Take 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.
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.
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
A brochure of the Coco Palms
A map of the hotel from the 1980s
A map of the island
The grounds before the hurricane
After the Hurricane
The sign still remains
The royal pools that once held fish for Hawaiian royalty are still intact
The canoe was also used in the Elvis movie Blue Hawaii
The main hotel wing
The grounds of the hotel
Nature taking over the pools
From the air
Nature literally taking over
The bungalow used in the filming for Blue Hawaii
A golf cart disintegrating on the grounds of the hotel
The old kitchen
Classic mural still visible
The remains of the dining room
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.
Sun coming through the chapel
Exterior with signs to dining room
Front exterior with old shop signs still intact
The ruins of the main hotel
The famous shell in the center of the hotel
The lobby shudders still open and close
The hallway of the main hotel wing
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.
Map on the website of the failed re-development of the Coco Palms
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.
The signs were taken down and deposits made on the condos were refunded.