Kauai resort has storied past, uncertain future

Many folks on their Hawaii Vacations , including Elvis, treasured their visits to the Coco Palms Resort on Kauai before hurricane Iniki closed it down in 1992. What was once a world-renowned resort is now falling to ruin. Unless someone steps in.

One of three restaurants at the Coco Palms.

Ocean surf pounds the shore across the highway; the Wailua River flows along the property’s south side. This sacred ground is where kings and queens once lived and warriors defended Kauai’s unconquered status.

While we wait for the two-hour tour to start, a lady reminisces about her stay during the resort’s heyday; a man recounts seeing Elvis in concert and our guide says he and Elvis shared the same doctor.

This piano entertained poolside when hurricane Iniki hit in 1992.

But, there’s a lot more to the Coco Palm story than Elvis. We are captivated as Bob, our guide, conjures images of Kauai’s royalty, battles and ghosts while he shares the island’s royal history. Then, he points out where Johnny Depp shimmied up a coconut tree and where Elvis got married in the 1961 film Blue Hawaii.

Our steps quicken on the way to Elvis’ bungalow, we are eager to stand where he once slept. Roots dangle from the rusted roof like thick octopus legs as baby palm trees spring from the rooftop. Inside the ruined quarters, I feel like I’m standing on hallowed ground, which, I am, given the location’s royal history. Shame colors my face when I admit that it’s Elvis that makes me feel this way.

Walking through the largest coconut grove in the state, we learn about famous guests, their antics and the lengths general manager Grace Buscher Guslander went through to comfort them. In one story, Mitzi Gaynor, star of the 1958 film South Pacific, brought more clothes than the room’s closet could hold. Grace built her a wardrobe

The largest coconut grove in the state of Hawaii.

For the past three months, Bob and Jerri Jasper have been running the Coco Palms tour. Bob knows his movie history and his passion for reviving the Coco Palms is evident. As he and his wife tirelessly manage the dilapidated property, they do what they can to save it from the jungle and thieves. They hope the tours will resurrect interest and bring an investor.

Call 808-346-2048 for reservations.

For a fascinating account of the resort read The Story of the Coco Palms Hotel by David P. Penhallow.

Photos by Daniel Lane..

Posted by: Bruce Fisher