HONOLULU—Demolition will soon begin on a resort once favored by Elvis Presley and other Hollywood royalty before it was heavily damaged by a hurricane three decades ago.
The Coco Palms Resort on the island of Kauai will be torn down for a new 350-room hotel, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.
The resort is best known in movie lore as the location where Presley and Joan Blackman’s characters married in the 1961 movie “Blue Hawaii.”
It’s also the site of other key scenes in the movie, including the last where Presley sings the “Hawaiian Wedding Song” and holds Blackman’s hand while they board a raft to cross a lagoon.
In its heyday, it was famed for being frequented by other Hollywood stars like Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth, and Bing Crosby.
The 46-acre grounds were also once home to Kauai’s last queen, Deborah Kapule, who died in 1853.
The resort opened in 1953 next to a historic coconut grove and an ancient Hawaiian fishpond. The property fell into disrepair after being damaged when the powerful Hurricane Iniki hit the island in 1992.
Several attempts to restore the property have failed over the years.
The $250 million project will take three years to complete, said Patrick Manning, a managing partner of Reef Capital Partners from Utah.
Reef Capital served as the lender to a previous developer and took over the property in 2018 when they defaulted on a loan. Manning said the plan was to sell the property, but that changed after he investigated its history.
“I called my partners, and I said, ‘This property is too important to sell,’” Manning said.
The new hotel and a cultural center to honor the property’s history will be built on about 10 acres of the property.
At one time, the community wanted the resort rebuilt, but those sentiments have changed, said Kauai Council Chairman Mel Rapozo. “They don’t want to see a resort built,” he added.
At a state Board of Land and Natural Resources meeting Friday, some spoke in opposition to the development, citing a number of ancestral bones buried on the property.
Cultural practitioner Joseph Kekaulike Kamai said his great-grandmother is buried there, and others are buried under the hotel, driveway, and tennis courts.
“I really don’t want them to be digging anymore. I don’t want them grubbing our land,” Kamai said.
Manning said something needs to be done or the site will be an eyesore for another 30 years.
“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,” Manning said.
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