Big news today at the dilapidated Coco Palms resort on Kauai. A group of investors from Oahu announced the once grand property is in escrow. They plan to demolish the unfortunate eyesore of Kauai and rebuild the hotel to its pre-Hurricane Iniki elegance..
Tip: You can still walk behind the chain link fence and see where some of the biggest names of the 1950′s and 1960′s stayed before jet service came to the islands. Daily tours are offered Monday-Friday for $20 and include a visit to the largest coconut grove in islands and Elvis Presley’s bungalow. No reservations are needed. Show up at 1:45pm at the hotel parking lot. For information, call the Coco Coco Palms tour office at (808) 346-2048.
There’s a dark side to its history too which has kept the Coco Palms closed since Hurricane Iniki struck in 1992.
That story is rooted in insurance fraud. The sad thing is that Hurricane Iniki only damaged the lobby of the Coco Palms. It could have, and should have, reopened.
Coco Coco Palms Memories
This area was the ancestral home of Kauai Ali’i (royalty). As a Kauai resort it became one of the most prominent in the islands before and after statehood under the careful watch of hotelier Grace Guslander.
Mitzi Gaynor remembers Coco Palms quite well. She stayed in one the bungalows during filming of South Pacific. On her visit to Kauai, the first in 50 years, she lamented the condition of the resort and the loss it represents to Hawaii.
Another person with memories of Coco Palms is Larry Rivera who has become the unofficial caretaker of the resort.
Larry started as a busboy at Coco Palms 57 years ago and was on hand to sing and talk to us. When you hear him speak and look in his eyes, you see in him the magic of a time long passed. Larry doesn’t see an empty resort but a place that is still alive. He’s passionate about the Coco Palms and wants the property opened again.
Photos from the Coco Coco Palms Tour.
Overgrown elephant grass hides the once sought after bungalows, weeds cover markers of famous people who planted trees here (like Jackie Kennedy Onassis), and the lounge where Elvis sang is empty.
If you ever stayed at Coco Palms, please comment with your stories and memories.
How you can tour the Coco Palms:
1. Show up at the hotel parking lot at 1:45pm, Monday through Friday, for a 2 hour tour. Call 808-346-2048 for details.
2. Schedule a Blue Hawaii wedding or renewal ceremony on the lagoon: Contact Larry Rivera at [email protected]
Read the story of the Coco Palms:
Author David Penhallow has written, The Story of the Coco Palms Resort: The Grace Buscher Guslander Years 1953-1985. It’s the definitive history of the resort and includes a large selection of photographs from the period. Available at Amazon for $29.95 with free shipping.
Love in the Ruins, an article from the Wall Street Journal about Coco Palms Resort, Larry Rivera and his Blue Hawaii weddings.
Photo Descriptions (clockwise from top right): (1) Lobby staircase, (2) location of Mai Tai reception for return guests hosted by Grace Guslander, (3) Lobby interior, and (4) Lagoon where Elvis Presley sang Blue Hawaii.