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Hawaii’s famous Coco Palms Resort abandoned

coco palms resortTake a look back at what was once the most famous hotel in Hawaii. The the Coco Palms Resort located on the island of Kauai was severely damaged by hurricane Iniki in 1992 and has never re-opened. The hotel is now empty and plans to re-open the property have died with the slump in the condo market.

The ancestral home of Kauai’s Alii (royalty) since the 13th century, the area encompassing the Coco Palms Resort was the home of Kauai’s last reigning queen, Queen Deborah Kapule, in the mid-1800’s.

The hotel opened Jan. 25, 1953, with 24 rooms, two guests and four employees. At its peak in the mid 1970s, there were 416 rooms.

coco palms resort

Originally opened on January 25, 1953, the Coco Palms Resort had 24 rooms, two guests and four employees. At it’s peak the Resort grew to contain 416 rooms by the mid-1970s. However by 1984, the number of rooms had been reduced to 393. In August of 1985, Wailua Associates acquired the resort from the Guslander/Amfac group.

When Hurricane Iniki struck Sept. 11, 1992, every room in the hotel was booked and the guests were evacuated to Kapaa High School. The hotel never re-opened.

coco palms resort

Elvis Presley filmed the finale of his film “Blue Hawaii” there in 1961, immortalizing its lush coconut groves and picturesque lagoons. When Hurricane Iniki struck in September 1992 with less than eight hours warning, the Coco Palms was shut down indefinitely as repairs proved too costly, and the entire island struggled with recession. The property, located on the southeast shore of Kauai, has been left to decay now for over a decade and a half. Kauai was without electrical power for 40 days, without telephone communication for almost a month in some areas, 80% of the homes were damaged or destroyed.

Within the resort is the famous 2,000-tree coconut grove, which is the largest of only three similar groves in the entire state of Hawaii. The grove was originally planted with coconut tree nuts imported from Samoa by Mr. William Lindeman in 1896.

The Coco Palms Resort achieved early exposure and fame in the 1961 Elvis Presley movie, “Blue Hawaii.” Virtually the last 20 minutes of the movie was shot on and near the grounds of the Coco Palms.

An additional favorite scene to movie watchers and visitors alike was the conch shell-blowing doorman greeting them upon check in at the lobby (which was modeled after an ancient Hawaiian Canoe Lodge).

The wedding ceremony, portrayed in the final scene where Elvis croons “The Hawaiian Wedding Song” to Joan Blackman as they ride their flower bedecked double hulled canoe through the lagoon to the Wedding Chapel, is credited with creating a high demand for weddings at the Coco Palms Resort. Prior to its close in 1992, the Resort hosted over 500 wedding ceremonies annually.

Even with the property closed to overnight guests, on average, 1-2 weddings take place weekly either on the lagoon or next to them, as couples desire the “Blue Hawaiian” wedding with its famous songs from the movie sung for their own ceremony. A Kauai tour operator, Hollywood Movie Tours, stops daily with a van of tourists interested in seeing the grounds, lagoons, coconut grove and the #56 King’s Cottage of the Coco Palms Resort.

Classic Coco Palms

coco palms resort
A brochure of the Coco Palms

coco palms resort
A map of the hotel from the 1980s

coco palms resort
A map of the island

coco palms resort
The grounds before the hurricane

After the Hurricane

coco palms resort
The sign still remains

coco palms resort
The royal pools that once held fish for Hawaiian royalty are still intact

coco palms resort
The canoe was also used in the Elvis movie Blue Hawaii

coco palms resort
The main hotel wing

coco palms resort
The grounds of the hotel

coco palms resort
Nature taking over the pools

coco palms resort
From the air

coco palms resort
Nature literally taking over

coco palms resort
The bungalow used in the filming for Blue Hawaii

coco palms resort
A golf cart disintegrating on the grounds of the hotel

coco palms resort
The old kitchen

coco palms resort
Classic mural still visible

coco palms resort
The remains of the dining room

coco palms resort
The swimming pool

The Wedding Chapel was donated by MGM Studios to Coco Palms in the mid 1950’s after using it in the film “Miss Sadie Thompson,” which starred Rita Hayworth. The Blue Hawaii Wedding scene has been replayed over the years by countless thousands of couples, exchanging vows at the Coco Palms Resort. Kauai’s Mayor Maryanne Kusaka was married at the Coco Palms.

coco palms chapel
The chapel

coco palms chapel interior
Sun coming through the chapel

coco palms chapel interior
Chapel interior

coco palms chapel exterior
Chapel exterior

coco palms resort exterior signs
Exterior with signs to dining room

coco palms resort exterior shop
Front exterior with old shop signs still intact

coco palms resort hotel ruins
The ruins of the main hotel

coco palms resort entrance
Main Entrance

coco palms resort exterior
The famous shell in the center of the hotel

coco palms resort interior
The lobby

coco palms resort interior
The lobby shudders still open and close

coco palms resort interior
The hallway of the main hotel wing

coco palms resort interior
All of the furniture is gone now

Failed Plan to Re-Develop

Coco Palm Ventures LLC had planned to spend some $220 million constructing 196 condominium units, 48 hotel bungalows, a spa and two restaurants on the 54-acre site. Plans called for the resort to reopen next summer. Demolition of the old buildings was due to start last year.

coco palms failed re-development map
Map on the website of the failed re-development of the Coco Palms

coco palms failed re-development model
Model of the planned re-development

Donna Apisa, listing agent for the sale of the condominiums, said the county Planning Commission’s rejection of Coco Palms’ plans to build a full-scale fitness spa on the 54-acre site was one reason for abandoning the project. “The current owner isn’t going to develop the land and will auction it off (later this year) to another developer,” Apisa said.

coco palms failed opening
The signs were taken down and deposits made on the condos were refunded.

Site dedicated to the hotel

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Posted By: Jerome Aronson

News Category: Abandoned


89 Responses to “Hawaii’s famous Coco Palms Resort abandoned”

  1. I live in Australia and was completly oblivious to the outcome of Coco Palms untill I was researching the whereabouts of some of the actors in the movie and I had wondered were that scene was. I could not beleive my eyes when I saw what I saw.
    This is a disgrace to let something as beautiful as that place just fall down. In a time when people need something naturally beautiful to visit like that was and still is (in a strange way) it should be made a priority.
    I hope I can visit there one day to stay and enjoy it and not be a site see’er taking pictures of something that once was.
    Get on with it and rebuild it.

    David Westover on 10 Jan 2011 at 11:52 pm
  2. Saddness – deep saddness – I spent my honeymoon at Coco Palms – I knew it had been destroyed but I had so hoped someone would come in and fix it back to the way it was. We were getting ready to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary and decided to check in to see if anything had been done as we wanted to head back to the CP – we still plan on coming to Hawaii but it just will not be the same – the shell bowls, the wonderful breakfast on the veranda – just not the same.

    Cherri Bryan on 03 Feb 2011 at 1:48 pm
  3. I was married at the Coco Palms in Jan 1987. Was really hoping to return there for 25th anniversary next year but sadly it seems Coco Palms may not reopen.

    Vickie Carmichael on 11 Mar 2011 at 11:11 pm
  4. wow i worked at this resort from 1989 to hurricane Iniki killed it. what a bummer. Elvis would be sad

    dean sloan on 02 May 2011 at 2:34 pm
  5. During the Christmas holiday I was invited by a friend from the mainland, her name is Joy, to attend a dinner at the marina. We met in Honolulu and flew together to Lihue and then to Coco Palms. I have never been to a place that captures so much magic in my life. The dinner was fabulous, six tables overflowing with so much food and a hosted bar you could not buy a drink.
    After the dinner a midnight swim in the ocean. Did I mention the hotel made
    a mistake on reservations a gave us the Coco Palms Palace Suite! SWEET!!!
    This folks is what memories are make of. I’ve been holding off on returning to Hawaii hoping that the Coco Palms will reopen.

    John Karhu on 12 May 2011 at 11:05 pm
  6. Open letter to the family of Elvis Presley. How is it possible that none of you has considered investing in the rebuilding of this magnificent part of Hawaii’s
    history, *not to mention a part of the world that held a special place in Elvis’s
    heart? To have it restored to all it’s former glory would bring back visitors from all over the world, your investment would not be in vain. It would be a lasting and forever cherished tribute to an American Icon, much more so than even “Graceland”, in my humble opinion! His spirit resides there still,
    touching peoples lives who have wonderful memories of his film “Blue Hawaii”
    *and how those images inspired them to make the voyage to see such beauty with their own eyes. There is no doubt they would do so again and again, should any of you care enough to do what I am sure “he” would have done, had he not been taken from us far too soon! Mahalo nui loa, The Branson Family,Oregon

    Lynne & Bill Branson on 24 Jun 2011 at 7:06 pm
  7. My husband & I visited Kauai in January 1985. We didn’t stay at the Coco Palms but would stop by for a sunset ****tail and torch lighting ceremony a few times. What magical times those were. How is it that almost every obstacle for most areas can be overcome, but this one cannot? I agree with the Bransons that possibly Elvis’ family could step in to see that this becomes a reality and finally restore Coco Palms.

    Brian & Janet Sullivan on 07 Aug 2011 at 3:40 pm
  8. I wanted to let everyone know that myself and a group of investors are planning to purchase Coco Palms and the Sea Shell restaurant. We have begun to draw up plans, prepared to hire on a realtor, and looked over all comments pertaining to the hotel online to date. We are going to compile all the details and make every effort to restore the hotel property to its original look prior to the Hurricane in 1992. We will of course be updating it to comply with codes, updating of hotel systems, and restoring it. I know that talk is it may need to be raised 10 ft to bring it to 15 ft height requirements now set and we are working on different options of this regard. One plan that we have is demolition the site but use as much of the buildings we can that is salvageable and use it to rebuild the structures once shored up back to the original look it had. One option is to dig under the structure and add to the foundation to get it to the height. A third option will be to see if there is any way we can get around the issue altogether.

    We will of course also keep everyone in the loop as we move through the process to obtain the site. Once the site is in our possession we will restrict tours to the site as we work to bring Coco Palms back again. We will also launch a new website and open a office for the property in Kauai as we work on the site. We also plan on offering once safe to the public to tour the new site when construction is not going on. Our goal is to get the hotel open as soon as possible. We are committed to reopening Coco Palms and see it come to fruition.

    Jeni on 07 Sep 2011 at 1:46 am
  9. My husband and I spent our honeymoon at the Coco Palms in June of 1977, 34 years ago. We were so young and awestruck by this island beauty. We stayed in the Queens cabin, with a lava rock shower and tub outside and a giant clam shell for the bathroom sink. We especially loved the torch lighting at sunset.
    Such beautiful memories. We were so happy to read that there might be new investors to rebuild and bring back the beautiful Coco Palms. Hopefully we will be able to celebrate our 40th anniversary there!

    Vince and Diane on 29 Sep 2011 at 2:50 pm
  10. My wife and I were married in the little chapel at Coco Palms in 1989.
    Can’t believe it has been allowed to fall into ruins!! It was such a lovely place.
    Hopefully, the future will bring it back to us all.

    Eric on 30 Sep 2011 at 4:29 pm
  11. We are visiting on September 2012 and wonder if it would be possible
    To visit the resort and what condition the hotel would be in by then .
    I take comfort in the fact a project is in the making

    John cassells on 03 Oct 2011 at 2:19 pm
  12. Aloha to Jeni (09/07/11 post)… It is nice to know that soon the ruins of Coco Palms will again be in planning of restoration. Coco Palms was the reason that I moved to Wailua Houselots. I was hoping to hear the music in the air. And a place to walk to dinner. I was born and raised in the islands and would love to see this historic resort up and running before I die. . . Mahalo for your post.

    Miss Chatterley on 10 Oct 2011 at 1:45 pm
  13. Response to Jeni (09/07/11), this is wonderful news. Please keep us posted on your progress. Thank you for caring for our old historic friend.

    JD0427 on 10 Oct 2011 at 4:48 pm
  14. Boy it just breaks my heart to see this wonderful resort in this condition. We spent many a summer there and so many of my best family memories are still with the Coco Palms. I dearly hope she can be restored to her former beauty on day in the near future. She truly was a rare and beautiful gem and she does not deserve to wither and die such a sad death..

    Bob Davis on 26 Oct 2011 at 9:16 pm
  15. My wife and I spent our honeymoon at the Coco Palms Resort in September of 1990. Two years later we watched in horor on TV of news when the Hurricane hit. The two weeks we spent there for our honeymoon were the best memories of my life. To see this place in the shape it is in – blows my mind away. I always thought it was re-built, but until I watched “off Limits” this week I had no clue of current state.
    Being a place of Kings in past and with Elvis, sure seems like more of an effort should be made to bring this piece of paradise back. If you do I will come and visit it. Steven Chucta – Ohio

    Steve Chucta on 27 Oct 2011 at 12:17 pm
  16. We took the “Movie” Tour a while back in Kauai and as part of the tour, we got to go inside the once Fabulous Coco Palms Resort. Its former glory is everywhere–around every corner is more beautiful history.

    Don’t miss the chance to see it for yourself.

    Ken Bertwell on 29 Oct 2011 at 4:58 pm
  17. Thanks so much for this info. I was married there in 1976. I remember the chapel being very small with white lattuse around the bottom of the building. I guess they built another one. I will be going there on a cruise next week and would like to return to the chapel. Are there tours to go there from the cruise ships dock? Please let me know Loved the Coco palms resort sure hope it makes a comeback ThanksRita Indiana

    rita gunderman on 02 Nov 2011 at 9:40 pm
  18. I was an Employee of Amfac/Island Holidays for 7 years at the Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel, I used to fly over to Coco Palms on the weekends use my employee discount, to stay in the Kings Cottage and Lagoon cottages. The Guslanders always welcomed their guest with a ****tail party every evening.

    It breaks my heart to see what has happened to her. I think the State of Hawaii should put together grant opportunities to help secure potential funders restore her to her original condition. So much history with Hawaii’s monarchy. Something should be done.

    susan wagner on 03 Nov 2011 at 1:39 am
  19. When I was 12 years old, my family stayed at Coco Palms while we visited Kauai and a few other islands. I have fond memories and seem to recall that there was a zoo there? I also remember my brother knocking down coconuts from the trees and trying to sneak them home in his suitcase. I think he did! Today when I was at an estate sale, I came across a whole pamplet from Coco Palms from the 1960s’s full of postcards, brochures, menus, stationery, maps and other memorabilia. So, I decide to look up Coco Palms on the internet. I was so sad to see that it no longer exists! I had no clue! Looking at the pictures of today is very sad. I sure hope that it can be restored to resemble what it used to be.

    Carol Kitano on 20 Nov 2011 at 12:06 am
  20. I stayed at the coco palms at the end of august 1992 with the Elvis club from England so I missed the storm by just a few weeks. I went back to Kauai in 1997 and was able to go to the coco palms with our tour guide to see the hotel, it was sad to see what had happened.
    I had a great time when I stayed there and the staff were always friendly and helpful, it’s a shame it wont be restored.

    Kenny Brooks on 10 Jan 2012 at 11:11 am
  21. Aloha! Some might be happy to know there is something positive coming out of the situation with Coco Palms. The owners of the property have allowed a group of volunteers to clear the overgrowth of vegetation on the property, and use the land to plant and grow foods for the benefit of the community. This effort is being coordinated through The Children Of The Land located in Kapa’a, The Children Of The Land is a non-profit Polynesian Community Center that promotes the Polynesian arts. The Center holds an annual summer camp for children aged 7 years and up, as well as events throughout the year. If you would like to make a donation toward the clean up effort, or to The Children Of The Land, please go to http://www.thechildrenoftheland.com. If you have questions, simply reply to this post, and I would be happy to answer them. Mahalo.

    Krista on 10 Jan 2012 at 12:19 pm
  22. My father took many groups to kauai in the 1960’s. They always stayed at the Coco Palms and took in the Larry Rivera Show. Our whole family became fond of the resort and I was able to have dinner there with my parents one last time in 1983. I also brought my family back to visit in 2006 and was heartbroken to see the devistation. I hope one day it can be rebuilt/restored.

    mary on 21 Jan 2012 at 8:50 pm
  23. Krista, does this mean this can be the first step to a” new” old coco palms????
    I’m so glad finally there is a start! When will you all start to clear the overgrowth of vegetation?
    Maybe this will be a new start to rebuild Coco Palms!

    Ans on 11 Feb 2012 at 5:57 pm
  24. I got married there Feb 10 1989. This is so sad and disheartning to see. Old values and charm of Hawaii washed away and not rebuilt.. It’s a shame…We wanted to take are kids back there since they are both grown and in college..

    James Moore on 08 Mar 2012 at 10:07 am
  25. We just had our 1st anniversary there this last Feb..stayed nearby, drove past many times, there are tours and weddings/renewals do happen regularly, spotted a hole in the fence and worn path, but tresspassing is kapu…

    Jen> may your sharp vision cut the red tape, good luck!

    James> Its a still great place and time to go, lots of other resorts nearby, vacancies, flights and car rental deals everywhere. Kauai is our new #1 we’re already checking next seasons flights.

    Chris on 15 Mar 2012 at 8:23 pm
  26. We went on our honeymoon there in 1990. When we went back to Hawaii 17 years later we wanted to find out. It broke my heart to see it like this, so heartbreaking. It was one of the most beautiful places on earth when I first saw it. We loved it.

    Jo Austerman on 16 Mar 2012 at 2:03 pm
  27. My husband and I have just returned from Kauai. It is definitely my favorite island. We got to tour the Coco Palms Hotel while on the Movie Tour. It is difficult to come up with the right words to describe how I felt: sad, devastated, horrorified, depressed, haunted ( just some of them I can express). I would dearly love to visit a refurbished Coco Palms in the future.

    Pearl Western on 08 Apr 2012 at 5:58 pm
  28. July 30, 2012
    My biggest dream in the world is to come to Kauai were Elvis made the movie The wedding of Blue Hawaii. I love it and hoping to visit there soon. When people are retired its price but, that is my dream since I seen the movie. Thank you for listing . Sincerely yours.

    Mildred L. Rattiger on 30 Jul 2012 at 11:59 am
  29. We have just revisited Hawaii, and took our son to see where we got married almost 20 years ago 26.8.1992 at Coco Palms. We knew it had not been reopend but were really sad to see it in such a state.
    Like many of the comments made we think it should be restored to its former glory, as there are too many modern charachterless hotels that are destroying the beauty of the place.

    Jo on 31 Jul 2012 at 6:30 am
  30. My first exposure to this hotel, I saw it while Honeymooning in Kauai. Although falling apart, I knew this hotel had seen it’s better days and the condition may have had something to do with the hurricane. I was intrigued by this hotel and did some searching and found this site. It was surprised to find out the hotel’s history. Such a grand place and to see this it is going to ruins is so sad. It’s obvious from the comments I have read, this hotel is loved and revered by so many and they are crying out to see some effort taken to bring it back. I look at the pictures in it’s current condition and can visualize all of the overgrowth going away and this place brought back in better condition than when it closed. Retro designs are so cool now, the design would need to stay true to the era. A modernized nostalgic design with modern amenities would be awesome. I would love to find out if there are any current plans to bring this piece of history back to the world!

    Gloria on 05 Aug 2012 at 12:38 pm
  31. My husband and I vacationed in Kauai several years ago and planning on going back in December. While I’ve been doing a lot of research on the island it really saddens me that Coco Palms Resort is just sitting there abandoned. It has so much history behind it. I really wish there was a way to save the place. I just came back from Graceland where I learned that Elvis filmed there. When I looked it up on line it just broke my heart. Maybe a miracle will happen before the end of the year.
    Holding on to hope 🙂
    Toni Dennis (North Carolina)

    Toni on 14 Aug 2012 at 10:34 am
  32. Like thousands of others who love the islands I have many great memories of the Coco Palms. One of my favorite was the afternoon my 8 year old son Dusty and several other kids caught carp from the lagoon while I baited the hooks and removed the fish. Dusty caught 212 fish, I’m sure he caught some more than once.

    Darold Callow on 04 Sep 2012 at 5:41 pm
  33. It is so sad that this beautiful hotel is still in ruins. My husband and I stayed at the
    Cocopalms several times during the 70’s and 80’s. What beautiful place to be. The
    evening conch shell blowing and the show following with the lady with the deep gorgeous voice always brought chills. We spent a lot of time in Hawaii and finally moved there for good. But, I would still love to visit the old Cocopalms in the magical coconut grove. I hope it will be rebuilt one day.

    Ethelene Dial on 02 Nov 2012 at 3:47 pm
  34. I just got back from Kauai a week ago, what a great trip as always. One of the best things i did was make time to take a tour of the Coco Palms tour. Its $20 for about a 2 hour tour. It runs almost every day at 1:45pm. The guide provides lot of information. My only disapointment is when he got inside the hotel the tour got very rushed. I found myself rushed to take photos. I took about 100 photos. 🙂 It was such a magical place to see in person. It is also very sad to see this place sitting there falling apart. There has been a few buyers or people intrested but it always falls threw for one reason or another. I hope Kauai ligtens up and buyers grab this hotel up before there is nothing useable left to build from. It need about $100 mil. to make the repairs needed. I wish I could buy it! I love this hotel I wish other hotels would take on this look its really has the hawaian feel more then any hotel on the island. I LOVE IT!! When it opens (I hope) I will be there as quick as I can.

    Ann Donno on 16 Nov 2012 at 12:07 pm
  35. Just returned from Kauai. Invited 30 friends and family to stay at Kappa Shores. What a tremendous embarrassement the town of Kappa has become!!! SO MANY dilapidated and empty buildings in ruin – and this place right along the main road was by far the most ghastly!!! My friends an family all wondered WHY I had wanted to come to Kappa, they thought it “Ghetto”. Just 12 years ago, at my last visit, the town was beautiful. I was SO embarrassed. Seriously wondering why the town has let itself fall to such sad ruin.

    lwagoner on 03 Apr 2013 at 6:35 pm
  36. Please keep everything the way it is. Don’t take the memories away from what is there all ready, Build around it or it will never be the Same. Millie 4-11-2013

    Mildred L. Rattiger on 11 Apr 2013 at 6:10 am
  37. Stayed here for my honeymoon Sept. 1990…Loved it

    Susan on 02 May 2013 at 11:14 am
  38. The last comment on purchasing and reopening the cocoa palms was Sept. 2011 by Jeni. Is there any news on that since then? Really hoping that it isn’t another dead end.

    karen on 04 Sep 2013 at 10:39 pm
  39. My husband and I visited the coco palms in the late 70,s. Stayed in one of the cottages and remember the shell sink, outdoor shower and hot tub. the torch run and lighting the lamps. The field where you could husk your coconut I believe was on a tire iron. We had a hollow out pineapple with the fruit in chunks in our room. Was a beautiful time and we spent a lot of time at the sea shell restaurant. Now it is just
    pleasant memories.

    Jean Peeters on 29 May 2016 at 11:58 pm

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