How to Vacation in Hawaii Like Elvis

Elvis Every self-respecting Elvis fan knows that Hawaii was near and dear to the King’s 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’s charms are not only for rock-n-roll icons. It’s a welcoming paradise to anyone looking for sun, sand, surf, and scenic nature.


vacation in hawaii

The USS Arizona Memorial is temporarily closed for repair.

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 “date which will live in infamy” 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).

vacation in Hawaii

A surfer floats off Waikiki. Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

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.


vacation in Hawaii

Hanalei Bay at sunset. Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

The Royal Coconut Coast was one of the filming sites of Elvis’ biggest commercial successes, Blue Hawaii. Located on Kauai’s east side, it’s 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 – 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.

vacation in Hawaii

The stunning pool view at the Princeville Resort

The dramatic north shore of Kauai was a filming location for another Elvis film – Paradise, Hawaiian Style. In Hanalei Town, you’ll find colorful shops and galleries, as well as some of Kauai’s 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’t 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.

Kona, Hawaii

vacation in Hawaii

Surfers on the Kona Coast. Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)

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’s distinctive gourmet crop was grown and processed in the past.

vacation in hawaii

Try your arm at an outrigger canoe in the lagoon at the Fairmont Orchid.

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 ‘Aina (the Living Earth) and Hawaiian cultural heritage. Elvis had a 20-year love affair with Hawaii and it’s easy to see why. While I’ve only touched on a few highlights here, it’s 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.

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