The Coco Palms is one of Hawaii’s most renowned classic resorts. Owner Grace Guslander pioneered romantic traditions that have become de rigueur in the local hospitality industry, such as the torch-lighting ceremony.
The site’s historical significance predates the resort, though. It was long a favorite center for Hawaiian monarchy; High Chief Deborah Kapule lived there in the mid-1800s, and cultivated fishponds in the area.
What threatens it?
Hurricane Iniki hit the resort hard in 1992, and the Coco Palms has been shuttered ever since. Not for lack of interest in reopening it. As Kauai historian Pat Griffin says, “There is general agreement that it is an enormously important cultural and historical site, and should be protected.” But no one has yet been able to make the numbers work.
What can be done?
There are a couple of ideas afloat, but both of them require money that hasn’t materialized yet.
The property’s current owner, Phillip Ross, of Coco Palms Ventures LLC, based in Annapolis, Md., says he’s working to re-open the Coco Palms in its original retro look, but needs a partner. “We’ve invested more than $6.5 million in securing our SMA (shoreline management area) and various other use permits, and preparation of construction documents in order to advance the project,” he says. “We’re seeking a joint venture partner or a sale to a developer who can develop the property in keeping with our vision.”
Some local community groups, as well as state Sen. Gary Hooser, would rather see the property turned into a community based educational park facility. But this plan has no financial backing either.