Resort Popularized By Elvis Presley’s ‘Blue Hawaii’ to Be Torn Down and Rebuilt

Clare Fitzgerald
Photo Credit: MoviePics1001 / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: MoviePics1001 / MovieStillsDB

Demolition is slated to commence on a resort popularized by the 1961 Elvis Presley film, Blue Hawaii. The Coco Palms Resort, frequented by Hollywood royalty for decades, was heavily damaged by Hurricane Iniki in 1992 and has been closed ever since. Officials are currently looking to rebuild the popular haunt, turning it into a 350-room hotel.

Exterior of the Coco Palms Resort
Coco Palms Resort, 2007. (Photo Credit: Peter Bischoff / Getty Images)

First reported by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, news of the famed location’s demolition and rebuild has drawn ire from the local community. Along with being the location of Presley and Joan Blackman’s characters wedding in Blue Hawaii and the site of the famed musician’s “Hawaii Wedding Song” performance, the Coco Palms Resort was also frequented by such stars as Bing Crosby, Rita Hayworth and Frank Sinatra.

However, the site’s history dates back long before Vintage Hollywood stars made it their stomping ground. It was once home to Kauai’s last queen, Deborah Kapule, who died in August 1853.

Elvis Presley as Chad Gates in 'Blue Hawaii'
Blue Hawaii, 1961. (Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures / Courtesy of Getty Images)

The Coco Palms Resort opened in 1953, near an ancient fishpond and historic coconut grove. It remained operational for decades, playing host to various torch lighting ceremonies and Hawaiian-themed weddings. After Kauai was hit by the powerful category 4 Hurricane Iniki, the resort was shuttered and fell into disrepair.

While attempts to restore the property were made over the years, all failed. In 2014, the damage was compounded by a fire. No one was injured, and the blaze was eventually brought under control.

Interior lobby of the Coco Palms Resort
Lobby of the Coco Palms Resort, 2008. (Photo Credit: Chrisjustus / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0)

The demolition and rebuild of the Coco Palms Resort is slated to take up to three years to complete, with a price tag of around $250 million. The work will be conducted by Reef Capital Partners, who initially planned to sell the property upon the previous developer defaulting on their loan. However, that changed when Patrick Manning, the company’s managing partner, learned of the resort’s history.

The new building aims to honor the history of the site upon which the resort was built. The 46-acre property will also feature a new cultural center, aimed at telling the history of the land.

Elvis Presley as Chad Gates in 'Blue Hawaii'
Blue Hawaii, 1961. (Photo Credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

While public sentiment was initially in favor of the rebuild, opinions have since changed. At a state Board of Land and Natural Resources meeting on April 14, 2023, those opposed spoke out, citing the ancestral bones buried on the property. The land itself has been in dispute since 1866, with many arguing it includes and/or is near several culturally significant spots.

According to Kauai County officials, Reef Capital Partners has secured the required permits for the project. In response to the outcry, Manning explained that something needs to be done with the dilapidated structure.

Speaking with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, he said, “Even though we know there are many that don’t want it rebuilt, we intend to be viewed and earn a reputation for doing everything we can to honor its past and respect the people of Kauai and guests of Kauai and how we manage its future.”

Exterior of the Coco Palms Resort
Coco Palms Resort, 2008. (Photo Credit: Chrisjustus / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0)

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At present, there isn’t an exact timeframe for when the Coco Palms Resort will be demolished. However, work is expected to begin soon.