Update on Kauai Coco Palms Hotel, Kauai’s first and arguably most iconic resort ever. The place where the rich and famous once stayed and where Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii was filmed.
Largely depending on who you ask, the Kauai resort may again be scheduled to open in 2020 as a Hyatt managed property with 273 rooms, 77 suites, 3 restaurants, a cultural center, 12k square feet of retail and more. It is set to be part of Hyatt’s Unbound Collection, a group of upscale luxury properties.
Until something more happens, however, Coco Palms sits largely unchanged, destroyed through hurricane, fraud, neglect and controversy for over a quarter century.
Latest news from Coco Palms Kauai Developer
The company in charge of rebuilding the resort, Coco Palms Hui LLC, just said: “For all those Coco Palms fans out there, don’t give up! We’re here. We’re charging. We’re going to get there.”
Kauai County Officials Proffer Vastly Differing Viewpoint
Mayor Bernard Carvalho indicated earlier this month that he doesn’t believe the current developers are capable of bringing the project to fruition. He is also frustrated by the manner in which developers have neglected maintenance of the property. Bernard has been joined in his doubtful opinion by council chair Mel Rapozo and (likely next Kauai mayor) Derek Kawakami. So in that regard, more hearings and more controversy will undoubtedly be upcoming. (Editors note: If you’re shaking your heads, so are we).
Coco Palms Kauai | Resort Project Has Been at Dead Standstill.
Developers received notice earlier this month from their title company that cleared the way to proceed. That following the resolution of a court battle on the property’s ownership this summer. Next steps for them include obtaining county permits and moving forward with building plans. A meeting will also take place later this month with the County planning commission.
When you drive by, you’ll see a great deal of existing concrete and steel, as in image below. Developers indicated “…we’ll use the old steel and concrete structures. Steel, we’ve done structural reports on those. That’s still solid.” The remainder will be built as new.
The iconic lagoon is also being restored as is shown in image above.
Past 18 months. Very little that’s obvious has taken place in the last year and a half at Coco Palms Resort. County officials have tired of the endless issues, even by Kauai standards, surrounding the project, while themselves offering nothing to move the project forward in any direction. It has been looking more every day like a project destined for nowhere.
There is always talk about an alternative plan for Coco Palms, such as a county park. This is something that has been suggested for years. How that would happen, however, and where funds would come from to undertake such a process, is totally unclear.
Three major problems at Coco Palms.
Following demolition, construction was to have begun in spring 2017, but never occurred. Dozens of building permits are apparently still pending. If and when started, the $135 million construction may take two years or more to complete, with target completion date remaining in the 2020 range. We also know from experience that on Kauai everything takes longer than anticipated, and in the case of Coco Palms, perhaps much longer than that.
1. A land dispute arose last year when a group of Native Hawaiians claiming to be descendants of Kauai’s King Kaumualii began living on the property. Last year a judge refused to remove them from Coco Palms as more information was needed to determine the rightful owners. The developers have taken the position that “the county recognizes us as the owner of the property, and so we see it as criminal trespassing.” That position was affirmed by the court about 60 days ago, when a summary judgment hearing apparently ended the dispute.
2. Flood zone concerns. We’ve heard that county engineering is saying that the resort, if rebuilt, would need to comply with current flood abatement standards. Those did not exist at the time of the original resort. That could result in significant unanticipated costs and delays in order to flood-proof large areas of Coco Palms. We aren’t aware of any update on this issue.
3. Is there a market for Coco Palms Resort in 2020? If the resort is rebuilt, how it can position itself in relation to other nearby Kauai hotels isn’t clear. Coco Palms is directly located on a very noisy stretch of Kuhio Highway, with no beach access. The idea of a pedestrian bridge has be thrown around, but we aren’t aware of any specific plans. In addition, competitive hotels have been built in recent years that, while not Coco Palms, offer beachfront locations at prices that could well undermine the potential for profitability.
Image courtesy of cocopalmskauai.com.