Vintage photo at Coco Palms
While the winter weather on Kauai’s eastern shore typically calls
for sunny days, a cloud of uncertainty is looming over the historic
Coco Palms Resort.
An ambitious $220 million plan to revive the island icon has
been shelved by its owners, and the property is once again for
According to representatives of Coco Palms Ventures, purchaser
of the Wailua property in January 2006, the company has opted to
halt redevelopment partly due to a permit rejection for a
full-scale fitness spa a project it deemed essential to raising the
resort’s profile. The decision was also based in part on a slowdown
in the resort residential market.
“Kauai recognizes the important cornerstone Coco Palms was to
the beginning of our visitor industry, and the island community
watches closely to see what will happen to the property,” said Sue
Kanoho, Kauai Visitors Bureau executive director.
The legendary resort has stood in ruins from extensive damage
sustained by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. With the reopening of the
former Poipu Beach Hotel as Koa Kea Hotel and Resort later this
year, Coco Palms will be Kauai’s only hurricane-damaged property
yet to be rebuilt.
Elvis Presley getting married in a scene
“Blue Hawaii,” filmed at the Coco Palms in 1961.
Coco Palms Venture had committed to restoring the property in a way
that would properly honor the vision and intent of the resorts’
founders, Lyle Guslander and Grace Buscher-Guslander. Under their
ownership in the 1950s and 1960s, Kauai’s flagship hotel had
achieved a high level of grandeur.
“To this day, many people talk of the wonderful job Grace
Guslander did with Coco Palms,” said Kanoho. “The Guslanders and
Coco Palms Resort are credited with helping to put Kauai on the map
for the visitor industry.”
A modest 24-room hideaway when it came onto the tourism scene in
1953, Coco Palms vaulted into immortality with Elvis Presley’s
“Blue Hawaii,” filmed on the grounds in 1961.
When the Coco Palms revival was slated to begin last summer,
plans had called for constructing 200 luxury condominiums and 48
guest cottages. Some 57,000 square feet of commercial space was
allotted for restaurants, retail, meetings, banquets, weddings and
the aforementioned fitness center/spa. Tucked within 16.4 acres
across the road from the white sands of Wailua Bay, the new Coco
Palms was originally scheduled to reopen this summer.
Coco Palms Venture