We are thrilled to welcome you back to our “House Befitting Heaven” in just a few weeks. Before we head into our next century and reopen with a new and refreshed feel, we are taking an opportunity to reflect on our humble beginnings and the origins of our rich heritage.
Long before the hotel was established, Waikiki was known to be an agricultural area with fishponds, taro patches, and coconut groves. In the 1800s, it shifted from a rural area to a residential community, where private retreats were built for Hawaiian royalty and westerners alike.
As time went on and as Waikiki became a place of hospitality and healing, many westerners began building large and elegant homes along the waterfront. Businessman Robert Lewers was one of them and in 1883, he built a two-story home, which is currently where the main building of Halekulani is located. He extended his hospitality to fishermen who would visit and welcomed them to beach their canoes under the sheltering hau trees along the water’s edge. One enduring story tells of grateful fishermen who dubbed the spot “Halekulani,” widely interpreted as “House Befitting Heaven.”
In 1907, Mr. Lewers leased his house to Honolulu journalist Edward Irwin, who converted the structure into a small hotel called the Hau Tree. Irwin also added a few guest bungalows to the property. However, once Irwin’s lease was up, the Halekulani name returned in 1917 when Clifford and Juliet Kimball took over. Throughout the Kimball’s time, Halekulani was truly transformed. During their ownership, the Kimballs added to the property, making it a 115-room hotel.
Years later in 1962, Halekulani entered a new chapter after both Kimballs passed away and the Norton Clapp family took over. Guests during this time continued to enjoy the property’s oceanfront views and amenities, such as the paddle tennis court, Surfside coffee shop and the iconic House Without A Key. The Clapp family’s ownership of Halekulani ended in 1981, as they could no longer afford the quickly escalating real estate taxes. As a result, they sold the property to Mitsui Fudosan Inc., which formed the Honolulu-based Halekulani Corporation.
From 1981 to 1984, the hotel underwent major construction and design changes and reopened in April 1984. This new and improved Halekulani instantly set the standard for luxury and service. As we prepare for our grand reopening next month, we look forward to continuing our “art of serving” hospitality into the next century.
In celebration of our hotel’s evolution and rich history, we encourage you to share your favorite Halekulani moments over the years by tagging us on social media using @halekulanihotel.
We cannot wait to welcome you back to our “House Befitting Heaven.”