Kōke‘e Dreaming with Natural Beauty Brand Mālie Organics

Explore Kōke‘e State Park on the island of Kaua‘i with the founders of luxury spa and beauty brand Malie Organics.

Text by
Natalie Schack
Images by
John Hook

There’s a reason Kaua‘i is known as the Garden Island—everywhere you look, verdant magic awaits. Soaring above its cliff-lined coastlines towers Mount Wai‘ale‘ale, considered one of the wettest spots on Earth. Just north of Waimea Canyon on the west side of the island, the thousands of forested acres of Kōke‘e State Park climb 4,200 feet above sea level. Here, indigenous flora grow wild and endemic birds flit through the trees: the brilliantly vermillion ‘i‘iwi, the ‘akeke‘e with its sleek, chartreuse feathers, the warbling, nectar-guzzling ‘amakihi. Kōke‘e is also one of the few remaining places you can find naturally growing maile, a fragrant, winding vine commonly used in Hawaiian lei, especially by hula dancers due to the vine’s association with Laka, the goddess of hula.

“I was inspired by that lei from the second I moved here 20 years ago, when I had my daughter,” says Dana Roberts, co-founder of luxury spa and beauty brand Mālie Organics. The company, which Dana founded with her husband, Sean, in 2004, was still in its early years, and conservation efforts were ramping up in Kōke‘e. They decided it was the perfect time to pay homage to the place with a fragrance that pairs the aroma of the forest’s lush foliage with the soft, sweet scent of Kaua‘i’s tropical flowers. Two decades later, the brand’s Kōke‘e collection—which includes soap, linen spray, body wash, diffusers, and more—is available at Mālie’s three boutiques in Honolulu, its flagship boutique in Po‘ipū on Kaua‘i, and retailers around the world. A selection of products from the Kōke‘e collection are also available in-room at ‘Alohilani Resort.

The Kōke‘e fragrance pairs ultra-green top notes with tart pineapple and soft florals, anchoring them with base notes of warm tonka bean and amber to evoke a balmy day on a white sand beach. The collection joins a lineup of other fragrances inspired by the tropics, from feminine pīkake and plumeria to juicy mango nectar to sensual coconut vanilla. “I think [the Kōke‘e] aroma really touches us in a meaningful way,” says Dana, who has kept the company close to its roots, maintaining sleepy, beautiful Kaua‘i as its center of operations.

Kōke‘e has been a treasured part of the Robertses’ lives for the last 20 years. “We share a cabin with some friends there, and we’re up there with our kids,” Dana says. “The sad part is, it’s harder to find maile [vine] now.” That’s why Mālie Organics contributes to the Kōke‘e Resource Conservation Program, a grassroots organization that works to remove invasive species and address other threats to Hawai‘i’s oldest and largest rainforest.

All Mālie products are vegan, cruelty free, and crafted with mostly organic ingredients. The company is furthering its commitment to the environment in 2020 by shifting to glass packaging instead of plastic and making efforts to reduce the plastic used in its transport packaging.

Making the environment a priority in the business plan makes sense for Mālie Organics, a company that is all about creating products that celebrate and harness the treasures of its island home. There’s something undeniably Hawai‘i about the Mālie Organics lineup in a way that everyone can appreciate, just as much as they can appreciate the swaying of a palm, the serenity of a rainforest, or the tantalizing bite of a fresh mango. And if you can’t see, taste, or experience them firsthand? Showering in a Mālie fragrance is the next best thing.