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Coco Palms Hotel
Kauai, Hawaii
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  The Coco Palms: A Historical Perspective

The ancestral home of Kauai's Alii (royalty) since the 13th century, the area encompassing the Coco Palms Resort was the home of Kauai's last reigning queen, Queen Deborah Kapule, in the mid-1800's.

Originally opened on January 25, 1953, the Coco Palms Resort had 24 rooms, two guests and four employees. Under the visionary promotional eye of Grace Guslander, the Resort grew to contain 416 rooms by the mid-1970s. However by 1984, the number of rooms had been reduced to 393. In August of 1985, Wailua Associates acquired the resort from the Guslander/Amfac group.

Within the resort is the famous 2,000-tree coconut grove, which is the largest of only three similar groves in the entire state of Hawaii. The grove was originally planted with coconut tree nuts imported from Samoa by Mr. William Lindeman in 1896.

Grace was well known for her ability to embellish and create myths, stories and facts surrounding her resort. Under Grace Guslander's expanded interpretation of the Hawaiian practice of "akua" or replenishment, many noteworthy people took part in planting of new coconut trees in akua ceremonies to replenish the grove.

Some of these included Hawaiian Olympic swimming champion, Duke Kahanamoku, The Von Trapp Family Singers, Bing Crosby and the Prince and Princess of Japan. These and many other trees are marked throughout the property with name and dated plaques. Grace helped foster the belief that the 'ia loko (lagoons or fish ponds) on Coco Palms were once the "Royal" fish ponds of the Kauai Rulers.

The Coco Palms Resort achieved early exposure and fame in the 1961 Elvis Presley movie, "Blue Hawaii." Virtually the last 20 minutes of the movie was shot on and near the grounds of the Coco Palms.

The ceremonial torch lighting ceremony "Call to Feast," which took place every evening at 7:30pm, for 40 years (until September 11, 1992 when the devastation of Hurricane Iniki struck the Island of Kauai), was featured in the film. This torch lighting ceremony was the original such event, copied in recent years by many other resorts and hotels in Hawaii.

An additional favorite scene to movie watchers and visitors alike was the conch shell-blowing doorman greeting them upon check in at the lobby (which was modeled after an ancient Hawaiian Canoe Lodge).

The wedding ceremony, portrayed in the final scene where Elvis croons "The Hawaiian Wedding Song" to Joan Blackman as they ride their flower bedecked double hulled canoe through the lagoon to the Wedding Chapel, is credited with creating a high demand for weddings at the Coco Palms Resort. Prior to its close in 1992, the Resort hosted over 500 wedding ceremonies annually.

The Wedding Chapel was donated by MGM Studios to Coco Palms in the mid 1950's after using it in the film "Miss Sadie Thompson," which starred Rita Hayworth. The Blue Hawaii Wedding scene has been replayed over the years by countless thousands of couples, exchanging vows at the Coco Palms Resort. Kauai's Mayor Maryanne Kusaka was married at the Coco Palms.

Even with the property closed to overnight guests, on average, 1-2 weddings take place weekly either on the lagoon or next to them, as couples desire the "Blue Hawaiian" wedding with its famous songs from the movie sung for their own ceremony. A Kauai tour operator, Hollywood Movie Tours, stops daily with a van of tourists interested in seeing the grounds, lagoons, coconut grove and the #56 King's Cottage of the Coco Palms Resort.

The Wailua area in which the property is located is culturally, spiritually and historically significant. The property is significant with many on Kauai because it is in very close proximity to three of the most important historical Heiaus on Kauai.

Nearby is the beginning point of the legendary walk of the Alii spirits on their path up the mountainside and around the island ("King's Trail"). The "Royal" Bell Stone, significant as the "blessing place" for over 1,000 years of Kauai's Rulers, prior to their births is less than one mile from the corner of the property.

There are also important ancient burial sites throughout the area, including on the grounds of the property. In fact some believe the proper translation of Wailua is "spirits".

Coco Palms had a long and glorious history of strong traveler demand and consistently maintained the highest occupancy records in the state of Hawaii, during its operational heyday days. There was a huge level of guest returnee loyalty and retention. The Coco Palms Resort on Kauai became the most well known resort property in all of Hawaii.

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