Leleo Kinimaka shows a piece of wordwork in front of blue water

Royal Hawaiian Woodwork owner, Leleo Kinimaka, has been putting his mana into Hawaiian native hardwoods for decades, and now has brought his gift of aloha back to where it began.

We often talk about our connection to the land here in Hawai‘i, as that relationship is an important cornerstone of Hawaiian culture. In a recent blog, we discussed preserving cultural history and progressing local sustainability by repurposing native Hawaiian hardwood trees. No one knows the ins and outs of the heartfelt industry of woodworking better than Leleo Kinimaka. We are proud to announce that Leleo has partnered with Timbers to create some beautiful hand-crafted pieces to share with our owners and guests, with the intention of spreading aloha with his master craftsmanship.

Leleo Kinimaka, master woodworker, stands in front of a building

Born and raised on Kaua‘i, Leleo’s childhood was rich with Hawaiian tradition and storytelling. His adolescence included a short walk from Kaua‘i High down to Kalapakī Bay where his father ran the beach activities for Kaua‘i Surf Hotel from the 60’s to 80’s. Growing up a “beach boy” was a dream according to him.

After Leleo’s parents met on Waikīkī Beach, his father became close with the legendary Duke Kahanamoku who deeply ingrained how to live and spread aloha in the Kinimaka family. Through Duke, the Kinimaka family was connected with an opportunity at Kaua‘i Surf Hotel. Surf lessons, canoe rides, snorkel tours, and weaving coconut hats on the shore of Kalapakī became Leleo’s beloved childhood.

At 11 years old he had his first job working the torch lighting ceremony orchestrated by his father at the hotel. Guests enjoyed a reenactment of native Hawaiians exchanging messages via conch shell and the beating of a sharkskin drum. A 4-man canoe paddled to the middle of Kalapakī Bay near Donkey Point, lit the torches on the outriggers and paddled back with torches lit. Once on land, the remaining torches were lit ceremoniously as the “native Hawaiians” disappeared into the ocean via canoe. 

In 1992, Leleo left Kaua‘i after Hurricane Iniki to learn a new trade in California – woodworking. After completing school, Leleo joined the carpenter’s union and worked his way up from framer to finished carpenter, and finally, master carpenter. He fine-tuned his skills by doing cabinetry work on the weekends, which he describes as a “hands-on learning experience.” He learned about wood, origins, colors and the artistry of manipulating wood to look different by how you cut it.

In the mid-nineties Leleo was an avid paddler and contractor, so he was literally surrounded by wood. During his time training with the Newport Aquatic Team California, he ran into a family member at the Lili‘uokalani Race who told him about a big construction boom across the islands. As a result, Leleo began contracting work for exterior rail systems and stairs using ʻōhiʻa.

In 1997 Leleo opened his own shop on the Big Island and was subcontracted to create paddles, ukuleles and his favorite…surfboards. “I love making surfboards,” Leleo says, “Especially when I incorporate Hawaiian symbols with meaning to them.” As time went on, Leleo became well-known as a master craftsman, being invited to submit pieces for the Hawai‘i Craftsmen Show and promotional pieces for Hawaiian culture. He slowly got out of subcontracting and moved into more custom design pieces.  “I’m sitting in the part of my journey of life where I can tap into creativity,” Leleo explains whimsically. The land at Timbers Kaua‘i at Hōkūala is so deeply ingrained in his existence that Leleo feels honored to create pieces for the property. Here is what he is working on:

Keepsake boxes 

The keepsake boxes created for new owners were painstakingly designed with the utmost care. They contain champagne and glasses, with a clean exterior look. A hand-crafted removable lid with a laser ingraining of ʻulu on it completes the look. The boxes were created with earpod, a locally grown species that showcases the natural beauty of the wood perfectly. Leleo purposefully used the grain of the earpod to wrap the box sequentially and chose a more sustainable finish using traditional oil rather than lacquer.


Although these 7-foot Alaia boards are decorative, they are in fact rideable! The client is able to choose the location for their board because each is finished with indoor/outdoor seal, finishing UV protector, and waterproofed. All boards came from the same trees on the North Shore of Oahu, located near  a school in Wailua, well-loved by children, filled with wonder, and now living their second life. Using moneypod, wenge, and maple, Leleo has created something truly unique. “No machine can create the contour,” he says, “each piece is meticulously shaped by my hands like they’re going to be ridden. When I hand-shape these boards, that’s me putting my mana into each one.”

Custom Koa Furniture and more…

Want to see more of Leleo’s masterpieces? Reach out for a tour or check out Royal Hawaiian Woodwork on Instagram.