HOOSER: Coco Palms ‘defilement’ must stop

I awoke the other morning angry and thinking about the ongoing desecration occurring at the bottom of the hill. I’ve been driving by that place every day for the past 40 years. Since 1992 it has been a total wreck. The weeds grow tall, the buildings sit in what seems like a perpetual state of semi-demolishment, and every few years there are fires.

The owners of this property clearly don’t care about us. The former Coco Palms Resort is simply one line item among many on their balance sheet. Every few years the owners “sell” the place to developers who blow into town, tell us how much they love our island, promise to restore the place to its former glory, and then con the County of Kaua‘i into extending the “‘Iniki permits” and other development concessions.

It’s been 29 years now, and well past time we say “enough is enough” and demand that the desecration be stopped.

I use the word “desecration” intentionally. There are hundreds of iwi kupuna buried here.

There are ancient fishponds just waiting to be restored. The area abounds with native birds and plants. The history both ancient and modern deserves to be preserved.

The area upon which this former resort sits is literally the birthplace of Hawaiian royalty.

According to the book, “The Story of the Coco Palms Hotel,” by the late 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 Kaua‘i at about 500 AD.

Those kanaka who have occupied this property over the years should be applauded for their conviction. It’s the foreign “owner” and the wanna-be developers who deserve to be evicted for their ongoing neglect.

I warned you early on that I woke up angry. The desecration, insult and abuse to our community and to this land is real, and those in positions of leadership need to step up and say “enough is enough.”

The defilement of this special place has gone on way too long, and it’s sad and disgusting that we, collectively, have allowed it so.

The property should be taken away from those who now control its ownership, and developed as a community asset that honors and respects its history, culture and sacredness. Yes, of course, they need to be paid fair-market value. I am angry, but not that angry.

Our county government must hold the developers to the letter of the law, revoke permits that are not in compliance, and begin condemnation proceedings. We, as a community, led by those with ancestral roots in that ‘aina, must hold the vision. And, yes, individuals and institutions of wealth and influence must join in partnership and support of that vision. All three components are needed, and all three must join together, united in purpose.

No doubt, it’s a big lift. I get that.

But we need to hold the intention.

No hotel will ever again be built on that property.

A comprehensive, inclusive community vision that honors the history, the culture and the sacredness of that place will in fact move forward and become a reality.


Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.

  1. pili kia February 3, 2021 5:37 am Reply

    hawaiians been wakin up like that since the overthrow, so you should shut up. You dont represent the true owners interests , your a former politician who thinks his ways are best for the community, the transplant community that is. Without hawaiians, the true host culture here, there is no community, so unless you gonna make the theft of those lands right you should respect evey kanaka maoli by leaving hawaii permanently ,

    1. Kauai Boy Mainland February 3, 2021 8:19 pm Reply

      Wow. What a racist. Racism is evil. Pointing to bad behavior to justify your own bad behavior is hypocrisy. Evil Just evil. You perpetuate hatred and not Aloha. For shame.

    2. Local J February 4, 2021 6:39 am Reply

      Racism at its finest…..time to grow up little child.

  2. Anahola Paul February 3, 2021 6:22 am Reply

    I agree. That area is sacred lands and the broken carcass must be collapsed. Perhaps with the new residential investor property tax increase….for 2022….we can use that additional revenue to make a Kauai education and skills center facility. Something we can be proud of and not ashamed every time someone drives on the east side.

  3. omao pot holes February 3, 2021 6:38 am Reply

    make it hawaiian cultural,ancestry, use the funds for the culture,aloha.

  4. Seaside Park February 3, 2021 7:55 am Reply

    is all that remains, reminds us of the days of Hitler.

    The Ghost of Coco Palms is the ugliest thing on the World’s Most Beautiful Island. It’s potential as a Seaside Park is boundless with potential.

    Educational, cultural, Health Park, stroll thru tropical gardens featuring gym workout equipment with no movable or rustable parts, , outdoor Hawaiian music concerts, Educational Ag park teaching natural no poisons used food growing. How To Be Healthy seminars, healthy cooking classes with multi cultural Kaua’i healthy foods, Safe ocean recreation training, Hawaiian language classes, keiki fishing ponds, occasional Swap MEET. Craft Booths .

    Tear down the worst dilapidated of it and preserve the best for best purposes.

    Since the coconuts are just wasted, harvest for food and oil, or hamo the coco trees and replant in other scenic areas, and open the park to greater use.

    Give it a fitting memorable name, e.g.,

    Coco Palms Seaside Hawaiian Park

    1. JLH/MSH February 4, 2021 4:38 pm Reply


  5. kimo February 3, 2021 8:13 am Reply

    AMEN! Excellent points. Enough is enough – 29 years. Time for the BS artists and the enablers in the County to get out of the way and acknowledge a hotel will never be built in this flood zone. Your ideas are spot on.

  6. Andrew February 3, 2021 9:07 am Reply

    Insurance companies, Lawyers, Developers, Politicians. Sounds like fun! Oh, by the way, Wailua Beach is gone, all the pine trees are in the ocean. The Path is next to go, then the road. The road is super-critical for anyone that lives on the east and north side of Kauai. Adding a major resort in the middle of this pinch point will be insane. It is a clogged artery in the Kauai blood stream, and any more blockage will cause traffic failure. I hope the buildings are torn down, and a safe thoroughfare is built for the residents and visitors of Kauai. A historically respectful park and educational experience is created for the people. But, 30 years and nothing has been done…probably going to wait for the ocean to collapse the road and cause a crises.

  7. Andrew February 3, 2021 9:18 am Reply

    Speaking of Crisis, does anyone know what the County or State has planned for if/when the road does fail at the Wailua Beach part of the highway?

    1. Kauaian July 5, 2021 2:38 pm Reply

      I can guess they’ll probably lay sandbags or replenish the sand. Temporary fixes and ineffective over the long term.

  8. Judie Hoeppner February 3, 2021 9:22 am Reply

    I totally agree with Gary. Turning the Coco Palms property into a community park is the best plan for that property. Someone quite some time ago suggested having Kapuna housing on the property where they could interact with keiki visiting the property. I liked that idea as well. What can we as citizens do to help?

    1. Rev Dr Malama February 3, 2021 3:20 pm Reply

      Learn proper Hawai’ian would go a long way to show respect… to Kupuna! Then learn our history @ HAWAIIANKINGDOM.ORG
      Mahalo from a Kupuna who wants the land returned to Hawai’Ian hands.

      1. Kauai Boy Mainland February 4, 2021 9:44 am Reply

        Truly a racist, bigoted comment. Your bigotry and hatred are busting out all over and you do not exemplify the Aloha spirit. Or is that word too big for you?

        The hypocrisy of all of the racists that post here is glaring.

        1. Rev Dr Malama February 6, 2021 7:29 am Reply

          Mainland is not the correct term for the continent or country of the usa…. get some A’ocation because your 1 word vocabulary only emphasizes your stupidity and lack of competent reading and comprehension.

  9. nothings free February 3, 2021 9:23 am Reply

    Great letter. First time I’ve ever agreed on anything with Mr. Hooser!

  10. Kauaidoug February 3, 2021 9:28 am Reply

    The Coco palms has been an eyesore for so long which is a disgrace. If anyone wants to reimagine what it could look like, what it DID look like, just watch the last 15 minutes of “Blue Hawaii” and watch Elvis get married. I saw it recently and had forgotten how absolutely beautiful the property was!
    I’m not advocating another traffic snarling hotel but the example of what it could look like is preserved us!
    I think those scenes in Blue Hawaii could be a blueprint for the eyesore we see now!.

  11. Craig Millett February 3, 2021 10:56 am Reply

    Thanks Gary, for expressing anger for so many of us about this place.
    I would suggest that the fact of sea level rise eliminates any chance for fair market value for this property.

  12. David Katz February 3, 2021 12:00 pm Reply

    Thank you Gary Hooser. I strongly agree. We’ve all gotten used to seeing this wreck, but it’s an embarrassment to Kauai and an insult to Hawaiians and all who care about Hawaiian culture. It’s gone on for far too long. It’s obvious that the site is no longer viable for a hotel. The county should condemn it by whatever means are legal, and the structures should be torn down. A first step could be just to clear the wreckage away, do some well thought-out planting and let the site be a park. Maybe later a cultural center could be built with community involvement especially from native Hawaiians.

  13. Lono February 3, 2021 1:38 pm Reply

    The county administration laggards need to do something like condemn it. But they continue to do nothing but make useless decisions based on their arrogant and ignorant world view. As long as the voters are sheep and don’t care they will be led by politicians who are bought and sold like the for sale products they are.

  14. Tim Johnson February 3, 2021 1:47 pm Reply

    After this long the County should use eminent domain to repossess the property. As it has been left, it is an eye sore to Kaua’i, it’s dangerous condition is a suit waiting to happen, and a haven for squatters and illegal activities. It could be a beautiful cultural center celebrating the history and culture, a treasure for residents and educational experience for visitors.

  15. Janet Hull February 3, 2021 1:49 pm Reply

    Thank You for this Intention. May it be be fulfilled. This sacred place is the heart of Kauai.

  16. Think kauai February 3, 2021 3:33 pm Reply

    How long was Hoosier in a position to enact change? All he did was posture and promote dissent and biased unsubstantiated claims that pitted different sides against each other while he benefited from paid trips to Europe for ‘conferences’.

    Easy to say the powers that be do something, when you’re no longer among them huh? Go take a nap. You’ll wake up mad about another topic.

  17. RONNIE LEE February 3, 2021 4:05 pm Reply

    I very much like all of your Positive comments, And i very strongly agree with all of them..


  18. james February 4, 2021 7:23 am Reply

    Not a bad idea but no details as to how this will be paid for and by whom. The County certainly doesn’t have the funds to do this. Unless a private “angel” or non-profit steps up, I say keep it derelict as testament of our continued folly that we can do whatever we want to Mother Nature without consequences.

  19. Jay February 4, 2021 12:58 pm Reply

    I agree that Coco Palms should be a county cultural park to be enjoyed by All. As it stands now it is a sad disgrace to the original historical importance of this area. All the negative comments about mr. hooser are unwarranted…he is simply stating that the current owners are disregarding the cultural and historic importance of the coco Palms site. I do believe everyone on Kauai would benefit if it is turned into a public park.

  20. Everythingisawesome February 5, 2021 11:32 am Reply

    “I’ve been driving by that place every day for the past 40 years”

    That’s as far as I got. Gary, aren’t you a flag bearer for the “oceans are rising because of fossil fuels” farce?

    Or is that the only way “someone like you”, like John Effin Kerry, can get around?

  21. MisterM February 6, 2021 9:15 am Reply

    Well, if it’s so sacred, why aren’t ‘real’ Hawaiians coming up with the cash to buy and renovate the property?? Put your money where your fat mouths are for a change.

    As for the farce of extending the permits, enough is enough. The buildings aren’t habitable, will never be economically viable for use as a hotel that meets modern building codes and should be condemned. Tje property is effectively worthless – there are no economically viable businesses for that property.

  22. truth be known February 6, 2021 12:51 pm Reply

    It is painfully obvious that previous County Councils have failed to execute the obvious solution to the Coco Palms debacle. That is, condemn the property, clear the debris and do something constructive with the land. Perhaps they could invite the military to conduct demolition exercises to drop the buildings. They are always looking for things to blow up.

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