Hilton Hawaiian Village® Beach Resort & Spa History
Niumalu Hotel opens on the site where Hilton Hawaiian Village®
Beach Resort & Spa now stands.
Fritz B. Burns and Henry J. Kaiser purchase the Niumalu Hotel with
eight oceanfront acres of the John Ena Estate.
Construction begins on thatched-roof guest cottages with 70 guest rooms
and suites. The Tapa Room, gardens and three swimming pools are also completed.
Ocean Tower is completed (Ocean Tower is now Ali‘i Tower®). Geodesic
dome showroom is built in just 20 hours for the premiere of “Around the
World in 80 Days” and the Symphony Polynesia, starring the famed Alfred
Village Tower is built (Tapa Tower® now stands in its place).
The expansion of the Village continues with the addition of Diamond
Conrad Hilton acquires a majority of the property. Hilton-Burns company
is founded and the Hawaiian Village becomes Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Hilton Lagoon Apartments are completed with 279 apartments.
Rainbow Tower® opens with the world’s largest ceramic-tile mosaic
spanning 286 feet high by 26 feet wide on each end of the tower. More than
16,000 colorful tiles are used to complete the mosaic.
Mid-Pacific Conference Center superstructure is completed, including
the Coral Ballroom and a garage with a parking capacity of 1,800.
Rainbow Bazaar opens with more than 40 ethnic shops and restaurants,
a Thai temple, a replica of a Japanese pagoda, and an entire Japanese farmhouse
– which was shipped from Japan.
Fritz Burns sells 50 percent equity interest in Hilton Hawaiian Village
to Prudential Insurance Company of America.
Village Tower is torn down.
Tapa Tower is opened on the site of the former Village Tower. The total
number of hotel rooms becomes 2,614. Plans for a $100 million architectural
Ocean Tower is renovated and “rebuilt” with two additional floors added.
Renamed the Ali’i Tower, it becomes the Village’s exclusive “hotel within
a hotel” for guests who desire higher levels of service, such as private
concierge service and registration. The project was part of the overall
Village master plan, and included the construction of the Main Lobby building.
Kaiser-Burns’ master plan, calling for four “skyscraper hotels,” is
completed. Hilton Hawaiian Village, now offering 2,523 rooms, has
a grand reopening.
Hilton Hawaiian Village completes its milestone, $100 million architectural
renewal, “Return to Paradise.” As part of “Return to Paradise,” the
hotel unveils its new porte cochere and open-air lobby, which provide breathtaking
views of the 10,000-square-foot Super Pool and Waikiki Beach.
The Tapa Bar and main lobby are renovated.
Hilton Hotels Corporation buys Prudential’s share of Village ownership,
making the Village a true Hilton property.
The Hilton Dome is torn down. Construction of Kalia TowerTM begins.
The 453-room, 25-story Kalia TowerTM opens culminating what was the
first major resort development in Waikiki in more than a decade.
The tower offers tropical gardens, spacious walkways, waterfalls and Hawaiian
art, creating a new gateway to the Village. Lagoon Tower completes an extensive
renovation, and Hilton Grand Vacations Club begins offering a new category
of accommodations at the Village — studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom
Mandara Spa opens on the 4th floor of the Kalia Tower. Independently
owned and operated, the spa provides hotel guests with a full-service spa
Ground is broken on the site of the Ocean Crystal Chapel, a $6 million
chapel that will become Waikiki’s first free-standing resort chapel.
The $6 million Ocean Crystal Chapel opens with a lavish grand opening
ceremony culminating years of planning and nine months of construction.
Set amidst lush landscaping and waterfalls, the chapel seats 85 people
and offers stunning visuals.
Ground is broken on the site of the Grand Waikikian Tower, a 39-story
timeshare tower that will be the seventh tower on the grounds of the Hilton
Hawaiian Village. Construction is expected to last through 2008.
Restoration of the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon fronting the Hilton Hawaiian
Village begins. The project is expected to last until late 2007.
In 1954, entrepreneur Henry J. Kaiser and partner Fritz Burns purchased
eight oceanfront acres of the John Ena Estate in Waikiki to build a resort.
Requiring additional property for such an ambitious undertaking, the partners
purchased the adjacent site of the Niumalu Hotel and several contiguous
lots from individual owners totaling 20 acres of what Hilton Hawaiian Village
In mid-1955, guest cottages were hand-built by Hawaiian Samoans from
Oahu who came to the site to weave coconut fronds into thatching.
Within three months, workers had completed the first unit of 70 guest rooms
and suites, and the Tapa Room (now the site of the Tapa Tower), with gardens
and three swimming pools.
Next, construction was completed on four traditional lanai houses ranging
from 18 to 56 guest rooms, on the site where the Rainbow Tower stands.
The Long House was the first meeting facility— a convention auditorium
patterned after a Polynesian chief’s hut with a seating capacity of 1,000.
Since the occupancy rate of the hotel was rapidly growing, more rooms
were needed. Within 90 days, the three-story, 100-room Ale Ale Kai
was built. Giant palm trees were moved in, tropical gardens planted,
and particular care was taken to preserve the existing flora.
Guest facilities were expanded with the addition of the Ale Ale dining
room, cocktail lounge and beach terrace for dancing (later called the Makahiki
Restaurant and Garden Bar). The Tiare Tahiti nightclub, the Golden
Dragon (still one of Honolulu’s finest Cantonese restaurants), and the
Sunset Room (today’s Hau Tree Bar®) were subsequently added.
The Hilton Dome, a geodesic dome at the corner of Kalia Road and Ala Moana
Boulevard, was the first of its kind built in the world and was the brainchild
of Kaiser and the design of Buckminster Fuller. Fuller wanted a showroom
that would afford a completely unobstructed view of the stage from anywhere
in the room. Standing 49.5 feet high and 149 feet in diameter, the
aluminum structure was assembled in just 20 hours for the world premiere
of “Around the World in 80 Days” and the Symphony Polynesia, starring the
famed Alfred Apaka.
The next task was development of the sand surface along the beach and
ocean sports area, accomplished by blasting and dredging the shoreline
and replacing it with 30,000 cubic yards of sand. Palm trees were
added to shade and enhance the spectacular beauty of the beach, named after
Olympic swimmer and beach boy, Duke Kahanamoku. Shortly thereafter,
the tropical lagoon and catamaran pier were created. Today, the Village
fronts and maintains the widest beach in Waikiki.
During the 1950s, the Kaiser-Burns’ master plan called for four additional
“skyscraper hotels.” The skyscrapers included the 14-story Ocean
Tower constructed in 1957, and the 13-story Village Tower built in 1958.
The 17-story Diamond Head Tower and the 31-story Rainbow Tower were constructed
in 1960 and 1968, respectively. The 10-story Diamond Head apartment
building was purchased in 1966.
In 1961, hotelier Conrad N. Hilton purchased Kaiser’s interest in the
hotel. The name Hilton was added to Hawaiian Village, and the familiar
“Kaiser pink” was replaced by “Hilton blue.” Due to continued growth,
the 25-story Hilton Lagoon Apartment’s room count increased 279 apartments
in 1965, giving the Village 1,556 guest rooms. The Mid-Pacific Conference
Center superstructure was completed in 1969 and rests atop the 1,800 vehicle-capacity
parking garage, becoming the hotel’s major meeting facility.
Completed in 1970, Rainbow Bazaar with more than 40 shops and restaurants
sat along Rainbow Drive. Housed within the complex is a Thai temple, massive
granite lions guarding the moon gate at the entrance to Hong Kong Alley,
a replica of a 50-foot-high Japanese pagoda and an entire Japanese farmhouse,
which was disassembled and shipped from Japan to be painstakingly reassembled
in the bazaar.
In December 1977, Fritz B. Burns, his son F. Patrick Burns and close
associates sold their 50 percent equity interest in Hilton Hawaiian Village
to Prudential Insurance Company of America. Hilton Hotels Corporation,
through a subsidiary, retained the remaining 50 percent equity interest
in the resort, and Hilton continued to manage the hotel on behalf of the
joint ownership until purchasing Prudential’s share in 1998. Since then,
Hilton Hawaiian Village has been owned and operated entirely by Hilton
Then in 1988, the Hilton Hawaiian Village completed its milestone, $100
million architectural renewal, “Return to Paradise.” As part of “Return
to Paradise,” the hotel unveiled a new porte cochere and open-air lobby,
which provide breathtaking views of the 10,000-square-foot Super Pool and
Waikiki Beach. Bali by the Sea and Golden Dragon, two of the hotel’s
award-winning restaurants, converted into open-air dining experiences with
stunning views of Waikiki Beach and the Pacific Ocean. The Village’s
Ali‘i Tower unveiled its new concierge tower fronting the beach.
Additionally, the hotel completely renovated its signature Coral Ballroom,
and added the South Pacific Ballroom and Sea Pearl Suites, giving the Hilton
Hawaiian Village the largest meeting and convention facilities in the Pacific.
In what would signal the beginning of the revitalization of Waikiki,
the legendary Hilton Dome is torn down to make way for the $95 million
Kalia Tower, which would become Waikiki’s first major resort development
in more than a decade. Over the years, the Hilton Dome hosted legends
such as Alfred Apaka and Don Ho, and before its end, John Hirokawa’s “Magic
of Polynesia” magic show.
The 453-room, 35-story Kalia Tower opened in 2001 offering tropical
gardens, spacious walkways, waterfalls and Hawaiian art, creating a new
gateway to the Village. With the opening of the Kalia Tower came
the opening of the independently owned and operated Mandara Spa on the
4th floor of the tower. The spa features Hawaiian-Balinese furniture
and 25 treatment rooms offering a variety of Hawaiian-themed treatments
such as Hawaiian Lomi Lomi Massage, Vanilla & Pikake Facial and the
Hawaiian Pohaku (Warm Lava Stones) Massage. The treatments are performed
by therapists and estheticians that must be professionally licensed in
the state of Hawaii.
That same year in 2001, the Lagoon Tower also completed an extensive
renovation, and opens with Hilton Grand Vacations Club offering a new category
of accommodations at the Village – studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom
As demand for hotel rooms in Waikiki grow, so does the demand for Waikiki
as a destination for weddings. Best Bridal Hawaii and the Hilton
Hawaiian Village entered into an agreement to begin planning and building
the Ocean Crystal Chapel, Waikiki’s first free-standing resort chapel.
On June 22, 2005, ground was broken on the site, which is centrally located
between Tapa and Rainbow Towers. A retail store is re-located and
an existing gazebo is torn down for the construction of the chapel.
Nine months later on March 16, 2006, the hotel and Best Bridal hold a lavish
grand opening ceremony for the $6 million chapel. The chapel offers
views of the ocean and seats 85 people inside its stunning location.
As part of its commitment to the community around it, the Hilton Hawaiian
Village enters into a partnership to begin restoring the state-owned Duke
Kahanamoku Lagoon fronting the hotel. The restoration process begins
with the installation of seven salt-water wells and a pumping system to
improve the water flow and facilitate water turnover. The pumps help
increase the turnover to approximately five times a day – a dramatic improvement
over the previous turnover of every 48 hours. A year-long project
begins to construct a walkway around the entire lagoon creating a public
promenade with extensive landscaping.
Later that year, Hilton Grand Vacations Club holds a groundbreaking
on the site of what will become the 39-story Grand Waikikian Tower.
The construction is expected to last through 2008.
Hilton Hawaiian Village Today
Today, Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa is Waikiki’s
only self-contained destination resort. A vacationer or conventioneer finds
everything necessary for a visit to paradise, yet is also within walking
distance of everything Waikiki has to offer. The resort spans 22 acres,
offering the widest stretch of beach on Waikiki, a beachfront lagoon, waterfalls,
five pools, gardens, an exquisite art collection, and exotic wildlife,
as well as nightly entertainment including the weekly King’s Jubilee, a
Friday evening Hawaiian music and dance celebration that ends with a brilliant
fireworks display on the beach. The finest dining, shopping and entertainment
center on Waikiki’s best beach, the Village features more than 20 restaurants
and lounges, with fine cuisine ranging from Italian to Asian to traditional
steak and seafood menus. The Village also boasts more than 90 shops, as
well as the full-service Mandara Spa and the Holistica Hawaii Preventive