July 28, 2006

Postcard from the Waikikian Hotel

Filed under: Hawaii,History,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 1:59 pm
Postcard from the Waikikian Hotel
Postcard from the Waikikian Hotel

I recently found this postcard from the Waikikian Hotel in Waikiki; it was one of the most dramatic examples of modern Polynesian architecture, designed by Pete Wimberley. It was one of the main tourist hotels during the height of the midcentury love for all things exotic and tropical and Hawaiian. This is a nice view of the lobby, but what I love best is what’s written on the reverse:

Reverse of postcard
Reverse of postcard

2/ And here is the Waikikian – built like the prow of a nature ship – where I spend my final week in a “jungle suite” + my “half gone native” room mate with her Hawaiian boyfriend hovering. Now that I’ve moved to the centre of tourist activity “on the strip” I begin to be glad of the Waikikian week – believe it is rightfully the best surviving proponent of old Hawaiian hospitality – despite the bell boys who persistently put an arm across my shoulder + an obsequious manager who persisted in addressing me as Miss Jones! The “Jungle” tapers off to a bay lost beyond this picture – to the right beyond the glaring electric sign. Lobby illumination so “full of atmosphere” too dim to even read newspaper headlines.

It’s apparently #2 in a series of postcards used to log someone’s trip. It’s far more interesting than the typical “The weather is amazing here, I don’t want to come home!” business normally to be found on these old postcards.

21 Responses to “Postcard from the Waikikian Hotel”

  1. wanda Says:

    modern yet exotic architecture indeed :)

  2. Hula Cat aka Greg Andrews Says:

    the personal history part is what charms me the most….always has …..that touch of awe……the human connection……Iv’e been collecting and selling (hardly enough!) slices this for years…..it’s sort of a dance with a mysterious stranger…..and it’s got P izzazzzzzz !! Mahalo ! Greg

  3. Swanky Says:

    Wow, that’s a photograph!? Unbelievable. I think it says “prow of a native ship.” I too love to get cards that are stamped (gotta have a real date) and with a little writing. If nothing else, it takes ma back to when people wrote instead of typed.

  4. Humuhumu Says:

    Swanky, it’s actually two photographs composited together — the sunset comes from a different image. The cars that can be barely seen in the parking lot seem to indicate the photo of the hotel is from somewhere in the late ’50s or mid ’60s, but the compositing of the sunset makes the postcard look more ’70s or ’80s to me. Unfortunately, as you say, without a date on the card, it’s just impossible to say. Regardless, it’s a neat nighttime view of that fab lobby! Looking at the handwriting again, I think you’re right — “native ship” makes much more sense than “nature ship.” I though maybe she’d been listening to Eden Ahbez….

  5. Judy Hall Says:

    I cried the day that I heard they were tearing down the Waikikian. To me this was the most interesting hotel in all of Honolulu…..the most historic looking.

    The lounge was the best place to hear the locals sing and sip mai-tais.

    The world is a sadder place for it’s loss…..all those young lovers looking for a truly romantic place.

    I’ll be eternally grateful for this postcard that you published for all of us.


  6. Corey Pruden Says:

    I grew up at the Waikikian. Every year (sometimes two and three times a year) my grandparents, Midge and Richard, would bring my twin sister, Candice, and myself to The WAikikian where we would get our towels at the lagoon from Turkey, eat banana muffins and french toast with coconut syrup at the Tahitian Lanai, and walk down Waikiki to surf or just hang in front of the Rainbow Hilton swimming to the reef or catching crabs near the helicopter pad. I’m taking my kids there next month and will probably cry at all of the changes!!

  7. Nick Says:

    I stayed 10 days at the Waikikian in January 1962, my first visit to Hawaii, which triggered a love affair between me and the islands. I’ve been back 7 times since then, sparked by that memorable stay, but Waikiki has changed. There were fewer hotels then, but now it’s a concrete jungle. My 2nd visit was 32 years later in 1994 when the Waikikian was still around, and although I didn’t stay there I went there for breakfast poolside a couple of times, when they served their famous Eggs Benedict, spicy Portuguese Sausage, and Hash Browns made from scratch. A couple of years later, I saw them pull down that hiotel and I could have wept. Such is progress!
    Back in 1962, my self-contained room, literally surrounded by tropical plantlife, was at ground level, and every evening at dusk while enjoying a drink on my lanai, a Hawaiian lady in a muu-muu would come around playing a ukelele and softly singing Hawaiian songs. And every evening I found a scented plumeria blossom on my pillow.
    I particularly remember the Piano Bar, and the pianist who, I think, was blind.
    Much water under the bridge since then.
    The Waikikian was filmed in the movie titled “And the Sea Will Tell,” about a real murder that took place on Palmyra Island.
    And what can I say about the Waikikian’s fabulous “sail” roof that covered the entrance lobby where one checked in.
    That was the real Hawaii to me. Now, Waikiki seems to be losing its identity, its Hawaiianness. For newcomers, it may seem Hawaiian, but to me, who saw it before Waikiki fell victim to land developers, it will never be the same.
    Honolulu Airport back in 1962 comprised several quonset huts where Customs check our baggage on trestle tables. Now, Honolulu International Airport is a large sprawl.
    Despite this, I have gone back almost every other year since I retired. I can’t seem to stay away. Call of the islands, I guess.

  8. Marsha Lever Says:

    I stayed at the Waikikian my honeymoon in 1972. I remember so well the authenticity of the polynesian architecture. There was a little flower shop in the corner of the lobby and a woman sat and strung plumeria leis. I would buy a bunch of gardenias every day, open them in a sink of warm water and put them in my hair every night. What a romantic I am and what a romantic place it was. I am so sorry that it has been torn down. A precious part of Oahu is gone for ever. Too bad.

  9. Mike Nervik Says:

    My dad worked for TWA and took us to the Waikikian during my senior year in high school (1970)..remember a steak and shake joint across the street…the Ala Moana shopping center, riding a rental bicycle up into the preserve and getting lost…remember the Lania rooms and the lagoon…so sad its gone

  10. paula Says:

    My parents took me annually to the Waikikiian hotel on vacation for over a decade where my sisters & I learned the “hukilau” hula…words and all from Aunt Tillie & Mary who sang & played the ukulele nightly. They took the time to write words to several songs for us to take home one year. In 1981, we moved to Waikiki, where we lived just next door & went to the restaurant & bar almost daily. I missed Uku, the green parrot who greeted me until someone stole him. I miss my “hukilau ladies.” I miss Marian who played the piano in the evenings. I miss the bartenders…Hannibal, Danny, Larry & Tony. I miss the bold welcome & unconditional acceptance by all when we entered the “TL” (which the locals affectionately named the bar). My last trip to Honolulu was in 1994…before the Waikikian closed. I graduated high school in 1987 & always found a reason & the money to return to the place I called home…until the Waikikian closed. A large piece of my past has gone with the Waikikian. My heart still aches & my tears still fall whenever I think of the wonderful piece of paradise that is no longer. One thing is certain. I have my memories, my pictures & my videos, but I will never stay at a greedy Hilton hotel again.

  11. Kele Says:

    The Waikikian was the best! I only saw it in person one night, a wonderful evening in late July 1994. We ate poolside at the Tahitian Lanai and spent a wonderful few hours singing in the piano bar with the regulars. When the staff told me the story of how there had been plans to close the place up before but they were still holding on & just barely at that, I felt that the Waikikian & Tahitian Lanai had held on & waited for me. It wasn’t til just a couple years ago that I found out the rest of the story.
    I search on the internet nearly every day looking for more info/pics/memories. Hearing from Paula’s previous post, gives me hope to carry on, she has ‘memories, pictures & videos.’ I would absolutely love to be fortunate enough to glimpse those & other tokens of what I consider one of the most magical places in the world.

  12. Lisa Says:

    I,too will miss this little piece of paradise. It was unpretentious, lush and lovely. The people there were amazing, and although we did not spend much to stay there, we were treated as though a fortune was spent. We had mimosas ready at check-in and flowers on the pillows at night. Every morning I ate coconut waffles with coconut syrup and Kona coffee outside.

    It was my first and only trip to Hawaii. I loved it so much I cried when I left. I wanted to stay there with the local friends we met forever.
    When I heard of its plans for demolition, I was and still am, saddened. There never will be another place like it.

  13. Carla Says:

    My husband and I stayed at the Waikikian on our Honeymoom the day that we were married in September of 1961…almost 50 years ago.
    When we arrived, there were orchids all over the bed and around the room. In the lobby, there was a pineapple juice machine for all to enjoy. And the talking parrot in the round cage.
    THe Tahitian Lanai resturant was a favorite of many in Honolulu and of ours too. Every evening, they lit the torches around the hotel.
    Out beyond, was the wonderful lagoon full of fish.
    I cherish the postcard that I have kept as a rememberance.
    Wonderful memories and still married to the same man, my highschool sweetheart!
    Reading the post, above, brings to mind the hula dancers who met each airplane that arrived. THey danced on a wood platform in fromt of the quonset hut
    All that remains now is the Waikikian name on the Hilton. I am happy for that!

  14. Humu Kon Tiki : Humu Kon Tiki Readers Share Memories of the Waikikian Says:

    [...] July 2006 Humu Kon Tiki post about a postcard I’d found from the Waikikian Hotel has something special happening in the comments section. Every few months (including just a few [...]

  15. Hans Lhotzky Says:

    Hello. We have fond memories of The Waikikian as well, of Uku the bird, the ladies singing softly at cocktail hour as they wandered through the tropical garden, of the wonderful view from the restaurant, where one would see first the pool, then the lagoon and finally the ocean reflecting the sky.
    You cannot go back again.

  16. Helen Goveia Says:

    Unfortunately I have no memories of the Waikikian, because I never had the opportunity to stay there. My grandmother stayed there when she was on vacation in March of 1967. She sent me a postcard while she was there: the white one with the hotel at an angle, and Diamond Head in the background. I came across the postcard recently, and decided to do a search on the hotel, and here I am. I was saddened to read that the hotel was torn down in 1996. A friend and I went to Oahu back in December/January of 1977, and I wish I had gone to see the hotel back then. I’ve enjoyed reading about others’ experiences there….what a place it must have been!! My husband I have vacationed in Oahu two times in the past six years, and we fell in love with the island. I hope to visist again, and when I do I plan on going to where the Waikikian used to be and try to visualize what it might have been like.

  17. Monique Huber Says:

    I was so moved to see those pictures again,I don’t know if this hotel is still around? This is where my husband and I had our honeymoon….in May 1970
    We had after 2 girls married,and we have grand children too,but we are divorced.
    I still miss him,and I miss this time with him in such a romantic place!
    My wish is he comes back to me again,I tried to forget him but…I pray that’s all I can do.

  18. Andrew Thomas Says:

    As a QANTAS flight attendant through the 80′s, we stayed at the Ilikai for some time. Every morning breakfast would be at the Tahitian Lanai, on my own or with whoever else I could drag along to experience this beautiful calm and quiet piece of Paradise. I was fortunate enough to get back to Hawaii on my honeymoon and again a year later in the early nineties and take my wife there. It’s destruction is a huge loss and something, I think, that can never be reproduced…

  19. Pam Ashford Says:

    My Dad mis heard the name of the hotel and we drove all over Waikiki looking for The Waikiki Inn. The Waikikian did not look like the hotel we were expecting, as a friend had booked it, and he was known for the huge, modern hotels. When we finally decided that this must be it, and it was, we were disappointed. That is, until we walked inside the hotel. A more charming hotel never existed. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay. Years later, when I googled it and found that it had been torn down, I was devastated. I was looking forward to bringing my own children there. So sorry that it has been replaced with yet another concrete and glass monstrosity.

  20. Pennie Says:

    My first husband and I stayed at the Waikikian in 1966. I met him there when he was on R & R from Viet Nam. I wanted a more Hawaiian style hotel and this was perfect. We had an upstairs room in the garden section and the entire wall opened to the deck. At night they would chant while running to light all the tiki torches. We loved the Tahitian Terrace and breakfast by the pool. We used the lagoon daily. No crowds then. It was the most romantic and wonderful hotel. My husband of 42 years and I go to Hawaii often and once while in Honolulu we went to the Tahitian Terrace together. This little piece of paradise tucked in between the high rises. After so many years it was still wonderful. I felt very sad when I learned that it had been torn down. There isn’t anyplace that can compare to the Waikikian. I wish I could find my little momentos from that trip long ago.

  21. Kimberlee Says:

    Wow! Just got home from the Hilton and was so disappointed:( spent a week trying to figure out what happened to the Waikikian, and to Turkey, who rented the beach toys at the Lagoon and who I wrote to as a child. So many memories at that place! Eating in the little huts, listening to the musicians out in the balcony. I probably bored my children to death this week, pointing out the places where this or that “used to be” and how different and less authentic it had become. I’m so sad to find that it was gobbled up by more commercialism. How sad.

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Humuhumu is the creator of several tiki websites. She is a designer and programmer based out of San Francisco.

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