New Blue Lagoon(1)

Hilton Hawaiian Village has transformed over the years

By: Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi

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The newly restored Duke Paoa
Kahanamoku Lagoon.
Henry J. Kaiser always did things in a big way. So when the famed American industrialist developed the Hawaiian Village Hotel on 20 Waikiki beachfront acres in the mid-1950s, it was no surprise that it would be unlike anything Hawaii had ever seen before. Key features of the islands’ first mega-resort included a 14-foot-deep man-made saltwater lagoon that was a joint project of Kaiser and the state of Hawaii. Measuring five acres, it became a popular swimming spot fed by the ocean.

Hilton acquired the property in 1961. Now covering 22 acres and known as the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa, it offers 3,206 rooms, which makes it the largest resort in the islands in terms of capacity. Its footprint has changed quite a bit from the one laid by Kaiser, but the Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Lagoon (named after Hawaii’s famed swimmer, surfer and beach boy) has remained a Waikiki landmark.

Over the past year, the Hilton Hawaiian Village has rejuvenated the lagoon to the tune of $15 million in conjunction with the construction of the adjacent Hilton Grand Vacations Club’s Grand Waikikian timeshare property. The new lagoon is set to be unveiled during a blessing ceremony this month. A key component of the rejuvenation project is an innovative circulation system composed of seven wells around the perimeter of the lagoon. They will draw about 15,000 gallons of water per minute from 250 feet below the coral reef layers under the lagoon, turning over its water about five times a day and reducing the possibility of stagnation.

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Hilton Hawaiian Village
Beach Resort & Spa.
Among other enhancements is a boardwalk that helps stabilize the sand around the lagoon and provides an easy, scenic way for guests to stroll around its perimeter. The beautiful landscaping incorporates waterfalls, coconut trees, pohuehue (beach morning glory), naupaka kahakai (succulent coastal shrub), pohinahina (beach vitex), beach heliotrope and other tropical plants and flowers.

Although the lagoon is owned by the state of Hawaii and falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hilton holds a lease to use it in perpetuity as long as it’s kept clean for recreational purposes.

“In the 1960s and 1970s, many local residents and hotel guests enjoyed the lagoon, and we expect this to once again happen when it opens in late October,” said Jon Conching, regional vice president of sales and marketing for Hilton Hawaii. “The lagoon has always appeared to be an oasis amid the concrete of Waikiki, and with the addition of 60 more coconut trees, lawn areas, landscaping and a boardwalk, it will be even more inviting and relaxing than ever before.”

To that end, the lagoon now has an average depth of five feet. Sun lovers will be able to swim and tan there as they would at any other public beach in Hawaii, and umbrellas, beach chairs and assorted water toys will be available for rent.

Conching noted the lagoon rejuvenation project, the opening of the Grand Waikikian and significant improvements to Dewey Lane in early 2009 could be the catalyst for additional improvements on the west end of Waikiki. These include renovations being planned for the neighboring Ilikai hotel and Ala Wai Boat Harbor.

“The lagoon rejuvenation fits perfectly in the story about Waikiki’s continual transformation, but with a twist,” said Conching. “The significant additions and improvements to retail and commercial facilities throughout Waikiki are focused on bringing ‘what’s new’ to our visitors. Hilton’s improvements to the lagoon are of an environmental nature, restoring a unique landmark for the benefit of Hilton’s guests and local residents.”


Clients can find romance and adventure at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa.

Falling in love is easy with the Island Romance package, which includes accommodations in the luxurious Alii Tower, lei greeting, champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries, breakfast for two in bed on one day, a 50-minute Hawaiian lomi lomi massage for two and a five-course tasting menu for two with three wine pairings. Rates begin at $495 per night.

For active clients, the Island Adventure package provides ocean-view accommodations; a basket of spa amenities; a Segway tour; dinner; and a half-day visit to Kualoa Ranch that includes roundtrip transportation; buffet lunch; a horseback or ATV tour as the first activity and Movie Sites and Ranch Tour, Jungle Expedition, Hawaiian Fishpond and Garden Tour, Ocean Voyaging or target practice at the gun range as the second activity. Prices start at $425 per night.

Use rate code P8 for the Island Romance package and P9 for the Island Adventure package.

Both packages are good through Dec. 26; blackout dates, a four-night minimum stay and 10 percent commission apply.