Visit the island of Kauai, nicknamed Hawaii’s ‘Garden Isle,’ and expect to be greeted with scenes of unbelievable natural beauty. Abandoned for nearly 30 years after Hurricane Iniki struck in 1992, Coco Palms Resort’s remains are left standing today.
Renowned as a surfers’ paradise and heaven for hiking enthusiasts, Kauai is a top destination for those seeking outdoor adventure. Yet there’s an unofficial attraction on the island, steeped in cultural history and enveloped by creeping jungle that draws an eclectic crowd.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
The Coco Palms Resort is Kauai’s oldest and once grandest hotel, but since its closure in the early ’90s, it has evolved into a bizarre tourist hotspot and place of nostalgic significance next to the Wailua River – a haunting ruin of its former glory.
Claim to fame
Located amid the largest coconut grove in the state of Hawaii, the hotel was built using beautiful natural and local materials, with luxurious exaggeration of traditional Polynesian architecture. When it opened in 1953, the resort portrayed a certain perception of paradise, a magical place where mealtimes were announced by conch shell and nightly entertainment included an atmospheric river procession and torch lighting ceremony. It became an instant hit with vacationers buying into the ‘American Dream’ and was soon frequented by the cream of Hollywood, attracting the likes of Frank Sinatra.
In a glorious finale of shimmering Technicolor, the final scene of Blue Hawaii (1961), starring Elvis Presley, was shot on-site, catapulting Coco Palms to world fame and cementing it as the ultimate holiday destination. Elvis stayed at the resort many times, and it allegedly became his favorite retreat. The resort even boasted a specially adapted Elvis bungalow, built to accommodate his particular needs.
Today Coco Palms is best known for its exaggerated decline, an eerie abandoned paradise consigned to eternal dereliction. To date, Hurricane Iniki is Hawaii’s most powerful tropical cyclone, and thanks to the devastation it wrought, the hotel may never reopen. The property has been the subject of development rumors many times over the years, but the economics of the local hotel industry, disputes over the land and its less desirable location (in what is no longer considered a prime spot) has scuppered plans time and again.
With so much surrounding natural beauty and plenty to see and do on the island, people may wonder what the draw is here. Some visit for nostalgic reasons. In its heyday, the hotel provided an enchanting backdrop to more than 500 wedding ceremonies that would take place each year. Many come just to absorb the atmosphere of a bygone era – remnants of retro interiors from a groovier time are evident in peeling wallpaper and terrazzo tiles, giant clamshell sinks and rattan light fixtures.
Elvis mega-fans make the pilgrimage to this abandoned site in order to stand in the bungalow he once inhabited. Dereliction seemingly is not dampening the thrill here; rather, it enhances it.
A freerunner’s dream, the place is littered with debris and offers long corridors and flat roofs – ideal for practicing parkour and shooting dynamic videos against the backdrop of palms using drones and GoPros.
For film buffs, there’s no shortage of intrigue as the site has served as jungle locations for movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) and Dinocroc vs. Supergator (2010). Enthusiasts travel here to soak up the atmosphere and marvel at the lush, wild jungle that is reclaiming the resort.
What to expect
Fragments of decaying structures, echoing halls and rickety bungalows still stand in disrepair, and partially collapsed walkways bridge stagnant water. To the cynical eye, the place is a dump. Cast in the glow of nostalgia, however, this erstwhile hotel becomes a heartbreakingly poignant token of long-lost glamour. It’s haunting to say the least.
Although strictly private property, unofficial tours are available to book with a former caretaker who remembers the hotel fondly, in all its grandeur. He takes groups on an evocative deep dive into the history of the place and certainly has a few tales to tell.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.