New life has been breathed into the historic Coco Palms Resort on Kauai, Hawaii, best known for serving as the backdrop for the Elvis Presley movie, Blue Hawaii. On May 21, 2014, Hyatt Hotels Corporation and Coco Palms Hui LLC entered into a management agreement for the revitalization of the 363-room hotel. A two-year reconstruction period is scheduled to begin in early 2015, with a re-opening anticipated in early 2017.
Coco Palms Resort was originally opened in 1953 with 24 guestrooms on grounds that were the ancestral home of Kauai’s last reining queen, Queen Deborah Kapule. The hotel will continue to operate as The Coco Palms Resort under the umbrella of Hyatt.
The last 20 minutes of the movie Blue Hawaii was filmed at Coco Palms, including the final scene showing Elvis and his bride-to-be, played by Joan Blackman, riding a flower bedecked double-hulled canoe through the lagoon as Elvis sings “The Hawaiian Wedding Song” on their way to the wedding chapel.
The movie is credited with creating a demand for weddings at the resort, which hosted more than 500 weddings each year prior to its 1992 closing following devastating damage by Hurricane Iniki. It also has the distinction of being the first film in which the Garden Island was shown to be Kauai and not used to represent another location.
Even since the property has been closed, couples come to Coco Palms to be married, either on the lagoon or next to it, using songs from the movie for their own ceremony. (For info about Blue Hawaii weddings, contact Larry Rivera, Coco Palms headliner for 40+ years, LarryRivera@hawaiilink.net.) A Kauai tour operator, Roberts Hawaii, also makes daily stops for tourists interested in seeing the grounds, lagoon, and the #56 King's Cottage of the Coco Palms Resort.
In its heyday, screen legends from Hollywood’s Golden Age, including Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and other A-list celebrities, flocked to the resort, contributing to the resort’s storied past. Under the direction of Grace and Gus Guslander, The Coco Palms Resort expanded to over 400 guestrooms and set a standard for Hawaiian hospitality, consistently maintaining the highest occupancy rates in the state of Hawaii.
The Coco Palms Resort is located in the Wailua area of southeastern Kauai. It is approximately five minutes from the town of Kapaa, a short drive from Lihue International Airport.
The resort’s redevelopment plan will preserve the original footprint of the property and signature lagoon, while rebuilding approximately 331 guestrooms and 32 bungalows, multiple restaurants, lounges and swimming pools. The guest experience will be enhanced by the adjacent Wailua Beach and River, one of the largest coconut groves on the Hawaiian Islands and sweeping views of the Nounou Mountain, locally known as the Sleeping Giant.
Note: I was privileged to visit Coco Palms in September 2012 when the 50th anniversary of the debut of Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii was celebrated on Kauai. We were treated to an unexpected re-creation of part of the wedding scene and learned a bit of Coco Palms’ history. That evening, we attended a “Kauai Remembers Blue Hawaii” event at the Kauai Marriott Resort, featuring a performance by Elvis Presley tribute artist Tim Welch.
For more information about Kauai, visit the Kauai Visitors Bureau at www.kauaidiscovery.com.