coco palms

Coco Palms Revisited


Also see our update on 1) Coco Palms upcoming rebranding and 2) Blue Hawaii Celebrates 50 years.

The Coco Palms Resort Kauai redevelopment remains on track. The Kauai County Council approved a two year delay that will allow developers to continue with their plans. They intend to demolish the iconic Hawaii hotel, now an eyesore, and rebuild it to its pre-Hurricane Iniki elegance.The bill allows for development of a “legally nonconforming structure to be constructed” which eases setback and other rules which would otherwise apply.

The ordinance, according to county documents, allows for “a legally nonconforming structure to be reconstructed to its condition prior to Hurricane Iniki.”

We’re still waiting to here specifics of the redevelopment plan and what parts of the original structures may be saved.

Remember that it isn’t too late to walk behind the chain link fence and see where some of the biggest names of the 1950’s and 1960’s stayed before jet service came to the islands. Daily tours continue to be offered Monday-Friday for $20 and include a visit to the largest coconut grove in the islands and Elvis Presley’s bungalow. No reservations are needed. Show up at 1:45pm at the hotel parking lot. For information, call the Coco Coco Palms tour office at (808) 346-2048.

Coco Palms History

This area was the ancestral home of Kauai Ali’i (royalty). As a Kauai resort it became one of the most prominent in the islands before and after statehood under the careful watch of hotelier Grace Guslander.

Mitzi Gaynor remembers Coco Palms quite well.  She stayed in one the bungalows during filming of South Pacific. On her visit to Kauai, the first in 50 years, she lamented the condition of the resort and the loss it represents to Hawaii.

Another person with memories of Coco Palms is Larry Rivera who has become the unofficial caretaker of the resort.

Larry started as a busboy at Coco Palms 57 years ago and was on hand to sing and talk to us. When you hear him speak and look in his eyes, you see in him the magic of a time long passed.  Larry doesn’t see an empty resort but a place that is still alive.  He’s passionate about the Coco Palms and wants the property opened again.

Photos from the Coco Palms Tour.

Overgrown elephant grass hides the once sought after bungalows, weeds cover markers of famous people who planted trees here (like Jackie Kennedy Onassis), and the lounge where Elvis sang is empty.

If you ever stayed at Coco Palms, please comment with your stories and memories.

How you can tour the Coco Palms:

1.  Show up at the hotel parking lot at 1:45pm, Monday through Friday, for a 2 hour tour. Call 808-346-2048 for details.

2.  Schedule a Blue Hawaii wedding or renewal ceremony on the lagoon: Contact Larry Rivera at [email protected].

Read the story of the Coco Palms:

Author David Penhallow has written, The Story of the Coco Palms Resort: The Grace Buscher Guslander Years 1953-1985.  It’s the definitive history of the resort and includes a large selection of photographs from the period.  Available at Amazon for $29.95 with free shipping.

Love in the Ruins, an article from the Wall Street Journal about Coco Palms Resort, Larry Rivera and his Blue Hawaii weddings.

Photo Descriptions (clockwise from top right): (1) Lobby staircase, (2) location of Mai Tai reception for return guests hosted by Grace Guslander, (3) Lobby interior, and (4) Lagoon where Elvis Presley sang Blue Hawaii.

25 thoughts on “Coco Palms Revisited”

  1. I got to stay at Coco Palms in the 70s. I was on an escorted tour, when our guide told us that our hotel had been overbooked. He wanted volunteers to stay at Coco Palms instead. I jumped at the chance! Since this was my first trip to Kauai, I had read a lot of information about the resort and the island. I knew Elvis had stayed and filmed there. I was hooked.

    I hope to visit again and can hardly wait to see the resort restored to what it once was.


  2. We got married on May 24, 1986 and spent our honeymoon at the Coco Palms. We had a wonderful time and glad we had the chance to stay there.

    We went back to visit Kauai in 2007 and was sad to see what the Iniki hurricane did to the place. Although our silver anniversary was back in 2011, we would like celebrate by coming back to the Coco Palms when it is ccompleted.

  3. My wife and I went to Hawaii on our honeymoon in 1975 and our first night was on Kauai at the Cocopalms resort. We arrived late and were exhausted so went right to our room, opened the windows and went to bed. While waiting to go to sleep we heard music coming up from the dining area and thought what beautiful music. It was Larry Rivera doing his show.
    Due to jet lag we were up at 4 am but everything was closed. At 6am they opened a coffee shop and we met Larry Rivera who ran the coffee shop not knowing he was the entertainer from the night before.
    We have been friends ever since

  4. Any idea how long it will be before construction is finished? May postpone Kauai visit until they open the new hotel. :0) Love the idea that it will look the it did previously. Wonderful idea.
    Mahalo for the update.

    1. Hi Colleen.

      Please don’t wait – we’re waiting to see you.

      Honestly it could be 3+ years.


Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top