How ‘Renovation Aloha’ Stars Went From Being ‘In Debt to Millionaires’

Hawaii, stack of money

Heavy A new HGTV show set in Hawaii features a couple who's gone from rags to riches with their real estate business.

When Tristyn and Kamohai Kalama started to renovate dilapidated homes in Hawaii, they never imagined it would lead to a show on HGTV. In fact, they almost didn’t wind up as the stars of “Renovation Aloha” — premiering on February 20, 2024, — since they initially ignored an email from the network, thinking it couldn’t possibly be real.

“I thought it was a scam, dude,” Tristyn told TV Insider. “I was like, ‘I don’t know. Is this real?’ I didn’t respond to the message for a while.”

Eventually, the Kalamas did respond — and it turned out HGTV producers were genuinely interested in showcasing their work and family, which includes 87 first cousins between them, many of whom help out with their renovations, the outlet reported.

It’s all part of the Kalamas’ real estate investment strategy to help themselves and others get out of debt and ensure other native Hawaiians can afford quality housing there, too. The strategy seems to be working, given that the couple has gone from being “in debt to millionaires,” according to their Instagram profile.

Here’s what you need to know:

‘Renovation Aloha’ Stars Hit the Jackpot as a Home Renovation Team

The Kalamas hope that their renovations and the exposure they receive on HGTV creates more opportunities for local Hawaiians to continue living there, given that so many have found it unaffordable to do so in recent years.

For example, 2023 “American Idol” winner Iam Tongi famously stated on the talent show that his family was “priced out of paradise,” forced to move to Washington state when they couldn’t make ends meet in Hawaii.

Business Insider recently reported that the cost of living in Hawaii is the highest in the U.S., with typical monthly bills 50 percent higher than the national average. Meanwhile, the median home price in January was $735,900, per Redfin.

The Kalamas were running three family-run stores and managing a non-profit, but couldn’t keep up with the cost of living, per TV Insider. So they got into real estate and home renovations with the hope their investments would pay off.

“When we got started, at first it was like, we were just trying to crawl out of a hole,” Kamohai told Hawaii News Now. “But it was because we wanted to live here, we wanted to thrive here. And so the mission now is now that we can buy these properties and control it, we can also sell it to people that we want to, right? So we’re definitely trying to keep as many local families here as possible.”

Tristyn Kalama Says ‘Family is the Foundation’ of Their Work & Show

In addition to the Hawaiian landscape and culture, one of the most unique aspects of “Renovation Aloha” is the number of family members who will be part of the show.

“Family is the backbone, family is the foundation,” Tristyn told TV Insider. “And family is an unbreakable relationship. You can always count on family. There is nothing more rewarding than being able to work alongside family. My brother is our project manager. We work closely with him. You see him in all the episodes. I work with my husband and my brother and you’ll see our kids, our parents, our cousins. It’s so second nature to us that we don’t know anything different.”

Married with two kids, the Kalamas got into home renovation in 2018, focused on using the bones or framing of mostly unlivable properties and transforming them into dream homes for single and multigenerational families.

“We never thought we’d be on TV,” Tristyn told Hawaii News Now. “We just got reached out to almost three years ago and we looked at each other and were like, ‘Do we really want to do this?’ And we said yes and here we are!”

Kamohai said working with a film crew documenting their process was “a little bit harder than maybe we thought it was gonna be, but we feel really blessed. It’s been an awesome experience.”

The eight-episode, first season of “Renovation Aloha” premieres on February 20 at 9 p.m. Eastern time.