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Resort History

Star Attraction

In January 1964, the Kahala opened its doors on prime beachfront next to the famous Waialae Country Club private golf course. The rest is history, with five decades worth of illustrious guests, from royalty to heads of state and Hollywood stars. Join us as we stroll down memory lane.

Inspired by the great homes of the Hawaiian monarchy, with its elegant and grand residential feel, the hotel was originally designed by architects Edward Killingsworth, Jules Brady and Waugh Smith of Long Beach, California.

Then known as the Kahala Hilton, the resort cost $12 million to build, and was the first major resort to have air-conditioning in all rooms.

In a few months, the resort capitalized on its relatively removed location, thanks to its entrée to the Hollywood community. Not long after the resort’s opening, the management of NBC booked every room for its annual affiliates meeting and brought in a bevy of Hollywood stars.

Recognizing its potential as a celebrity hideaway, an advertising campaign targeted film and television luminaries. Word quickly spread of this elegant and exclusive resort, and the Kahala was soon placed on the map for discriminating world travelers. By 1967, it achieved a remarkable 90 percent occupancy rate and sealed its reputation as a watering hole for the extremely wealthy and hugely famous.

The Kahala resort attracted countless film and television stars with its exclusive setting, exemplary service, and regard for privacy. Weekend afternoons around the pool were a veritable who’s who of the silver screen, with the likes of John Wayne and Frank Sinatra languishing in chaise lounges with sunglasses and cool drinks.

The Kahala also became the hotel for royalty, heads of state, and legends of the sporting, musical and literary worlds. Despite its reputation for attracting the rich and famous, the resort also became a legendary gathering place for Honolulu’s local society.

In the last decade, the Kahala Hotel & Resort has become a member of The Leading Hotels of the World and continues the privileged position among celebrities and islanders.

 

Kahala Facts

  • More than 100 coconut palms were planted and 18,000 yards of fine sand were barged from Molokai island to pad the 800-foot stretch of beach.

  • Two man-made peninsulas were created at each end of the resort beach, to prevent tidal action from washing away sand.

  • The resort has one of the largest rooms in Hawaii at more than 550 square feet, with his-and-her bathroom vanities and walk-in closets.

  • The hotel’s floors contain three acres of Thai-teak parquetry, while lobby chandeliers feature 28,000 multi-colored pieces of Italian fused glass.

  • Every U.S. president from Lyndon Johnson to George W. Bush has stayed at the resort. President Obama stays at a private residence when he returns to Honolulu, where he grew up. President Obama has enjoyed dining at the award-winning Hoku’s restaurant.

  • A beach bar was opened as the location for ‘Rick’s Bar’ in the TV series Magnum P.I. The bar is now The Kahala O Ke Kai, a beautiful oceanfront function room.

 

Distinguished Guests of The Kahala

 

Throughout the years, The Kahala has hosted 20th century icons such as John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Jack Lemmon, musical legends such as The Who, The Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder, dignitaries including Queen Elizabeth, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan and modern day A-listers such as Angelina Jolie, Nicolas Cage, Sean Penn, Drew Barrymore and Michelle Pfeiffer. Below names just a few of our famous guests.

  • Adam Sandler

  • Angelina Jolie

  • Burt Reynolds

  • Christopher Walken

  • Dean Martin

  • Elizabeth Taylor

  • Whitney Houston

  • Frank Sinatra

  • Glenn Ford

  • Henry Fonda

  • Jerry Bruckheimer

  • Jerry Lewis

  • Janet Jackson

  • Julie Andrews

  • Justin Timberlake

  • Lionel Richie

  • Liza Minelli

  • Martin Sheen

  • Queen Elizabeth II

  • Robert Redford

  • Rolling Stones

  • Sammy Davis Jr.

  • Sir Elton John

  • The Dalai Lama