Hawaii tourism took off, turbocharged with the amazingly synchronous introduction of jet aircraft, soon after Hawaii statehood. In fact, Pan Am began the Age of Hawaii Jet Travel with Boeing 707 aircraft, just one month later.
Air travel and cheaper flights aligned perfectly with our love of Hawaii.
Jets immediately reduced travel time to Hawaii by about half. It also drove airfares down precipitously and let more people than ever before think of a Hawaii vacation as a reality.
Hawaii: “painted in every hue of the rainbow, flavored to every taste, guaranteed to relax. All you need to do is choose your island. The aloha spirit will do the rest.”United Airlines
Cost of Hawaii airfare in perspective.
Before jet travel started, a one-way ticket was more than $2,000 in today’s dollars after Pan Am commenced flights to Hawaii in the 1930s. But by 1970, you could fly to Hawaii for about $125 each way, which is about $1,000 in today’s dollars. Today, airfares are cheaper than ever before, in spite of inflation and sometimes sticker shock. It is common now to find airfares from the west coast starting at about $100, and from the east coast, off-season, from about $400. Sure you can pay thousands, but it is never as much as it was back then.
What glamorized Hawaii in the eyes of the world?
From hula dancers, aloha wear, tiki torches, ukulele, slack-key guitars, to Hawaii-themed movies and TV shows, it all became the rage and that’s continued. It’s been a great run for Hawaii visitors Hawaii’s economy.
What was Hawaii like before tourism’s before?
Until the 1960s, sugar and pineapple plantations were responsible for most of the income in Hawaii. Then, with jet travel, a massive increase in Hawaii visitors. In the 1960s, visitor arrivals went from less than 300k annually to nearly 2 million. And it just kept going from there.
Prior to jet travel, Hawaii visitors were sailors, whalers, scientists and adventure seekers. They included Mark Twain, who extolled about Hawaii, “The loveliest fleet of islands,” and “The Grand Canyon of The Pacific.”
Elvis Presley and Hawaii: A love affair beyond compare.
Elvis had had a larger than life role in Hawaii’s travel boom and much of that centered around the film Blue Hawaii. Elvis and Hawaii were a love affair like no other. The “King of Rock and Roll” icon remains one of the most important cultural icons in Hawaii and of the 20th century moreover.
Elvis was said to be at home in Hawaii, unlike anywhere else in the world other than his beloved Memphis. Elvis’ three Hawaii-flmed movies include “Blue Hawaii,” filmed at Kauai’s Coco Palms Resort, “Girls! Girls! Girls!,” and “Paradise, Hawaiian Style.”
Continuing the fame and attraction of the islands, Hawaii was featured in epic TV series Hawaii Five-O, which in turn cement the young state as perhaps the most highly desired vacation destination ever.
The CBS series, Hawaii Five-O on CBS, was seen from 1968-1980, but you can still catch reruns to this day. Another version that lasted ten seasons began in 2010. The series is to this day the most famous and longest-running police drama. It featured Jack Lord, who played Detective Captain Steve McGarrett. The show had as its basis, an actual police unit. And the show’s theme song became as renowned as the TV show.
Aloha wear became Hawaii’s global fashion statement.
With the lure of Hawaii everywhere, it wasn’t long until Hawaii’s aloha wear became a global fashion statement. Aloha shirts, in particular, evolved into the ultimate souvenir from Hawaii. They became popular on the mainland as early as the 1930s, and following Elvis, Tom Selleck and others, their popularity exploded. It represented one’s ability to be part of the glamour and care-free nature of Hawaii. Aloha shirts were worn and sponsored by surf legend Duke Kahanamoku.
Pearl Harbor/Arizona Memorial
Two decades following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Arizona Memorial was built, helped by a benefit concert by Elvis Presley. It opened in 1962 in honor of the 2,500 who died during those attacks. The memorial is, to this day, the most popular visitor attraction in Hawaii.
Modern surf culture erupted with the Beach Boys.
The 1960’s saw the blooming of Hawaii’s surf culture beyond the islands. The Beach Boys helped with their “Let’s go surfing now, everybody’s learning how.” The culture easiliy reverberated in nearby Southern California, and with it came not only surfing, but skateboarding, and Hawaii themed beach attire. Surf movies were all the rage too, such as Endless Summer.
Music from Hawaii became all the rage.
Hawaiian music gained popularity starting in WWI, when more Hawaiian music was sold on the mainland than any other genre. Diverse Hawaii music from modern, folk, native, traditional, and popular including Ukulele and slack-key guitar are known renowned. Hawaiian music a regular part of Hollywood soundtracks.
Ancient Hawaiian music is heard to this day. It is both simple, reverent, and haunting.
Tell us about your love affair with Hawaii.