Islands Update: Here Come the Jackhammers

Islands Restaurant after first day of renovation, photo by Mr. NoNaMe
Islands Restaurant after first day of renovation, photo by Mr. NoNaMe

The past day has brought a series of confirmations and more information about the remodeling of the Islands Restaurant and Hanalei Hotel in San Diego. Much of the information comes from an email from Otto von Stroheim’s Tiki News mailing list. Otto is the organizer of the Tiki Oasis event that will be at the Hanalei Hotel in August 2007. Otto was able to speak to the upper management of the hotel directly, so this information should be pretty solid. Much of the decisions around these changes, or the direction to make changes, came from the Red Lion corporate office the hotel’s owners (see update below).

Here’s a quick summary:

  • The hotel’s name is changing. The new name is not known, but it will no longer have “Hanalei” in it. According to Otto, “This was mandated in order to raise the status of the property.”
  • The Islands Restaurant “[is] going to be more TROPICAL than TIKI,” per the GM.
  • The waterfalls and the waterway into the restaurant are being removed.
  • The Dragon Room will be removed.
  • The bamboo in the Islands is staying, the glass floats might stay, but all the other tiki decor in the restaurant is being removed. It’s not known yet what the fate of these items will be. There’s a chance the artifacts will be put on dispay for Tiki Oasis attendees, but this has not been worked out yet. The large outrigger sign is staying.
  • On the first day of renovation, all of the artifacts in the Islands Restaurant have been removed and boxed up for storage.
  • The Islands Restaurant’s monkeypod tables are staying, and $38,000 is being spent to refinish them.
  • Some walls are being knocked down, and an outdoor patio is being added, to expand seating.
  • Windows are being added to overlook the patio and pool.
  • Food & drink menu will be unchanged. Tiki mugs will be used for serving.
  • Carved railings removed from the Islands Restaurant will be relocated into the tropical, tikified Atrium area in the hotel tower.
  • Landscaping is being enhanced with a $20,000 budget, and fresh palapas have been added.
  • Room rates are increasing, but this won’t affect Tiki Oasis 2007, because Otto locked those rates in before these changes.

There have been discussions on Tiki Central about writing letters — while it’s never a bad idea to let these places know that you’re specifically patronizing them because of their tikiness, I must sadly say that I think this course is unchangeable. For one, it may just be too late — the restaurant has already been gutted, and jackhammers are scheduled to be there today, probably to rip out the water features. Another reason is that the Hanalei has over the years morphed into a conference hotel. They don’t flinch at individual people’s opinions, they focus on what helps them court large group reservations, and what those groups want is a larger restaurant. Writing to let the Hanalei know that you support their keeping the tiki they still have can’t hurt, though.

So essentially — the Islands will now be a more generic tropical restaurant, with some hints of what it once was, and probably still worth seeing. The hotel itself, while changing its name, will still have plenty of great tiki on-site in the Atrium, including the great artifacts from Stephen Crane’s Luau in Beverly Hills. The big question at this point is what will happen to all the items that have come out of the Islands Restaurant. I hope they find a way to keep them on-site and visible.

UPDATE: The Hanalei’s banquet manager, Joel Delano (whose blog was my tipoff that changes were afoot at the Islands) has chimed in with more info, in a comment on this post. The hotel is becoming part of the Crown Plaza chain of hotels, and will reportedly be renamed the “Crown Plaza San Diego.” He’s also posted another entry on his blog, giving a bit more info: he says the fountain pictured at the top of my last post is currently slated to stay, and that he thinks the glass floats that Otto was told would most likely stay may not stay after all.

7 thoughts on “Islands Update: Here Come the Jackhammers

  1. The changes weren’t mandated by Red Lion, but rather by the owners, due to the fact that the Red Lion name, as well as the word Hanalei, is being dropped. The Hotel will become part of the Crown Plaza chain of hotels. Like with Red Lion the owners still hold the majority of the control, but “upgrades” were wanted to meet the new “standard”. So the new name will be the “Crown Plaza San Diego”. Some of the walls were being torn out this morning, ahead of schedule. I am a banquet supervisor at the Hanalei and I was quite thrilled when Tiki Oasis came this last year. I hope that all of the removed artifacts find their way back on property in time for Tiki Oasis this coming year. Of little note, but just another piece of the Hanalei restaurant puzzle is that the Peacock Cafe upstairs will close permanently when the Islands reopens, which is why it is being expanded, and the Islands will become the sole food destination for the hotel, along with it’s adjoining Sushi Lounge.


  2. Ah! Thanks for the clarification. Otto had said that the management of the hotel isn’t changing (that was a huge issue for him at the hotel Oasis used to happen at, the Caliente Tropics in Palm Springs). I mistook that for meaning that it was still owned & operated by Red Lion; he probably meant that the people actually managing the hotel haven’t changed.

    From your position, what is the best way tikiphiles can help the effort to keep the artifacts visible & on-site?

    I love the picture of the floats in your latest blog post — Otto had been told that those were most likely staying — you mentioned that you don’t think they’re coming back. They’re so iconic — I hope they stay somewhere at the hotel, at least.

    Any updates you can give us would be wonderful, thanks so much for chiming in!


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