The Traveling Steve's

Blast from the past – the Westin and Coco Palms Kauai revisted!

This morning we were scheduled to take a 10am helicopter tour over Kauai.  We left our hotel, the Grand Hyatt Poipu, at 8:30am to meet our arranged pre-board/checkin time of 9:15am.  As it turned out, traffic was light and we arrived at our ‘bus station’ meeting point at 9am.  img_0896-1The meeting place was literally in a converted bus, but it had a passenger waiting area where you watched a mandatory safety video, as well as scales for measuring your weight (for weight and balance of the helicopter).img_0900-1 img_0899-1 img_0903

As the weather was rather overcast and rainy, our helicopter trip was not meant to be today.  We rescheduled it for Thursday at 11:30am, pleased to do so both for safety reasons as well as visibility and photography reasons.

Since we were already in Lihue, we took the opportunity to tour the area, and make use of one of the three ABC stores on the island.  img_0905 img_0906-1The ABC stores in Hawaii are legend – they are like 7/11 convenience stores Hawaiian style, but are much nicer and offer a wide variety of souvenirs, as well as grocery snacks, water, beer, wine, and even liquor.  Honolulu has an ABC store on every block it seems, while in Maui they are plentiful too, offering some pretty upscale wines as well.  In quiet Kauai, however there are only 3 stores on the whole island, and none where we are staying in Popui.

Lihue has not only the island’s airport, but also the cruise port as well in the Willy-Willie harbor area, just across from the ABC stores, and our helicopter checkin point.  The Crown Princess cruise ship was in port today, and the some 3,000 passengers descended on the ABC and other stores as well while we were there.img_0963

We met a nice older gentleman using a walker that asked us if there were any benches to sit on, and we found a bench for him, and dried it off from the recent rain sprinkles.  We ended up having a nice conversation with him while his wife was busy shopping. img_0912-1 He had been stationed here some 50 years ago, and this was a nostalgia trip for him as they were on the 16 night Princess cruise around the Hawaiian Islands.  We chatted with him quite a while until his wife came back, as we were concerned she wouldn’t know where he was, a couple blocks off where he started from.  We were happy for them both, and wished them a wonderful remaining Bon Voyage on their cruise ship journey.  We then headed on along the walkway path next door.

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As this post says ‘Blast from the Past’, I was in Kauai back in 1990 or so on the American Hawaii Cruise’s Constellation.  I was sailing solo back then, and fondly remember the overnight ship’s stay in Kauai, most likely docking in the same area the Crown Princess was today.  I remember walking over to the Westin Kauai, and having a wonderful time there, going to both the fancy pool with fountains, and the adjacent beach. img_0964 While the hotel is now a Marriott property, the pool area and grounds are more or less how I remember them.  img_0928img_0940 img_0946 img_0960img_0962When I get home to Florida, I will try and find my photos from 1990 where I sat on one of the lion fountains shooting water into the pool, and compare that with the one I took today.img_0954

Steve (DOS) and I walked around the ‘Westin’; i.e. Marriott property for quite a while before heading on with our nostalgic Kauai journey.

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By chance we passed by a Hilo Hattie’s and made a nice impromptu shopping experience out of it.  img_0981Hilo Hattie’s is one of the original and best known stores noted for making Hawaiian shirts. When you walk in the store they ‘lei’ you with a shell bead souvenir, which is always a classy and welcome ALOHA touch.  We shopped and looked around for an hour or so, buying several Hawaiian shirts, and a couple souvenirs, such as Christmas ornament.

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img_0987 img_0983 img_0991We next headed up north to DOS’s old stomping ground from the early 1980’s, the Coco Palm’s Resort, with information here provided by Wikipedia.  img_1018DOS had talked about his stays at the Coco Palms over the years, and I was glad to finally go by and see where it was, knowing ahead of time that it had been closed since Hurricane Iniki in 1992.  DOS would tell stories of his fond memories of the evening Torch lighting ceremony there, and how nice the resort was with it’s hundreds of coconut trees, and authentic Hawaiian setting.  As the Wikipedia article mentions, Elvis Presley filmed parts of Blue Hawaii at The Coco Palms resort in the early 1960s.

Sadly, the resort has seen better days.  We drove by it and DOS was surprised to see how busy the area has become from the sleepy resort area it was in its heyday.  img_1009 img_0996The small beach area is across the street from a very busy highway, and the resort is in the process of being torn down, although Hyatt Hotels plans on rebuilding it.  We couldn’t find a place to park in the busy area, but did take a couple photos as we drove by, and even pulled in the construction entrance for a quick turn-around, noting an old sign offering Coco Palms Tours, obviously from a long-ago era.


While we’re glad that Hyatt is going to rebuild the property there, we wonder what they have for plans to do with it.  Will it still have the character of the original Coco Palms, or will it be more commercial now to fit in with the busy area.

A quick peak around the back of the property showed they still have hundreds of the coconut trees that the property was named for, so at least for now these trees are still standing.

img_1016We also wondered how the property would have beach access; we would assume they would have to build an overpass across the highway to the beach, as the highway was way to busy to cross on foot.  Below is an old condemned beachfront restaurant of a bye-gone era, DOS remembers going to, but not the name.

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We left the area  bit saddened, yet bittersweet over the Coco Palm’s demise, but hope for the best in the months to come.  First the resort has to be demolished, and then rebuilt, so as one of the Concierge’s at our Hyatt Hotel said, the 2017 opening is probably more or less ‘Hawaiian Time’, meaning it could take years to rebuilt.  Whatever it is; we wish the new Hyatt ‘Coco Palms’ success in the years to come.

We then headed back to our hotel in Poipu, encountering quite a bit of traffic along the way.  Kauai is a beautiful and more rustic island compared to Maui or Oahu, yet still lacks the road infrastructure due to growing pains; there aren’t enough major roads to keep up with the traffic flow at times.  We noticed the traffic much more going up along the northeast coast towards the Coco Palms, vs where we are staying in Poipu or even Lihue.

In the evening, we had a wonderful dinner at Red Salt Restaurant, a short drive from the hotel across from the Marriott Vacation Club properties, in the Ko ‘a Kea Resort. img_1036I was on a flight recently when a lady sitting next to me in First Class recommended this restaurant to me.  She was definitely spot-on, as this was a wonderful evening of dining.  MAHOLO, and Bon Appetite!

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7 thoughts on “Blast from the past – the Westin and Coco Palms Kauai revisted!

    1. Steve Uno Post author

      Hi Mike, thanks for replying. While I did mention the property as a Marriott now, when I was first there on an America Hawaii Cruises in the early 1990’s it was a Westin at the time. I still have fond memories of it as a Westin, and the pool is just how I remember it from over 20 years ago, even though it’s now a Marriott. I googled just now to see when Marriott took it over (as Marriott bought the Starwood Chain with Westin and Sheraton Hotels among others) back in 2016, and they are all under the Marriott umbrella portfolio now. This Maui “Westin” property in Lihue, however was actually acquired by Marriott way back in 1995, years before the Starwood purchase. Wow my age is starting to show! I’m 59 and holding tight for my big 6-0 birthday in August. Thanks for writing! Source: Travel Weekly 1998 article

  1. Dee Kenny

    Thank you for giving me a walk down memory lane! I spent 2 weeks in Hawaii on my honeymoon during September 1988. While in Kauai, we actually stayed at the Coco Palms. It was a little seedy by then, but the lure of Blue hawaii was just too much. The bedrooms had giant clam shells as sinks. We walked over to the beach, but after the beautiful sliver of Waikiki beach that is (or at least was) exclusive to the Hilton Hawaiian Village, it wasn’t the cleanest, and we didn’t go in the water. We drove to the Westin Kauai just to have a nose- it was new then, and stunning- and too rich for our blood! I remember the sculpture of the horses in the reflecting pool, and was blown way by the 5 sections of the main swimming pool, each with private small pools under each pillar. I thought there were waterfalls shielding the smaller pools from prying eyes. I remember saying to myself that one day I would come back there as a guest, but now it’s just the pools. All the opulence is no more.

    1. Steve Uno Post author

      Glad this post helped recreate some happy memories for you. My partner Steve (DOS) used to fly to Hawaii as a pilot for work years ago, and has fond memories of the Coca Palms. At home in Florida we sometimes light our tiki torches by the pool and it always brings back memories to him of the Coco Palms Tiki Lighting ceremony each evening. Yes times do change, and especially during the last couple years with COVID I think we’ve all had to adjust expectations. That’s why I love taking so many photos – “The way we were!” Thanks for writing!

  2. Mary McLachlan

    I too visited the Westin hotel during a cruise back before the 1992 hurricane. I’m staying at a Marriott resort there now (2022) and am trying to remember details from the hotel back then. Any idea how I can get pictures of the “Before” – especially the lagoon area? I remember taking a lagoon boat tour and thinking this was the most beautiful places I’ve been to.
    While walking around the property now, I see a couple of old deserted buildings and was just curious if they could be leftovers from way back then?

    1. Steve Uno Post author

      Hi Mary, thanks for the response and I’m hoping you’re having a wonderful stay there now. I’m off of town myself this week for my 60th birthday, but when I get home I’ll look thru some of my old photos and see what I have from that pre-hurricane era. Thanks.

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