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Hilton Hawaiian Village® Waikiki Beach Resort

History: 
    Hilton Hawaiian Village® Waikiki Beach Resort
 in HonoluluHistory: 
    Hilton Hawaiian Village® Waikiki Beach Resort
 in Honolulu

History

In 1954, Southern California housing developer Fritz Burns and American industrialist Henry John Kaiser purchased the Niumalu Hotel, which originally opened in 1928 and is the site where the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa now occupies. Burns and Kaiser began construction in 1955 on guest cottages, the Tapa Room, gardens, and three swimming pools for the then named Kaiser's Hawaiian Village.

The Ocean Tower (now known as Ali'i Tower) was completed in 1957. And, in what was among the many firsts for the Hawaiian Village, Kaiser erected the first public geodesic dome showroom in Honolulu. The showroom opened on February 17, 1957 during a 2.5-hour gala broadcast by NBC to an estimated 20 million people. Over the next three years, two more towers were added, the Village Tower (now known as Tapa Tower) and the Diamond Head Tower. Kaiser also developed the 5-acre man-made lagoon fronting the Hawaiian Village.

On January 19, 1961, legendary hotelier Conrad Hilton agreed to buy most of Kaiser’s Hawaiian Village for $21.5 million in one of the biggest hotel transactions of the time. The purchase included close to 18 acres of property, plus another three acres of adjacent property. The land was originally fish ponds and the birthplace of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, Hawaii’s Olympic Gold Medalist and its most iconic waterman. Today, the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa consists of 22 acres of oceanfront paradise, continuing its growth and enhancements.

The Hilton Hawaiian Village has been the site of many milestones throughout Hawaii's history and popular culture, including:

  • The world-renowned Blue Hawaii cocktail was invented at Hilton Hawaiian Village in 1957 by legendary Hilton bartender Harry Yee.
  • In 1968, Hilton Hawaiian Village's famed Rainbow Tower opened 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 were used to complete the mosaic that has appeared in countless television shows and movies.
  • Hilton Hawaiian Village has been featured in the multiple television shows, including Hawaiian Eye, Wheel of Fortune, Baywatch Hawaii, Magnum P.I., and Hawaii Five-0.

Read more on the resort’s history below:

1928 - Niumalu Hotel opens on the site where Hilton Hawaiian Village® Waikiki Beach Resort now stands.

1954 - Fritz B. Burns and Henry J. Kaiser purchase the Niumalu Hotel with eight oceanfront acres of the John Ena Estate.

1955 - Construction begins on thatched-roof guest cottages with 70 guestrooms and suites. The Tapa Room, gardens, and three swimming pools are also completed.

1957 - Ocean Tower, now the Ali‘i Tower®, is completed.

Geodesic dome showroom is erected on January 15 in just 20 hours. It opens on February 17 for the premiere of “Around the World in 80 Days” and the Symphony Polynesia, starring the famed Alfred Apaka.

1958 - Village Tower is built. Today, Tapa Tower® stands in its place.

Golden Dragon Restaurant opens in the Ocean Tower main lobby serving Szechuan and Cantonese cuisine.

1960 - The expansion of the Village continues with the addition of Diamond Head Tower®.

1961 - Conrad Hilton acquires a majority of the property on January 19. Hilton-Burns Company is founded and the Hawaiian Village becomes Hilton Hawaiian Village. Ed Hastings becomes the new manager of the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

1965 - Hilton Lagoon Apartments are completed with 279 units.

1968 - 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.

1969 - Mid-Pacific Conference Center superstructure is completed, including the Coral Ballroom and a garage with a parking capacity of 1,800.

1970 - 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.

1977 - Fritz Burns sells 50 percent equity interest in Hilton Hawaiian Village to Prudential Insurance Company of America.

1979 - Village Tower is torn down.

1981 - Legendary headliner Don Ho begins performing at the Hilton Dome on December 26.

1982 - 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 renewal begin.

Bali and Tapa Café restaurants open in the Tapa Tower. In the evenings, Tapa Café becomes the site of the Pasta Festival.

1987 - 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.

1988 - Kaiser-Burns’ master plan, calling for four “skyscraper hotels,” is completed. Hilton Hawaiian Village, now offering 2,523 guestrooms, celebrates 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 sq ft Super Pool and Waikiki Beach.

Bali and Golden Dragon restaurants re-locate to the Rainbow Tower following the completion of “Return to Paradise.” Rainbow Lanai Restaurant and Paradise Lounge also open in the Rainbow Tower.

Bali is renamed “Bali by the Sea” to reflect its oceanfront location.

A Waikiki tradition is born when the resort launches a weekly fireworks show on Friday night over Waikiki Beach. A show by the brand new Super Pool, “Aloha Friday King’s Jubilee,” is also started.

1996 - The Tapa Bar and main lobby are renovated.

1998 - Hilton Hotels Corporation buys Prudential’s share of Village ownership, making the Village a true Hilton property.

1999 - The Hilton Dome is torn down. Construction of Kalia TowerTM begins.

2001 - 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 condominium suites.

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 and salon.

2005 - Ground is broken in June on the site of the Ocean Crystal Chapel, a $6 million chapel that will become Waikiki’s first free-standing resort chapel.

2006 - 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.

Restoration of the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon fronting the Hilton Hawaiian Village begins.

“The Tapa Makers” statue is unveiled at the Tapa Tower, portraying master tapa maker, Puanani Van Dorpe and Lauhuki a me La‘ahana, the Patron Goddesses of Tapa making. “The Tapa Makers” is the latest in a series of art pieces dedicated to preserving and perpetuating the Hawaiian culture at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Van Dorpe’s statue joins those of entertainer Alfred Apaka and hula dancer ‘Iolani Luahine at the Village.

2007 - The Hilton Hawaiian Village wins its second Green Business Award from the State of Hawaii. The award is part of the statewide Green Business Program, a partnership between the State Department of Health, Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, along with the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii. The award is given to companies that employ innovative “green” practices and do their part to ensure that residents and visitors continue to enjoy a healthy environment.

Starbucks opens on the ground floor of Kalia Tower on June 25 in the space formerly occupied by Niumalu Café. The outlet is the 18th such location in a Hilton hotel in North America.

Blackstone, a private-equity firm, acquires Hilton Hotels Corporation in a $26 billion merger agreement. Blackstone’s portfolio of world-class hotel properties includes La Quinta Inns and Suites.

The Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Lagoon re-opens on December 28 after a yearlong, $15 million restoration project.

2008 - Golden Dragon Restaurant closes on February 4 after nearly 50 years of serving Szechuan and Cantonese dishes.

Starbucks’ second location at the Hilton Hawaiian Village opens on June 30 in the Ali‘i Plaza area between Ali‘i and Diamond Head towers.

Tropics Bar & Grill begins an extensive renovation and expansion, starting with a contemporary island design featuring fire pits around the perimeter fronting the beach.

Hilton begins an unprecedented $9 million roadway improvement project of Ala Moana Boulevard. The improvements are done between Holomoana and Kalakaua Avenue, and include pavement reconstruction, the addition of a fourth eastbound lane, center median landscaping enhancement, and reconstruction of sidewalks and driveways.

The Grand Waikikian tower opens as Waikiki’s most luxurious timeshare property with 331 luxurious one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites.

2009 - Paradise Pool, the resort’s sixth pool, opens near the Lagoon and Grand Waikikian Towers. The 5,000 sq ft, $7 million family activity pool boasts the longest slide in Waikiki at 77 feet.

Waikiki Starlight Luau debuts on the Rooftop Garden featuring an expanded buffet dinner and a Polynesian extravaganza by Tihati Productions five nights a week.

Rockin’ Hawaiian Rainbow Revue debuts on Friday evenings by the Super Pool as a tribute to the golden era of Hawaiian music and dance known as “hapa haole.” The show culminates in Hilton’s famed fireworks extravaganza over Waikiki Beach at 7:45 p.m. The new fireworks display is also extended to about 4 minutes.

Tropics Bar & Grill opens on the ground floor of Alii Tower, providing guests a casual dining outlet with spectacular views of Waikiki Beach. The $11 million, 15-700-square-foot eatery was designed by Group 70 International with interiors by the Hatch Design Group. It features indoor and outdoor seating for more than 360 patrons, a 35-seat bar.

Kahanamoku Street is officially dedicated. Formerly Dewey Lane, the street intersects Ala Moana Boulevard near the Grand Waikikian Tower.

Bali by the Sea is rebranded as Bali Steak & Seafood on October 14. The new menu features more steaks and sides with a choice of sauces. Signature items such as the Kona kampachi and erupting Diamond Head stay on the menu.

The Village’s new children’s program, Camp Penguin, is officially blessed and opens on October 22.

2010 - The Grand Waikikian at the Hilton Hawaiian Village wins the American Resort Development Association’s highest honor, the Chairman’s Circle Award.

Pronto Pickle, the resort’s grab-and-go eatery, officially opens on April 19. It’s located on the ground floor of Ali‘i Tower next to Tropics Bar & Grill.

Duke Kahanamoku Beach, fronting the Hilton Hawaiian Village, is named to Dr. Beach’s annual Memorial Day list for America’s top 10 beaches. It is the only O‘ahu beach named in the 2010 survey.

Catamaran sailing tours return to the resort with the Spirit of Aloha blessing on June 30.

The hotel enters into an agreement with CBS for the new “Hawaii Five-0” series launched on September 20. Throughout the show’s inaugural season, the Hilton Hawaiian Village is featured via beauty or set shots.

2011 - The Hilton Hawaiian Village celebrates its golden anniversary.

Following its debut at No. 8 in 2010, Duke Kahanamoku Beach moves up five slots to No. 3 on Dr. Beach’s annual Memorial Day list for America’s top 10 beaches.

The Hilton Hawaiian Village completes the $45 million renovation of more than 800 guest rooms in the iconic Rainbow Tower.

2012 - Duke Kahanamoku Beach ascends to the No. 2 spot on Dr. Beach’s annual Memorial Day list of America’s top 10 beaches.

Several major renovations are completed at Hilton Hawaiian Village, including the Coral Ballroom ($7.6 million); Tapa Pool ($4.3 million) and Alii Tower ($25.5 million).

2013 - Duke Kahanamoku Beach retains the No. 2 spot on Dr. Beach’s annual Memorial Day list of America’s top 10 beaches.

The makeover of Bali Steak & Seafood and Paradise Lounge is completed. The Tapa Bar, front desk and main lobby were redone in late 2013 as well.

2014 - The 8-month restoration of the iconic Rainbow Mural is completed.

Duke Kahanamoku is named the No. 1 beach in Dr. Beach’s “America’s Best Beaches” list.

Bali Steak & Seafood receives a AAA Four Diamond Award for the 25th consecutive year.

Ground is broken for a new timeshare tower, The Grand Islander by Hilton Grand Vacations.


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