Development of Hotels in Waikiki

Waikiki–a concrete jungle with high rises, roads, sidewalks, people, sounds of cars and wailing ambulances heard at all hours. But did you know it was originally a marshland a century ago?

Historically, by the 1400s, Native Hawaiians raised taro and fishes, and Hawaiian royalty enjoyed the area’s wealth of food and water and the good surf at the beaches. From the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, Asian residents replaced taro with rice, lotus roots, and animals, including ducks and hogs.

A road leading to Waikiki built in the 1860s made Waikiki more accessible to foreigners, particularly Caucasians, who began to visit there to swim in the beaches and to live there. To accommodate the growing number of visitors, hotels started appearing.

Advertisement for Sans Souci Hotel

With the increase in visitors in the 1880s, an editorial in the Hawaiian Gazette in 1881 suggested  somebody build a hotel there: “There are a great many people who would spend a few days at such a place, and some would even make an almost permanent residence of it.”

Then came the hotels. A beachfront resort that opened in 1884, the Sans Souci Hotel offered private cottages for families and bathing facilities. It gained fame after hosting writer Robert Louis Stevenson. He wrote about staying there for five weeks in 1893 and writing some of his best literary works there.

With “Sans Souci” meaning “without a care” in French, the Sans Souci Hotel was also where conspirators against the Provisional Government met to discuss restoring the Hawaiian Monarchy. The hotel owner, George Lycurgus, supported the Hawaiian Monarchy.

In 1901, the Moana Hotel opened on the beachfront, and the Evening Bulletin said, “To attempt to describe the beauty of the furnishings of the rooms and the comforts which are to be seen on every hand would be folly.”

The Honolulu Republican also printed a feature article about the Moana Hotel in 1901: “Each [room] is furnished with a bath room, and, what is further innovation in hotel luxury, a telephone, which will transmit a message to the office or to any telephone subscriber on the island.”

The hotels in Waikiki became places where socialites were to be seen and noted in the gossip newspaper columns. There people entertained guests, had grand meals for special occasions, held or attended parties and balls, and vacationed.

A blurb in the “Social Notes” column in the Evening Bulletin mentioned a surfing party at the Moana hotel: “Fourteen took tea under the famous old hau trees, and the table with red carnations in large vases looked attractive.”

Another blurb reported that Mr. Gibbons and Miss Lydia Gibbons celebrated their engagement at the Moana Hotel: “”Yellow coreopsis beautifully decorated the table. Her marriage to Mr. Gustav Schaefer will probably take place in the early autumn.”

Today, Waikiki still draws people around the world. The Sans Souci Hotel went out of business years ago, and the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel replaced it. However, the ancient hau trees that Robert Louis Stevenson sat under continue to provide shade at the Hau Tree Lanai restaurant, and many still call the nearby beach Sans Souci Beach. The Moana hotel, now the Moana Surfrider Hotel, still draws visitors and locals where Hawaiian royalty once surfed and lived and where Native Hawaiians raised taro and fish.

– Alice Kim

Sources from Chronicling America

Second Paragraph – The Need for a Hotel
The Hawaiian gazette, August 3, 1881, Image 2

“The Need for a New Hotel”
Evening bulletin, September 18, 1896, Image 1

Third Paragraph – Sans Souci Hotel
“Moana Hotel Must Pass Under the Hammer”
The Hawaiian gazette., January 10, 1905, Image 1

Fourth Paragraph – Moana Hotel
“Moana Magnificent in Tasteful Luxury”
Evening bulletin., March 12, 1901, Page 3, Image 3
“Moana Hotel”
The Honolulu republican., June 16, 1901, Part I, Page FIVE, Image 5

Fifth Paragraph – “Social Notes”
“Social Notes”
Evening bulletin, April 24, 1909, Page 6

Other Sources (In order of appearance)

Taylor, John Lewis. Waikiki: A Study in the Development of a Tourist Community. Thesis. Clark University, 1953. Ann Arbor: UMI, 1997. Print.

Feeser, Andrea. Waikiki: A History of Forgetting and Remembering. University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2006. Print.

Image Sources

New-York tribune, July 5, 1908, Page 4, Image 16

Hawaii holomua = Progress, November 15, 1893, Image 3

More Information About the Hotels

“Honolulu’s Largest Hotels”
The Hawaiian star, December 10, 1910, SECOND EDITION, 3rd Section, Pages 17 and 19

Ad for Moana Hotel

3 Comments on “Development of Hotels in Waikiki”

  1. Tiki808 says:

    I like the Moana Surf Rider Hotel. Every year I have made it a point to walk along there. It points out historic sites few Hawai’i has made known or revealed.

  2. […] month in history — February 1900 — one of Hawaii’s first hotels, the Sans Souci Hotel closed. Famed author Robert Louis Stevenson lived here during his stay in […]

  3. […] Today in history — August 2, 1921 — a fire burned the late Princess Kaiulani’s home–Ainahau. An automatic gas heater next to a former kitchen ignited the fire. Film producer W. F. Adrich and his wife Peggy were residing in the Waikiki house, previously a hotel. […]

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