The history of the legendary hospitality of Grace Guslander and those under her at the Coco Palms Resort in Wailua remains relatively recent history.
The origins of that aloha spirit, though, likely predated the Coco Palms by at least a century, and originated in a Native Hawaiian ali‘i (Hawaiian royalty, or ruling class) who would be Kaua‘i’s last queen.
Kekaiha‘akulou (Queen Deborah Kapule’s Hawaiian name) was born about 1798 on Kaua‘i, likely at Waimea, her parents being the high chief Haupu and the chiefess Haea.
As a young woman she was a great beauty, and bright and dynamic. Sometime between 1815 and 1820 she married King Kaumuali‘i, the last king of Kaua‘i, and became his queen and favorite wife, according to Hank Soboleski in his book “History Makers of Kauai.” Despite a rollercoaster-ride of a life, where her beloved was kidnapped several times and she faced some hardships, including having her land taken away and being banished to O‘ahu to live in poverty (loyalists helped her return to the island and her Wailua property), she remained beloved by Kauaians, was among the first of the Kaua‘i Native Hawaiians to learn to read and write English, maintained a school, and helped build a church in her hometown of Waimea.
In 1824, she married Simeon Kaiu, a half-brother of Kaumuali‘i and a devout Christian and teacher of the gospel. In 1835, Deborah, Simeon, and 16 members of the Waimea congregation moved to Wailua to build a new church on land where Coco Palms Resort now stands.
For many years, her home in Wailua was a natural stopping place for travelers. She and her men helped northbound travelers cross the Wailua River, and laid out lavish meals for many of them. She may have been one of the first travel-industry professionals on the island.
Deborah Kapule, Kaua‘i’s last queen, died at Waimea on Aug. 26, 1853. To this day, where she is buried remains a mystery.