Hotel tours ‘up in the air’

WAILUA — The future is uncertain for tours of one of Kauai’s most famous resorts, as partial demolition of the hotel is pending state and county approval.

Bob Jasper, owner of Coco Palms Tour, said he’s unsure how demolition work at Coco Palms Resort will affect his business.

“We’ll have to wait closer to that time, and we’ll see,” he said. “I’m hoping I can keep going, obviously. Now it’s just up in the air.”

Tyler Greene, a partner with Coco Palms Hui, said in an email that Coco Palms Hui is working to see if Jasper can continue his tours during demolition.

“We love Bob Jasper’s tours and feel they are an important part of the Coco Palms revival,” he said. “We are currently working to see if there is a way where the tours can continue during the demolition process, but we are not sure at this time.”

Thousands of people take the tours each year and learn the history of the resort that was severely damaged by Hurricane Iniki in 1992 and never reopened.

Lisa and Scott Mills, residents of Houston who were on the tour Wednesday, said they enjoyed it, but believed it would be a good idea if the tours were halted during construction.

“For safety, it’s probably a good idea,” Lisa said. “But once it reopens, it would be a good thing to walk all the grounds and see it all as it used to be.”

Scott, an Elvis fan, agreed.

“Surely they couldn’t have it while the construction is going on cause it’s kind of sketchy in some points back there, anyway,” he said. “Once it’s up and rebuilt where it’s safe, it’d be nice for them to continue the tours to keep that history going along.”

Jasper, who started the tour with his late wife Jerri in 1996, said for now he’ll continue his tour and will alter the tour’s route if he’s allowed to conduct business during demolition.

“Safety is a factor and if they’re just working on one area, I can always change my tour around,” he said.

Greene said demolition will begin as soon as the state and county give the green light.

“We are coordinating with the county and state agencies on satisfying the necessary requirements prior to starting demolition,” he said. “We will start once we have the blessing of these agencies.”

According to county documents, repair and reconstruction of Coco Palms includes 350 hotel units, the Lotus Restaurant and Flame bar, lobby, commercial building, three swimming pools, the Queen’s Audience Hall, the Palms Lanai, Sea Shell Restaurant, Chapel in the Palms and two bridge crossings.

“As far as being demolished, 70 percent of it won’t be,” Jasper said. “A lot of the buildings there are steel and cement — most will be just refurbished.”

Jasper said some of the older wooden structures will come down, which includes original structures on the north end of the property.

“It’s really just minimal parts that have to come down,” he said. “The bungalow have to be rebuilt on 8-foot stilts because of the flood code. Those will come come down.”

Jasper started his business as Hawaii Movie Tours in the mid-90s, then changed its name to Coco Palms Tour in 2010, offering a longer tour, he said.

“We started 20 years ago; we’d go in there with our buses and that was a shorter tour because we went to a lot of movie locations,” he said. “A few years back, we started longer tours, about eight years ago I became site manager. In 2011, it was old movie tours and that’s when we started the longer tour.”

Jasper’s two-hour walking tour of the property includes the movie locations of “Blue Hawaii” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

“We start off in the south end of the lagoon, and we talk about the original creation of the hotel and before the hotel, the part that Queen Deborah and King Kaumualii had,” he said. “We talk about some of the movies in there … and we talk about what the plans are for the future.”

Jasper said that prior to Hurricane Iniki in 1992 he and his wife were hotel customers.

“Now it means even more to me before because my wife and I would spend a lot of time there just as customers,” he said. “We go down there at night. We catch toads in the grove and had toad races and the loser would have to buy dinner.”

The tour owner said he and many like him can’t wait for the hotel to reopen.

“People from all over the world just absolutely love that hotel,” he said. “We have thousands of members on our Facebook pages.”

Coco Palms is expected to reopen in the first quarter of 2017.

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