Every self-respecting Elvis fan knows that Hawaii was near and dear to the King‚Äôs heart. He filmed three movies there, performed three concerts in Honolulu, and repeatedly visited the islands on vacation with his family. The tropical beauty of the islands, along with the warmth and friendliness of the people were what attracted Elvis. But Hawaii‚Äôs charms are not only for rock-n-roll icons. It‚Äôs a welcoming paradise to anyone looking for sun, sand, surf, and scenic nature.
In 1961, Elvis played a benefit concert for the USS Arizona wearing his famous gold lame jacket. That concert raised enough money and awareness to complete the stalled funding for the memorial. The USS Arizona Memorial is a somber place to reflect on the ‚Äúdate which will live in infamy‚ÄĚ and one of five sites that make up the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Travel Maestro tip: The USS Arizona Memorial is temporarily closed for structural repairs (as of March 2019), but visitors can still take a free 15-minute narrated harbor tour of Battleship Row (tickets required).
Elvis stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in the Mahele Suite on the 14th floor of the Ocean Tower during that trip. The historic hotel is at the far end of Waikiki Beach. Today it has over 20 dining venues, 90 shops, manicured gardens, five pools, and a family-friendly lagoon. With dozens of activities on site, you may never even leave the resort.
The Royal Coconut Coast was one of the filming sites of Elvis‚Äô biggest commercial successes, Blue Hawaii. Located on Kauai‚Äôs east side, it‚Äôs home to amazing beaches amid clusters of coconut trees. Families and first-time snorkelers love Lydgate Beach Park where lava rock shields two ocean pools from waves, providing calm water to explore. Wailua offers great active adventure ‚Äď kayak the Wailua River, take a boat ride to the lush Fern Grotto or hike the Sleeping Giant Trail on Nounou Mountain for breathtaking views from the top. You can also shop for Hawaiian crafts and souvenirs in Kapaa Town.
The dramatic north shore of Kauai was a filming location for another Elvis film ‚Äď Paradise, Hawaiian Style. In Hanalei Town, you‚Äôll find colorful shops and galleries, as well as some of Kauai‚Äôs best beaches. Perched above legendary Hanalei Bay, Princeville Resort offers a luxurious stay with a full-service spa, top-rated golf courses, and gourmet dining. Travel Maestro tip: Don‚Äôt miss out on the breathtaking experience of a Napali Coast helicopter tour. Soar over rugged, emerald green cliffs, deep-drop waterfalls, and secluded beaches that can only be reached by water.
Elvis also worked and played on the sunny Kona Coast on the island of Hawaii while filming Paradise, Hawaiian Style. Although the Kona district covers the western two-thirds of the Big Island, the Hawaiian royals, like Elvis, liked the coastal town of historic Kailua-Kona. King Kamehameha I (1758-1819), the first ruler of the Hawaii monarchy kept a royal residence called Ahuena Heiau there. Nearby is Hulihee Palace, the summer vacation home for Hawaiian royalty in the 1800s.
Just south along the Kona Coast, Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park is where Captain James Cook landed on Hawaii. The calm bay waters are teeming with tropical fish and colorful coral, making it a wonderful place for snorkeling and kayaking. Travel Maestro tip: Nearby, be sure to visit the Kona Coffee Living History Farm where costumed interpreters demonstrate how Kona‚Äôs distinctive gourmet crop was grown and processed in the past.
North of Kailua-Kona, the Fairmont Orchid sits on 32 oceanfront acres of lush tropical gardens, cascading waterfalls and a tranquil white sand beach. Authentic Hawaiian experiences include paddling an outrigger canoe, stargazing with a local astronomer, and taking a guided walk through a petroglyph field. Other Kona highlights include snorkeling with graceful manta rays, spotting dolphins from a boat, and meeting green sea turtles on the beach.
Hawaii is for Everyone
The tropical paradise of Hawaii welcomes all who respect and honor ‚ÄėAina (the Living Earth) and Hawaiian cultural heritage. Elvis had a 20-year love affair with Hawaii and it‚Äôs easy to see why. While I‚Äôve only touched on a few highlights here, it‚Äôs not a stretch to say that the islands of Hawaii have something for everyone. To customize your own vacation in Hawaii, get in touch with one of the travel experts at Covington.