On June 5, 1961, the Hanalei Plantation Hotel officially opened at its location atop the Hanalei River Ridge above the mouth of the Hanalei River, Kauai.
The property upon which it was built had served as the fictional residence of French planter Emile De Becque (played by actor Rossano Brazzi) during filming of the movie musical “South Pacific” in 1957.
Two years later, in 1959, Miriam and Frederick Dunkley sold the property to Coco Palms Hotel owner, Lyle Guslander, to make way for the Hanalei Plantation Hotel.
Guslander then hired David Penhallow — raised on Kauai, and a descendent of Kauai missionaries William Harrison and Mary Sophia Hyde Rice, and their son, William Hyde Rice, Kauai’s last governor — to be the hotel’s first manager.
Prior to his being employed by Guslander, Penhallow (who would change his name to David Scott), had received training at Coco Palms, managed by Grace Buscher, and had been educated at Kauai High School, Punahou and Stanford.
He would go on to enjoy a distinguished career as a playwright, director, actor and author of novels with Hawaiian motifs and “The Story of the Coco Palms Hotel.”
Penhallow’s assistant at Hanalei Plantation was Waimea, Kauai-born Mrs. Frances Akana.
Comprised of 50 cottages with 162 rooms, and other artistically constructed buildings, Hanalei Plantation Hotel was designed by Hollywood 20th Century Fox art directors John DeCuir and Lyle Wheeler, whose creativity can also be seen in “South Pacific.”
It’s no coincidence that its circular “House of Happy Talk” bar was named after a scene in the movie.
Also on the hotel’s property was the Reception Building and the Crystal Room dining facility that adjoined a swimming pool area named the Sky Terrace.
Interestingly, a tram located by the bar transported guests down the ridge to the beach below.
Bartendress Julie Beralas once mentioned that actress Esther Williams and actors Bob Denver and Rock Hudson were among the many famous people she met at Hanalei Plantation.
In 1972, the Hanalei Plantation Hotel was closed; today, brush, ironwood and concrete foundations cover its once splendid grounds.