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The King may have left the building, but Elvis Presley’s spirit is alive and well in Hawaii.
The iconic singer/actor not only vacationed on the islands many times, but he filmed three movies there, bringing the destination’s natural beauty to the silver screen. He also performed on stage in the Aloha State, including a benefit concert for a major tourist attraction.
Here’s how Hawaii visitors can walk in Presley’s blue-suede shoes.
Film SitesPresley shimmied his way through a trio of movies in Hawaii: “Blue Hawaii” (1961), “Girls! Girls! Girls!” (1962) and “Paradise, Hawaiian Style” (1966). On Oahu, aficionados will recognize backdrops from those motion pictures at places such as Ala Moana Beach Park, Waikiki Beach, Hanauma Bay and Polynesian Cultural Center.
On Kauai, clients can see “Blue Hawaii” filming sites during the Hawaii Movie Tour from Roberts Hawaii. Alas, one island landmark in the movie — Coco Palms Resort — is currently closed. However, as visitors drive by, they can hum the “Hawaiian Wedding Song,” which Presley crooned by the Coco Palms lagoon. Other “Blue Hawaii” Kauai filming sites include Lydgate Beach and the Wailua River.
Hilton Hawaiian VillagePresley stayed at Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki seven times. Fans would flock to the helipad near the Hilton lagoon whenever his helicopter touched down. Many scenes from “Blue Hawaii” took place on the property, from its porte cochere to the area where today’s Super Pool and Hau Tree Bar hold forth. On the history wall in the hotel’s Tapa Tower, three panels feature images of Presley at the Hilton.
Diehard devotees can book the resort’s 2,000-square-foot King Suite on the 14th floor of the Alii Tower, where the star resided on several occasions. Along with throwback photos of Presley, the suite provides stellar views of the ocean and Hilton’s Friday night fireworks show.
Neal S. Blaisdell Center (formerly Honolulu International Center/HIC)In 1973, Presley made history at Honolulu International Center (Hic), now called Neal S. Blaisdell Center, as the first solo entertainer to broadcast live via satellite. More than 1 billion people in 40 countries tuned in to the Aloha From Hawaii concert. Remarkably, audience members paid no set ticket fee. Instead, they donated whatever they could afford, with proceeds going to a local cancer fund honoring one of Hawaii’s own stars, Kui Lee.
Today, clients can swing by the Blaisdell Center, still a hub of performing arts. There, near the parking lot, stands a life-sized bronze statue of Presley, complete with a studded jumpsuit, a microphone and an acoustic guitar. Visitors usually find it draped in a fresh flower lei.
Pearl HarborPresley served in the U.S. Army from 1958 to 1960, and he openly expressed his patriotism. So, when Pearl Harbor needed money to finish construction of the Arizona Memorial — dedicated to those who lost their lives in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor — he put on a benefit concert at the harbor’s Bloch Arena.
Presley earned no money from the show, held on March 25, 1961. In fact, he made his own donation to the cause. The event raised more than $60,000, which contributed to the memorial’s completion the following year. These days, Bloch Arena is closed to civilians, but the Arizona Memorial is a must-stop for visitors to Pearl Harbor
Tribute ShowsTwo live Hawaii productions spotlight Presley tribute artists. On Maui, Darren Lee channels Elvis in a show called Burn ’n Love. Enhancing the energized singing and dancing are archival video footage, photos and recorded interviews from Presley’s Hawaii visits.
Rock-a-Hula, a Waikiki show, features a variety of music and musicians, but Presley impersonator Johnny Fortuno commands the stage for a solid one-third of the evening. With songs like “Suspicious Minds” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” he shares vocals and moves so convincing that audiences might think they’re actually in the presence of the King himself.