San Diego’s Islands Restaurant Renovation?

Fountain at the Islands Restaurant in the Hanalei Hotel, San Diego
Fountain at the Islands Restaurant in the Hanalei Hotel, San Diego

Joel Reis reports on his blog that the Islands Restaurant at the Hanalei Hotel in San Diego closed yesterday for some apparently drastic renovations. The Islands Restaurant has been at the Hanalei since it opened in 1966. The hotel was once a beautiful example of midcentury Polynesian Pop architecture and design, but sadly has been updated over the years to a bland cookie-cutter chain hotel (currently owned by Red Lion). The hotel has managed to keep a few wonderful pieces through these renovations, including several items that came out of the historic Luau in Beverly Hills when it closed.

Fountain at the Islands Restaurant in the Hanalei Hotel, San Diego
Fountain at the Islands Restaurant
in the Hanalei Hotel, San Diego

While the Islands Restaurant has not emerged unscathed from these renovations, it has still retained enough of its decor to be a very worthwhile stop for the travelling tikiphile; indeed, the hotel was host to the annual Tiki Oasis event last year, and is scheduled to host the event again in 2007. It is one of the very few restaurants remaining in the world that give the feeling of stepping into the golden era of Tiki. It’s not yet clear what this latest renovation has in store for the Islands, but it sounds devastating.

From Joel Reis’ blog:

The Hanalei is undergoing extensive remodel in the next 6 months and the first stage is the remodel of the hotel’s signature restaurant. This waterfall is one of the victims of the remodel. It has been there for decades along with priceless tiki artifacts as well as Monkeypod tables (which is a now endangered wood native to the South Pacific). The tables are supposed to return, since they truly are priceless at this point, but the fate of many of the artifacts is in question. Most are supposed to return, maybe not to the restaurant, but around the property. But there has been rumour that they may not return and simply be liquidated at bulk to some collector.

The waterfalls mentioned in his blog are at the entrance to the restaurant, and can be seen in the pictures above, taken in 2004. They are dramatic and beautiful, and I simply cannot fathom why the hotel would want to remove them. This news is just crushing, and surprising, considering that the hotel has become host to one of the largest annual events for tikiphiles, drawing hundreds of people. A very strange and disconcerting development.

I’ve heard nothing about this beyond this one blog post, so I wouldn’t say it’s verified. Stay tuned for information as I learn more.

3 thoughts on “San Diego’s Islands Restaurant Renovation?

  1. This is a way old post but I am sitting here reading it and will just have to throw my two cents in. Thanks to whomever put their two cents in to try to save what is left.

    While gidgeting in San Diego(now a hooded surf bum in Pacifica), living at Windansea…..we used to frequent the hipster night at the Hanalei 5 dollar unreal all you can eat happy hour Polynesian Buffet in the original restaurant “wear a fez and get in free night”. All the ad agency, hairdressers, DC comics folk, Spike & Mike kids,vintage shop scalpers, 91X scatter, and other cool kids used to frequent this and it was unreal. The hotel looks nothing like it does now and the little fountain is just a compromised appetizer of what it was. The place was pretty big -(4 times the size it is now)and had a river like situation going through there with bridges, lots of fish tanks, Outriggers hanging from the ceiling, a giant seashell stage in the cocktail bar area of the restaurant with a dance floor, and my favorite was a life size carved statue of a native holding a spear in one hand and a shrunken head type thing in the other, the giant clamshell weeping wall fountains were all over, They used to play old school muzak with a lot of Elvis tunes. It was the Tahitian Terrace on steroids. They gutted it to be competitive for the superbowl. Lame-O that place was sooooo cool.


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