Coco Palms – Time for a new paradigm

Since that fateful day of Sept. 11, 1992 when Hurricane Iniki blew across our island, the historic and venerable Coco Palms Hotel has sat derelict as a constant reminder. We are reminded daily of that powerful storm, of the numerous broken promises made by various developers and owners since then, and of the impotence of our local government to do anything about it.

For the past 26 years, the property has been occupied on and off by both the homeless and the hopeful. There have been fires whose origins were listed as “suspicious” and every few months there are fitful seemingly half-baked efforts to cut the grass and trim the coconut trees alongside the road. Wedding and movie tours, and now apparently a taco truck, periodically provide human activity, all the while the decay of the structure and grounds continue seemingly unabated.

Shame on all of us for allowing the desecration to continue.

According to the book, “The Story of the Coco Palms Hotel” by David P. Penhallow, the Coco Palms Resort is on an ancient site of Hawaiian royalty and hospitality situated at the mouth of the Wailua River … well known to Hawaiians as a place of many legends and events of historical, cultural and religious significance. This is the landing place of the Kahiki voyagers, who came ashore here at Kauai at about 500 AD.” (Wikipedia)

Our community can and must come together to turn the desecration into restoration. This sacred and historical property deserves to be honored and preserved as a community resource and testament to the history and culture that precedes all of us. Yes, the Coco Palms Resort and the legacy of Grace Guslander, and the many guests who have passed through in modern times must be remembered and honored, but more importantly is the history, legends, and culture of the original residents of this land.

Five years ago, the present Coco Palms Resort developers came to the county with a multitude of promises, all focused upon “restoring the Coco Palms Resort to its former glory.” It was a siren’s call too alluring and powerful to resist.

Since that point, there has been an array of excuses for the lack of progress.

In short, the present developers, like the others who have come before them have not been able to close the deal. Once again, Lucy is poised to break her promise and move the football, and once again that incredible property located at the base of Kuamoo Road will be left hanging in limbo.

My hope is that our government and community leaders will recognize the opportunity that now presents itself. Our soon to be outgoing Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. recently stated his lack of confidence in the present development scheme, and expressed an interest in finding other options for the property.

If done properly, this could be his legacy.

This is not a new conversation and residents have proposed community based solutions in the past. One such group that I was a part of, the “Friends of Coco Palms,” had in fact secured a tentative commitment from the state via Sen. Ron Kouchi for over $200,000 to conduct the research and local outreach needed to develop a true community based vision and plan for the Coco Palms property.

Unfortunately, when the private development proposal was put on the table, the still in its infancy public option then fell to the wayside.

The “Friends of Coco Palms” community option, while still in its very early state of development, envisioned a cultural, educational, historic park that preserved elements of the modern Coco Palms and also reclaimed the ancient history honoring the Hawaiian Royalty that resided in the area.

The thought was there would be places set aside for music, for hula halau, and for cultural practitioners to practice and teach. There would be perhaps a canoe hale offering convenient access to the nearby Wailua River, and expanding mauka beyond the coconut grove there could be small farms and the growing of kalo and other native crops.

Since most of the land involved is already public and owned by the state, it was further envisioned that the state, the county, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Kamehameha Schools and other Hawaiian Trusts could possibly partner in the purchase of the privately owned portion, via eminent domain if necessary.

Clearly, it is time to revive this discussion once again and move forward in the development and implementation of a community based plan. One that is guided by Native Hawaiians rooted in these lands who know best the history, the culture, and the intrinsic values upon which that culture is based.


Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.

  1. Reverend Malama Robinson September 12, 2018 6:11 am Reply

    O.K. Gary,

    You are inching closer to being Pono, except for blaming and shaming “all of us”….. for the drama around Wailua Nui!
    Get a grip man, this is not your KULEANA.

    1. Ruthann Caudill September 13, 2018 5:48 pm Reply

      I believe that Gary is well known and that he has been very fair in his reporting.
      It seems to me that he is trying to gather the community together and move forward.
      Your comment seems rather the opposite.
      Do you have a suggestion and are you being helpful? If so, I cannot see it.

  2. Ken Conklin September 12, 2018 6:29 am Reply

    Gary Hooser has lots of great ideas for Coco Palms, but no ideas at all for how it can be self-sustaining. Commercial activities must be allowed, and must be sufficiently robust to generate millions of dollars per year to sustain all the splendid things Hooser has in mind. But then Hooser repeatedly describes this property as a “sacred place” and he proposes activities which are primarily focused on Hawaiian culture. So where should the money come from? OHA of course! If it’s really a “sacred place” and if most of the activities there will be elements of Hawaiian culture, then OHA is the right agency to pay for it. Just let OHA create another one of those LLCs we’ve been hearing so much about.

  3. Neal Beissert September 12, 2018 7:18 am Reply

    The community of Kauai is indeed disappointed in the broken promises of ill-funded developers and the derelict and decrepit remains of Coco Palms. I fully agree with Gary Hooser’s assessment but after 26 years of discussions nothing gets done… the time for action is at hand. Let us join together, beginning with “Friends of Coco Palms” to develop a community based plan which honors the native Hawaiian legacy and sacred import of the property. The question it seems is always “What can I do?”. Let us begin with a “Go Fund Me” page which would allow ALL of us to get involved both as individuals and businesses. Money is the great motivator. Donate a few coins or dollars at the market checkout, donate the funds of a restaurant table, community clubs car wash, bake sales, breakfast get-togethers, marathons…the list is endless. Only “We the People” can ultimately protect and promote Hawaiian history. It’s not only our right, it’s our duty.

  4. manawai September 12, 2018 7:50 am Reply

    Condemning private property via eminent domain and handing it over to private parties is out and out theft and a bastardization of the “public” element of eminent domain. Why don’t you put your actions where your all too sizable mouth is with your made-up band of private buyers a offer a price the current owners can’t refuse. Of course, this would never happen, and you know that, so you’d have us pay even higher taxes to make it a publicly-owned property. A transaction between willing buyers & sellers is democracy. What you continually prescribe is authoritarianism akin to the socialist European country we defeated in WW2. You and the leader of that country think so similarly.

  5. Ed Gayagas September 12, 2018 7:55 am Reply

    I am dismayed by the significant delays seen over the years regarding the redevelopment/rehabilitation effort for the Coco Palms Hotel reconstruction. Over the years, the Coco Palms was the iconic lure for Kauai and the center for motion picture allure. So what happened? Let’s make a decision quickly to side-step all naysayers and get going in resolving all stops in slowing down the recovery process. Getting Coco Palms back in operation will do wonders for Kauai’s economy through tourism and other related business attractions.

  6. Oingo boingo September 12, 2018 8:52 am Reply

    Why don’t the county put there big boy pants on and kick these donkeys out off there.
    Then build a bunch of 1,2, and 3 bedroom affordible appartments..for our local people.

  7. Debra Kekaualua September 12, 2018 11:06 am Reply

    pffffft, who does gary hooser think he is? yes, he is a circus clown just like the militaropoliticals who THINK they are in charge, even after WE gave council “NOTICE” time and again. The council became annimated laughing and high-fiving as they tracked off-Point and changed the subject so fast, it was incredible watching Hoike council after Kamuela and Punohu told them? Other peoples and counties have also rendered the “CEASE AND DESIST” directive, yet they still think they are not a part of the plan. All they gotta do to be accepted in the endeavors for the future of these islands without the militaropolitical corporates that have to date always included words like i, me, us, but never the tenants since 400A.D. not elvis or guslander who were simply toys that were played to hide truth and integrity while religous factions like the mormons or JW or catholics are done manifesting delerium. The spirit of CAN. is alive and well. So is truth and integrity that has and never will be close to maga, more like terrorists and bullies. Gotta love the new reality and watching peeps squirm!

  8. MisterM September 12, 2018 12:51 pm Reply

    Condemn the site. Make the owners bulldoze the remains and let nature retake the land. Any competent governing body would have done that a decade ago.

    1. Ruthann Caudill September 13, 2018 5:52 pm Reply

      The Fish Pond at Coco Palms is protected by the State.

      The Civil Corps of Engineers must be contacted, too.

      There is critical habitat for wildlife protected by the Endangered Species Act.

      There has been too much bulldozing as it is.

    2. Debra Kekaualua September 16, 2018 9:36 pm Reply

      Can not condemn lands that dont belong to you state, countys, EXcept inperpetuity. People are fearing, It is your call. We all can work together. There are several hundred problems, Top to Bottom Corporations and Federal nonprofit corporations that the militaropoliticals are protecting. So truth and integrity has continued to be dismissed. We know the scam and the game is up. WE win you lose.

  9. Just Saying September 12, 2018 2:27 pm Reply

    Why does everyone think it’s fair to blame the current owners for the preceding 22 years of neglect, miscalculation and inaction. That’s what every single critic does, including this author, when they talk about the collective 26 years.
    Why does everyone think it’s fair to make comments that say the owners have done nothing. The demolition process was huge and the most progress seen in 26 years. This is a time when it IS FAIR to talk about the collective 26 years! And then there’s Hooser’s “half-baked efforts” regarding the grass in the grove. You have no idea how difficult and expensive an ongoing project this is!
    Why does everyone think it’s fair to discount the problems in financing CP’s highway location at the same time squatters are getting so much attention on the front page? Nobody said this was going to be easy!
    Why does everyone think it’s fair to talk about starting completely over when we have NEVER been closer than this to a solution. We’ve NEVER been this close before! You start over and from scratch with plans requiring public money you can be sure that nothing at all will happen to that property for the NEXT TEN YEARS! This “Park” nonsense is the lip service champion of Kauai. OF course, everyone says yes to a park there until they find out the megamillions it would cost. Any article without an estimated total is worthless!

  10. RG DeSoto September 12, 2018 3:02 pm Reply

    We should expect nothing less but this progressive drivel from Hooser. Of course, neither he nor the others ranting here for the county to “do something” dares point a finger at a major player in this fiasco. That is the county itself.
    From planning director Dahilig to the council & mayor, all have played a role in obstructing one owner/developer after another from being able to do anything. The constant throwing up of road-blocks, bureaucratic hurdles and mandates whenever one of the owners submitted proposals has driven off a number of competent investors.
    So, like all the whining about affordable housing (see oingo boingo’s incoherent rant above), we see the usual suspects begging for MORE government meddling at Coco Palms when in fact it is too much government causing the problems in the first place.
    It’s quite pathetic to witness how many people are so incapable of seeing through all the progressive socialist demonizing of markets by Hooser (the proud founder for a wildly unsuccessful business) and his ilk. Basically outright falsehoods and red herrings tossed about by people that have been spoiled to the core by the ease of life and many amenities afforded them in the market system. They are intellectually lazy…period.
    RG DeSoto

  11. Joseph M George September 12, 2018 3:02 pm Reply

    Coco Palms will never be restored to its glory because that location is not as iconic as it was back in its hey day when it was pastoral and located on a road with little traffic and a beach that was more peaceful. Now, the Coco Palms site is located on one of the most highly congested sections of a road in Kauai. By the way, who flies to Kauai now to stay at a hotel that is located on the non-ocean side of a busy highway and on a beach that fronts up to a highway with all that traffic noise? That sounds more like NJ than Kauai.

    Instead, the county should put together a series of economic incentives and work with the owners to develop what really needs to be increased on the island which is affordable housing. That would be a great location for it and serve a very under-supplied need.

  12. numilalocal September 12, 2018 3:49 pm Reply

    So “Malama” just who are you? Are you Hawaiian? Local?

    1. James September 13, 2018 7:25 am Reply

      What is or who is “Hawaiian”? I think I understand the term local: a person who lives here full time. But not sure how you define “Hawaiian”. Also a person who resides in Hawaii? Someone with 100% Hawaiian bloodline, however one would measure that. What about 6th generation Kaiaian Japanese Americans with 3% Polynesian bloodline? Or Portuguese homesteaders? Or Filipino residents with some small amount of other heritage? I always wondered how different writers define “Hawaiian”. Please clarify specifically.

  13. Larry September 12, 2018 8:33 pm Reply

    The Last thing Kauai needs is more traffic…..especially there. Bulldoze it and let nature take it back. Who really cares if Elvis filmed there or what famous people stayed there. That hotel has absolutely nothing to do with Hawaiian culture.

  14. Amused September 13, 2018 7:40 am Reply

    So why did you drop the ball, Gary? Too busy grandstanding and politicking to actually do something useful for the community?

  15. Tom Niblick September 13, 2018 9:17 am Reply

    Have the current developers paid their taxes? If not then there is a way to take the land away from them and put it into the public domain. Coco Palms could make a wonderful park and cultural center. This is not a new idea. I wrote about such a plan years ago in my novel, “Kahuna Queen.”

  16. Christina Gaines September 13, 2018 10:01 am Reply

    Wow, what a bunch of whining! Let’s move forward as suggested and set up a gathering place with cultural ties and opportunity for independent entrepreneurial expansion. Use the extensive grounds and regain the spectacular simple grandeur that pulled people to Kauai long ago. This is Kauai, we can work together into the future!

    1. RG DeSoto September 13, 2018 4:00 pm Reply

      Brilliant…so “let’s” just put a gun to the property owner’s head and confiscate the land? Like they did in USSR, China, Venezuela? How has that worked out?
      Or Christina, by using “let’s” (a contraction of let us) do you mean that you will put your money where your collective mouth is?
      RG DeSoto

      1. Larry September 14, 2018 8:32 pm Reply

        No gun needed just dont isue any permits and then when they drag out yes take it bulldoze what is there and let nature take over or the traffic will

        1. RG DeSoto September 15, 2018 1:39 pm Reply

          My reference to the gun was rhetorical…in case you couldn’t figure that out for yourself, Larry. We’re looking at fascist (national socialist) proposition with the same nasty outcome no matter what…that is and always will be my objection to government interference.
          RG DeSoto

  17. Ruthann Caudill September 13, 2018 5:35 pm Reply

    While Mr. Hooser paints a very pretty picture of Coco Palms, I wonder what size of brush is is using.
    He glossed over some very important parts of the picture.
    Noa and Hepa do have an Appeal Docketed, and while I may have questions about the Appeal, it is too early to blow the whistle on Charlie Brown’s kick. That call is up to the Judicial Referee, who will decide when the game is over.

  18. Ruthann Caudill September 18, 2018 9:43 am Reply

    Did you know that Tyler Greene has an IRS Lien from last year? Check Conveyance…

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.