wide-eyed wonder he witnessed in visitors to his home country, Mantegazza took a leap of faith by purchasing his own rowboat on credit to share his surroundings with vacationers. His small enterprise grew quickly, proving how passion can defy boundaries for those with a dream to take on the world.
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Three generations transform a small family business into a thriving international chain

It was 1950. Hollywood hero John Wayne was fiercely battling Apaches as Lt. Col. Kirby Yorke in the epic Rio Bravo. And far away in the South American country of Venezuela, 17-year-old Luis Riu Bertran was one of "The Duke's" biggest fans.

In fact, Bertran was so passionate about Wayne’s action-packed films that, in 1980, he named his family’s newest Mallorca hotel the Rio Bravo. As one thing led to another over the next few years, Bertran began tagging his family moniker onto all Riu properties even the Wayne-inspired Rio Bravo.

Tequila Express
“Where’s the worm?” asked the gentleman behind me as he scrutinized his first libation of the day aboard the Tequila Express. “That’s only certain mezcals,” remarked our server. “You’ll never find a gusano in genuine tequila.”
That was one of many lessons learned during our train trek from Guadalajara Rail Station to the Jalisco State town of Amatitan and Hacienda San Jose del Refugio.

Don’t be confused. The celebrated Tequila Express is a far cry from being simply a touristy “booze cruise” on terra firma. It’s also a hot ticket with local families seeking a pleasant Saturday outing through countryside where blue agave fields and ancient distilleries are recognized on the World Heritage List.
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Fields of Dreams
Haraguchi Rice Mill and taro farm blend tradition with innovation

At age six, Lyndsey Haraguchi-Nakayama was a mowing master. In fact, it’s one of her fondest childhood memories from growing up on her family’s wetland taro farm in Hanalei Valley on Kauai’s north shore.

Haraguchi-Nakayama now leaves the mowing to others, including her 86-year-old grandfather. To her, it simply proves that the farming passion knows no age limit. Today, this fifth-generation member of the hard-working family serves as educational coordinator and docent of the Haraguchi Rice Mill.

Western Australia’s capital surprises with rich culture and cosmopolitan energy

When John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth aboard Friendship 7 in 1962, the friendly people of Perth switched on their lights to honor the astronaut as he soared above. Glenn tagged Perth the "City of Lights," acknowledging one of the world’s most isolated municipalities for shining so brightly.

Remoteness well explains why many U.S. visitors never find their way to the scenic Western Australia capital. Few East Coast Aussies make it there either. And, that's a shame. The travel-time investment is far overshadowed by the adventure itself. 

Gone Glamping
Even when he’s not armed with a hatchet, Tom Black is an imposing fellow. A former NBA star turned world champion thrower, the seven-footer faced the even taller task of teaching our group the optimum form for nailing a bullseye. Black’s instruction was as on the mark as his technique, finding everyone eventually hitting the target instead of the ground.

We were soaking in all the splendor of Big Sky Country as the first “glamping” guests at Pinnacle Camp in The Resort at Paws Up. I hung my hat in Silver King, one of six decked-out canvas-walled retreats perched on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the Blackfoot River and Elk Creek.
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Koa Kea brings chic to the sand at Poipu Beach

Chris Steuri has come full circle. As general manager of the new Koa Kea Hotel & Resort at Poipu Beach on Kauai, Steuri has returned to the site of a property he was forced to leave some 16 years ago at the hands of Mother Nature.

Set to open late fall, the hip boutique hotel has been reconstructed on the original footprint of the Poipu Beach Hotel, which was shuttered in the aftermath of Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Steuri was assistant general manager of the popular beachfront property at the time.

Up A Lazy River
When Emily and Walter Smith, Sr. launched their family business in 1947, the concept was simple. They geared their small rowboat with a borrowed outboard motor and puttered off to share Kauai's rich cultural heritage via cruises up the tranquil Wailua River.

More than four Smith generations later - through floods, droughts, hurricanes and a visitor industry often drawn to a wilder recreational beat - Smith's Fern Grotto Wailua River Cruise has shined brightly as a 60-year tradition. From its modest beginnings, the inconic attraction has flourished to a fleet of 12 open-air river boats and a 30-acre botanical and cultural garden hosting a colorful luau.
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Arts With Aloha paints lessons in Oahu's soul

While Mother Nature's artistic flair made Oahu one of the most visually stunning places on Earth, the island's Arts With Aloha program continues to reveal that there's much more to this beautiful destination than meets the sightseeing eye.

An enthusiastic consortium of 18 visual, historical and performing-arts organizations, Arts With Aloha appeals to cultural enthusiasts of all ages by exposing an island steeped in history and enriched by the arts. Among Oahu’s treasures are the oldest symphony west of the Rockies, the only royal palace on U.S. soil and one of the top 10 collections of Asian art not to mention the Bishop Museum’s unrivaled collection of rare Hawaiian cultural artifacts.

Oahu's a natural for family business
When Laura Hunt and her family agreed on Oahu for their annual vacation, she spent hours combing web sites for activities matching the diverse interests of her teenage daughters and husband.

“I learned a lot about what Oahu offered,” said Hunt. “But it was hard for me to link it all so we’d have something for each of us and then things to bring us back together again as one. Oahu has so much going on that I was overwhelmed with it all.”

The Na Pali Coast never disappoints

On a recent visit to Kauai, deciding to cruise the magnificent Na Pali Coast was a no-brainer for me. Yet, I wondered how this experience could top my last, when dolphins were spinning in sync, sea turtles surfaced in curiosity and flying fish skimmed the surf — each performing aquatic acts with majestic cliffs and deeply etched valleys as a stunning backdrop. 

I was certain nothing could outshine that show. As a pleasant surprise so typical in Hawaii, Mother Nature proved me wrong. 

A new Hawaiian experience

When I moved across from the old sugar mill remains at Kualoa Ranch about a decade ago, my recreational pursuits took a twist. I started exploring my new Oahu “country” neighborhood at a casual pace, taking a trail ride one weekend, kayaking at Secret Island the next, then ATV-ing deep into hidden valleys when friends would visit from the mainland.

While the action was great, I was equally consumed with Kualoa’s rich cultural significance as one of the most sacred places on Oahu in ancient times. I realized that each activity exposed merely a sliver of the big picture the power of the aina (land) and how steeped in history Kualoa actually is.

New Pacific Aviation Museum opens at Pearl Harbor

My father flew and fought in the Pacific during World War II. So when I heard about Pacific Aviation Museum (PAM), I was eager to see how Hawaii's newest tribute would chronicle our military's aerial efforts. I wasn't disappointed.

Located on Ford Island, a National Historic Landmark and site of our nation’s first aviation battlefield, PAM is housed in a series of original hangars and control tower complex that were at the epicenter of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.

HT&F helps clients shoot for the stars

My knowledge of the night sky is basic at best. Sure, I can spot the Big Dipper, and I love a full moon. Wanting to heighten my celestial sense, I knew no viewing venue could top Mauna Kea. So I decided to shoot for Hawaii Forest & Trail’s (HF&T) stargazing tour to this renowned astronomical observing site.

On a warm Big Island afternoon, our group of five eager explorers boarded a 12-passenger van at HF&T’s Kona Coast headquarters. Our interpretive naturalist, Kevin Schneider, had packed parkas and other provisions for the eight-hour excursion. Not accustomed to lengthy transit, I had my concerns. They faded, however, as our adventure unfolded.

PWF gives clients a close encounter

Manutea is the Tahitian word for “white bird.” The day I sailed on Pacific Whale Foundation’s (PWF) magnificent 50-foot catamaran, I was convinced the moniker meant dolphin magnet. Little did I know when we departed Lahaina Harbor that our group was in for much more than a typical cruise.

The foundation had recently launched its Lanai Dolphin Champagne Sail Eco-Adventure to the rugged southwestern coast of Lanai, a wildlife habitat celebrated for its outstanding snorkeling and resident pod of some 200 spinner dolphins. Good thing this was a champagne trek. We would certainly find much to toast.

Off the Beaten Wave
Hula Kai catamaran goes away from the ordinary

Captain Mitch Stauffer is a man on a marine mission, one that must certainly make him the envy of his peers along the Big Island's Kona Coast.

This seafaring veteran sails Fair Wind Cruises' Hula Kai catamaran to sites not frequented by the crowds, much to the delights of his passengers. On my recent trek aboard this newest addition to Fair Wind's Keauhou Bay-based fleet, conditions were crystal clear. The ocean was calm, the tradewinds were gentle and according to reports, spinner dolphins awaited us.
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Exploring Kauai's jungle-like waterways

I love kayaking. Since most of my ventures are on Oahu’s sparkling bays, I jumped at a shot to explore one of Kauai’s jungle-like waterways.

What drew me to Princeville Ranch Adventures’ paddling trek was its lazy-river appeal with a punch. As if hiking and kayaking into Kauai’s heart isn’t ample incentive, this excursion rewards clients with a hidden pair of waterfalls cascading into a brisk swimming hole.

Center explores core of creation

As Mike Shanahan and I strolled across the Great Lawn to the Bishop Museum’s new Science Adventure Center on a warm Hawaii afternoon, I had to wonder. What’s so hot about this place? Why is everyone so fired up?

While stopping to admire the sleekly modern 16,500-square-foot structure such an architectural contrast to cultural counterpart Bishop Museum Shanahan enlightened me.

New activities enhance the appeal of Baja's shining star

Anyone who has ever vacationed in Los Cabos senses immediately that this destination is not one to rest on its laurels. Yet, those who return are still surprised to see just how much of the area continues to enhance and expand on an already robust recreation roster.

Augmenting tried and true choices are new activities that magnify the diversity of Los Cabos’ natural land and sea assets. Here’s a look at several new diversions that further define Cabo as a colorful Baja escape with something for everyone.

Royal Service is the crowing jewel of the Paradisus brand

When Sol Melia & Resorts pioneered the luxury, all-inclusive concept at its Paradisus brand a decade ago, the company's focus was on pampering guests with "real life" fantasy experiences through signature service levels.

On a recent visit to Paradisus Riviera Cancun Resort, I was quite pleased to discover I would be enjoying the ultimate of these indulgent levels with the adults-only Royal Service meaning I’d have access to almost anything imaginable at any time I wanted it, with a butler dedicated to make it all a reality.

Suite-able for Families
Barcelo La Jolla de Mismaloya is a playground for kids and parents

It was a heated off-screen romance during a classic John Huston-directed movie that thrust the sleepy fishing village of Puerto Vallarta into the spotlight. During the filming of the 1964 hit "The Night of the Iguana," the R-rate shenanigans of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor transformed its image from provincial to provocative.

Today, Puerto Vallarta's romantic aura remains thanks to numerous star-studded stories and its alluring beauty. However, unlike its surroundings, Barcelo la Jolla de Mismaloya has earned itself a broader, G-rated appeal, making it a modern-day magnet for familieis.
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When it comes to the meticulous details in launching a new resort, Luis Riu holds one of his late father's philosophies especially close to his heart. "He taught me that when we set an opening date, we open on that date or before, not even one day later," said Riu.

With 61 RIU grand openings under his belt since taking over CEO responsibilities a decade ago, this third-generation Riu continues to bat a thousand. No doubt his father would be proud.
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Meetings & Incentives Travel

Reefs, Rainforests & Barramundi BBQ
As we helicopter over Australia's Great Barrier Reef, I'm struggling to wrap my mind around the vastness of this marvel. Covering some 134,000 square miles, the world's largest living organism is visible from outer space. Choppering over it from 100 feet above is a surreal blend of serenity and exhilaration as you grasp the breadth of the marine habitat and twinkling delicacy of the gin clear water.
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Royal Palaces To Rustic Ranches
As the sun slips behind the Koolau Mountains in Oahu, windward Oahu’s Kaaawa Valley slowly succumbs to dramatic shadows. You’re perched on the edge of an enormous Godzilla footprint envisioning a T Rex stampede through Jurassic Park, which was filmed here.

Or perhaps you’re consumed with thoughts of Lost survivors Hurley, Jack and Kate scrambling to outwit the malevolent “Others.” The curiously familiar Kualoa Ranch landscape that envelops you literally sets the stage for imaginations to run wild.
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Live In LA
It’s a typical high-octane day in The City of Angels. After studio sessions rapping with Jermaine Dupri, singing back up for Janet Jackson and laying down tracks with Nellie, it’s time for a stroll along the GRAMMY Museum’s Red Carpet.

We gawk at Chris Martin’s Sgt. Pepper-style garb from Coldplay’s Viva La Vida tour and Katy Perry’s fruit dress from her I Kissed a Girl performance at the 51st GRAMMY ceremony in 2009. Then there’s that showstopper simply known as “The Dress” – the exotic green Versace with plunging neckline that J Lo barely wore in 2000.
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Head For The Border
Mexico resorts add spice to MICE

Certainly, there's great appeal to Mexico's mellow manner that defines relaxation. When it comes to meetings, incentives, conventions and events (MICE) travel, however, this U.S. doorstep destination is all business - with south of the border flavor that spices everything up a notch.

As a traveler's paradise, Mexico continues to gain momentum with U.S.-based companies seeking ease in exotic travel. Literally hundreds of daily flights allow business travelers to leave home with their morning latte, then review spreadsheets on Pacific sands with a cerveza in the afternoon.
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To put the divide in perspective, the northwestern coast averages less than 10 inches of rain a year (or a few droplets more than the Gobi Desert). On the windward southeastern side, the annual average increases by a factor of 30! As a result, the west side offers the perpetually sunny Kohala and Kona coasts; on the east side, lush rainforests and shimmering waterfalls.

As the saying goes, there are two sides to every story. In the case of Hawaii’s Big Island, the beauties and the environments of the western side differ starkly from those of the east.

Hawaii has long been celebrated as a dream leisure escape for its incomparable climate, warm hospitality, casual attitude and stunning scenery.

What's not to like? Hawaii possesses an exotic hideaway allure, yet offers all the ease of doing business domestically. Language and currency barriers are absent, while value abounds. And then, there's the aloha spirit, that captivating intangible that absolutely no other destination delivers. Core strengths as a leisure escape bolster Hawaii's viability to host business meetings.

Other stories I've written that have no links are on Dude Ranches, Theme Parks, San Diego meetings and Utah meetings.

A Pacific Getaway Where Many Return

With its sun-drenched days, gentle trade winds and balmy tropical nights, Hawaii has long been desired for its exotic ambience. Visitors flock to the shores of six main islands dotting the Pacific some 2,500 miles west of the continental United States.

The Hawaiian Islands, long known as a top destination for golf and ocean sports, have more recently enhanced their appeal with a focus on celebrating culture, history ecotourism and healthy living.

Coming Soon!



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