Coco Palms Update

After my previous article, the Hawaii News Now website had an updated story about the fire at the Coco Palms. They have images from the County of Kaua’i showing the other buildind that burned:

Source: County of Kaua’i via Hawaii News Now

This is the walkway between the two restaurant areas, straight downwind of the lobby seen in my previous post. It has another shingle roof supported by wooden arches. It also looks like the horizontal roof areas to the left burned as well, though I believe these were more like decorative façades.

Somebody has also posted impressive aerial footage of the fire, using a helicopter drone:

There is a lot of speculation about the fire, and according to The Garden Island, an investigation has been started. In another article, The Garden Island also says that the damaged buildings are being torn down right away.

Here are photos of this area that I took during a tour of the Coco Palms over a year ago. This is the same side as the photos above, with the decorative conch shell made of fiberglass.


I have to respectfully disagree with Bob Jasper (quoted in the first linked article) about the beauty of this shell. The next image is looking back at this “breezeway” area from the other side, on a walkway right between this area and the main lobby. You can clearly see the wooden arch structure:


Before anyone jumps to conclusions about the entire hotel burning down, most of the buildings in this area were cement and steel, often covered with stone. Only the architectural arches and decorative façades were wood, though I imagine the buildings were still damaged. However, much of the wood was likely unsound before the fire, and would’ve needed to be torn down during the renovation. The cement parts of the building would’ve need to be remodeled anyway, so hopefully that work can still proceed.

Here’s the restaurant, viewed from the breezeway, and if you look up through the deteriorated palm-frond ceiling, you see the skeleton of the building.


However, the breezeway was certainly destroyed, along with two points of interest. First, this was the exact location for one of the iconic photos of Elvis:


Second, the building still contained some art and woodwork that probably would’ve been preserved during the remodel–or at least auctioned off. It’s no Brancusi, but it’s prettier than the conch shell:


Continuing the tour, here is main lobby, as it appeared after 20 years of neglect and exposure to the elements:


The water warped the roof beams, leaving a gaping hole, and some of the roof even collapsed at the far end. So this building was a total loss even before the fire:


But again, it had some interesting details worth preserving, if only in pictures now. Here is the reservation desk, a stone mantle of some sort, and the north window.


I suspect that interesting art would’ve been preserved, or at least documented and recreated during the current remodeling proposal. But now with the fire damage, it will mostly likely just be scrapped or torn down. At least a copy of the window is preserved at the Aulani hotel on Oahu, which was certainly inspired by the Coco Palms.

Here is a view of the lobby roof that burned, and I think that the pedestrian bridge may have also been affected:


And this is the lobby roof that I saw burning in my first post, most of it was doused by the firefighters:


But while tragic, the fire spared much of the rest of Coco Palms. The wooden structures needed to be rebuilt anyways, but I heard the cement buildings were only going to be remodeled. Here are some more photos from the tour. As far as I can tell, none of these areas were affected by the fire.


The main wings of the hotel are cement and stone buildings, and the rooms are still there, sitting empty for 20 years, some with their iconic clam-shell sinks (not Hawaiian at all). Many of the clam shells were auctioned off after the initial damage to the hotel.


See, all it needs is some new wallpaper. On the other side of the lagoons were the cottages and more restaurants. They are all dilapidated and need to be removed. I think the idea is to keep and refurbish the one that Elvis stayed in, as a sort of museum. This is what’s left of the Elvis cottage (or maybe the one next to it):


Elvis has definitiely left the building (or maybe he left it this way). Other wooden buildings around the lagoons have collapsed already from the termites and the wind and rain:


Other ones still stand, though eaten by termites and in danger of collapsing: a storage shed for a restaurant, including the last menu, and the wedding chapel.


The tour of the old buildings was fascinating, and Bob Jasper, the caretaker and tour guide, had lots of stories. Unfortunately, the tours may be the biggest victims of the fire. I doubt people will be allowed to walk around after all the fire damage and demolition.

UPDATE: In a Star-Advertiser article about the damage, Bob Jasper says the tours will continue, but obviously not through the breezeway area. He also made a video of the damage before and after the burnt lobby was torn down:

If you watch, you’ll see that the entire lobby was a loss and demolished. The breezeway arch was badly burned, but it wasn’t torn down, at least at the time of this video. The upper floor next to the breezeway also burned, but the lower floor with the restaurants is intact. In fact, in the video, you can still see the tile mural (at 19:40) and wooden panels (at 20:05). The article says the large conch shell will be rebuilt, but I’m not sure that’s necessary.

While looking for links, I found 3 videos that Bob made at the Coco Palms. He visits parts of the buildings not seen on the tours, including the roof and rooms around the breezeway that burned:

In the last video, he discovers some trespassers and yells at them to get out.

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