A true Hawaii tourism hero died earlier this month. His name was Richard Wassman Kimi. He did not do a specific heroic thing, but what he did lastingly affected Hawaii tourism.

Back in the mid-1950s, Kimi, who lived in Hilo on the Big Island, noticed that the tourists who came to the island arrived on large ships or airplanes. That meant they had money and could afford fine accommodations. But the then-29-year-old noticed that there were very few affordable places to stay for local residents and neighbor-island residents who wanted to visit Hilo for a day or two.

In 1956, even though friends and experts told him he was crazy, Kimi built the 30-room Hotel Hukilau in Hilo. It was a small hotel, one of the first along Banyan Drive, which now is lined with East Hawaii’s largest hotels such as the Naniloa and Hilo Hawaiian.

The Hotel Hukilau was consistently packed, mostly with people who lived in the islands. Soon, budget-conscious visitors discovered that the rooms were nicely-furnished and clean, and that the service at the hotel was excellent. Realizing that his concept was working, Kimi went on to build the Hukilau and Seaside hotels in Kona (on the other side of the Big Island), on Maui, and on Kaua’i, and he would also purchase the old Waikiki Biltmore Hotel, now the site of the Hyatt Regency Waikiki.

Kimi never wanted to build large hotels. His objective was to serve local residents and budget-minded visitors. He was one of the first to put together air, room and car packages for residents, and he was a leader in taking reservations via fax machines and toll-free numbers.

He also enjoyed teaching and sharing his sales, marketing and business knowledge. One of his students was Robert Kiyosaki, author of the “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” books, who based his original “rich dad” on Kimi,.

Kimi, the visionary who pioneered the reasonably-priced “family” accommodations still available in Hawaii, died on December 19th in Honolulu. He was 83.


  1. All I know is I went to Reedley college from 66-68 and I had a friend named Beverly Kimi who was from Hilo and her dad owned three hotels. I realize this was 40 years ago, but do you know her?

  2. On July 26, 2009 Dale Sharp wrote a comment. I believe I am the one he is looking for. Is there a way to get in touch with him?

    Richard Kimi was my uncle.


  3. wow i didnt relize he did it all by him self ….. i thought gilbert kimi had something to do with it… guess what i was told was wronge….
    Richard Kimi was also my uncle

  4. Is it true that Richard Kimi was rich dad then? Beverly are you really familiar with him?
    I am trying to discover if it’s true or just a marketing invention

  5. […] Richard Kimi was born February 3, 1925 and was the son of Territorial Senator William Kimi. Like many Hawaiians of Asian descent, he enlisted in the Army after Pearl Harbor was attacked. After the war, he worked in his family’s business selling Army surplus goods but it wasn’t turning a profit so he took the remaining unsold equipment and turned to construction. Him and his brothers built Kimiville, a low-rent housing project in Hilo. In the mid 1950s, he saw an opportunity to provide affordable hotel rooms for those arriving by boat and airplane into the small town of Hilo, HI. So despite the naysayers, he built the 30 room Hotel Hukilau to cater to the not-so-rich travelers to the big island of Hawaii. His budget conscious accommodations were a hit and he expanded, building Hukilau and Seaside hotels in Kona, Maui and Kaua’i, eventually buying the old Waikiki Biltmore hotel, now the site of the present day Hyatt Regency in Waikiki. […]

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