My Point of Heu
The Story Behind the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon
By Olena Heu
On the west end of Waikiki you’ll find a famous white sandy stretch of sand called Kahanamoku Beach, Kaiser Bowls surf break, the Ala Wai Boat Harbor and nestled in between it all is a dazzling lagoon. The crystal clear water, small fish and a rainbow of beach-goers enjoying the water, is a picturesque stop for some fun in the sun, sand and sea.
The Duke Paoa Kahanamoku lagoon is a man-made saltwater oasis, named after a man with an extraordinary legacy. Kahanamoku was the beloved father of modern day surfing, a revered Hawaiian Olympian and admired ambassador of Aloha. The legendary waterman was born in the region of Waikiki, which prior to development was mainly fishponds, marsh, streams and swampland.
Back in the 1920’s a popular beach cottage sitting on these several acres along the oceanfront of the pacific, was once named the Niumalu Hotel. In the mid 1950’s developer Fritz Burns and industrialist (Honolulu resident) John Henry Kaiser purchased the property and began an expansion project to form Kaiser’s Hawaiian Village.
With a vision to create a tropical resort complete with multiple towers, an array of swimming pools and an expanded beach, the lagoon was created on 5 acres of land. The man-made-lagoon was built in 1956 fronting the Hawaiian Village and just steps from the ocean’s edge. In 1961, hotelier Conrad Hilton purchased the property, which included 22 beachfront acres, and the lagoon had eventually become owned and managed by both the state and the hotel.
After several decades, the lagoon became un-swimmable, uninviting and was in dire need of repair and restoration. Thus the Hilton Hawaiian Village invested $15 million to replenish and enhance the pond, installing a brand new water circulating system and manicuring the landscaping. To everyone’s delight in 2007 the lagoon was restored and has been a breathtakingly beautiful landmark ever since.
The famous Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Lagoon is now a popular spot for visitors, locals, walkers, swimmers, stand-up paddle boarders, picnickers, BBQs and more. It also serves as a central area for families, couples walking along the shore hand-in-hand and provides a beautiful backdrop for some of the most iconic views of Diamond Head, the warm pacific ocean and for sunbathing on the beach.