In the early 1960’s, Conrad Hilton set out to create a resort where guests could enjoy serenity, privacy, an uncrowded strand, beautiful rooms, and marvelous food. In January 1964, he opened the doors to the Kahala Hilton, a ten-story resort in an exclusive enclave just minutes from Waikiki with environs that included a secluded sandy beach and a posh, private golf course.
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, ownership launched an advertising campaign targeted at film and television luminaries. Word quickly spread of this elegant and exclusive resort and the Kahala 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 its regard for protecting the privacy of its guests. Weekend afternoons around the pool were a veritable who’s who of the silver screen, with the like of John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Eva Gabor and Julie Andrews languishing in chaise lounges with sunglasses and cool drinks.
Notables such as Jack Lemmon, Jerry Lewis, Johnny Carson, Tony Bennett and Carol Burnett signed their names to the register and Burt Reynolds, Bob Newhart, Bette Midler, and Liza Minnelli all took up momentary residence.
When Hawaii Five-O began filming in 1968, actor Jack Lord arranged for guest stars to stay at the Kahala, including Helen Hayes, Martin Sheen, and William Shatner. In the 1980’s, Magnum P.I., guests enjoyed the same relationship; the resort and its beach bar were even features in many of the series’ segments.
The Kahala also became the hotel for royalty, heads of state, and legends of the sporting, musical, and literary worlds. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip stayed at the resort when coming through the islands, as did Emperor Hirohito, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace, Juan Carlos and the Queen of Spain, Indira Gandhi, and the Dalai Lama. Prince Charles and Princess Diana once booked 100 rooms for their party’s stopover and Imelda Marcos often stopped in for lunch. And every U.S. president since Lyndon Johnson has made it a point to be a Kahala guest. President Barack Obama visited The Kahala in August 2008 as a Presidential candidate for his Hawaii fundraiser.
Sports heroes from Joe DiMaggio to John McEnroe have walked the Kahala’s sandy beach and writers James A. Michener, Phillip Roth, Joan Didion, and John Gregory Dunne sought inspiration in its solitude. Concert stopovers found the Rolling Stones, The Who and The Beach Boys seeking refuge from autograph hounds and photographers, and Stevie Wonder swam with and touched the resort’s famous dolphins. Merv Griffith conducted an impromptu sing along one evening at the lobby piano with Helen Reddy, Eydie Gorme and Jim Nabors.
Despite its reputation for attracting the rich and famous, the resort also became a legendary gathering place for Honolulu’s local society. Its restaurants became O’ahu dining institutions for celebrations and quiet dinner alike, and entertainers cultivated loyal fans with their nightly lounge shows. O’ahu school children looked forward to their turn to visit with the resort’s dolphins through the daily educational programs. And the Kahala was often the choice for holiday weekends away from home, thanks to its welcoming nature. The resort’s caring employees attended to all of their guests with passion and pride, whether serving the Sultan of Brunei, Luciano Pavarotti, or the Smiths from Dubuque.
The Kahala Hotel & Resort is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World and will continue the landmark’s privileged position among celebrities and islanders. Returning guests count on such preserved familiarities as the performing dolphins, the lobby’s multicolored chandeliers, and the many familiar employees, while enjoying revitalized guest rooms, spectacular dining facilities, and The Kahala’s signature service. And the resort’s poolside has once again become a favorite for entertainment stars such as Sir Elton John, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Nicolas Cage, Cameron Diaz, Billy Joel, Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn, Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Distinguished Guests* – Past And Present
Bill Aliiloa Lincoln
James A. Michener
Clare Booth Luce
Chi Chi Rodriguez
Sammy Davis Jr.
Hunter S. Thompson
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.
Emperor Hirohito and Empress Nagako of Japan.
Leopold III, former king of Belgium and wife Princess Liliane.
Prince Hitachi and Princess Hanako of Japan.
Sultan of Brunei