Critiki News Readers Share Memories of the Waikikian

From the collection of Tim Haack, via Critiki
From the collection of Tim Haack, via Critiki

A July 2006 Critiki News 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 days ago) someone posts a memory about their own time spent at this historic hotel. They are enchanting to read, and a stirring reminder of the deep impact tropical experiences can have on people:

Judy Hall, August 23rd, 2006:

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.


Corey Pruden, October 6th, 2006:

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!!

Nick, November 27th, 2007:

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.

The Waikikian's famous lobby, from the collection of Mimi Payne at Arkiva Tropika
The Waikikian’s famous lobby, from the collection of Mimi Payne at Arkiva Tropika

Marsha Lever, May 7th, 2009:

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.

Mike Nervik, July 4th, 2009:

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

paula, September 17th, 2009:

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.

Poolside at the Tahitian Lanai, from the collection of Mimi Payne at Arkiva Tropika
Poolside at the Tahitian Lanai, from the collection of Mimi Payne at Arkiva Tropika

Kele, April 20th, 2010:

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.

Lisa, August 19th, 2010:

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.

Carla, August 23rd, 2010:

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!

Ahhhhh… can’t you just picture it now? Mahalo nui loa to all who have allowed us to live vicariously through them for a moment, by sharing their memories here.

I will echo Kele’s sentiment above: I would love to see more of people’s photographs and memorabilia from the Waikikian! If you have items to share, please please pretty please consider sharing them via Critiki’s pages for the Waikikian and the Tahitian Lanai. Critiki is Critiki News’ parent site, a not-for-profit archive of tiki locations. Any images you can add to the archive are always greatly appreciated—not just by me, but by all other lovers of these pieces of Polynesian paradise.

8 thoughts on “Critiki News Readers Share Memories of the Waikikian

  1. I worked at the Waikikian in the summer of 1969 before heading off to college. I was the torch lighter, and may still have the picture somewhere.


  2. My husband and I spent his R&R in 1969 (he was stationed in Viet Nam) at this wonderful hotel. It was the perfect place and felt Hawaiian. I was looking for a place to stay on vacation now and can’t find anyplace that feels the same. So Sad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.


  3. The ‘Waikikian’ was the first hotel in Waikiki we stayed in 1972 and for several trips that followed. Auntie would hold court in the lobby and greet all the new arrivals at a Thursday afternoon reception. Many she knew by their first names… That was before the developers destroyed Waikiki… Gone is the original Halekulani Hotel with its beautiful old Koa wood lobby and the old beach bar where Emma would come over from Kona to sing to us… The park in front of the Royal Hawaiian with the lei stands was one of the first to go. Now it’s a strip mall… We were last there July, 2017 for the Commissioning of my Uncle’s John’s ship the USS JOHN FINN DDG113 at Pearl Harbor. We stayed at the Ilikai Marina Condos. We did not even venture down Kalakaua Ave. For the last 20 years we have spent our annual island trip at Honokowai, Maui… The ‘Waikikian’ was o’hana. It is missed as is the old Waikiki.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you all for sharing your memories. This was truly a magical place. I was born and raised in Honolulu, so we never stayed at the hotel, but we ate at the Tahitian Lanai on special occasions several times a year. It was a big event to go there – we dressed up, drove into Waikiki, selected our very own private tiki, and settled in for a perfect meal…every time. I always ordered the teriyaki steak, from the time I was a little girl to an 18 year old young woman celebrating my high school graduation there. In my 50’s now, on the mainland, I still remember those evenings back home, and I’ve been chasing that teriyaki steak, grilled to perfection, with its unforgettable, ginger and pineapple-kissed sauce, my whole life. It has forever eluded me, and maybe it’s better that way. Like the treasure going down with ship.


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