Kaimana Story – History

The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel is located in the shade of Diamond Head, one of the world’s most famous landmarks, nestled comfortable on the shore of Kaimana Beach, at the far end of historic Waikiki, and across from Kapi’olani Park. The hotel is named “Kaimana”, meaning diamond in Hawaiian, which is truly a remarkable jewel in a perfect setting.

The property upon which the current day The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel now sits was, by 1903, the residence of the McInerny family, a kama’aina haole family that owned a major mercantile business in Honolulu. The McInerny residence was a tasteful, Victorian home with ocean lanai and wood railing under a distinctive hau tree whose shade was enjoyed by Robert Louis Stevenson. The McInerny Cottage with its sheltering bowers reflected Waikiki at its elegant best; boating, picnicking, and engaging social conversation, song and storytelling under a star-filled Hawaiian sky on languid summer nights. When the Kaimana Beach Hotel was first built in 1963, the original McInerny Cottage was considerably dilapidated and could not be preserved. However, the hau tree with the sheltering bower and railing still remains and can be seen and enjoyed at the current day hotel.

World War II brought many changes to Hawaii. Over a million American military personnel passed through the islands during the war years, transforming our local society while taking back to the mainland special memories of this Pacific paradise. In 1959, when Hawaii became the fiftieth state, the visitor industry began to literally take-off as jumbo jetliners made the islands only a few hours away from the west coast. In the first two decades of statehood, tourism would become Hawaii’s largest economic industry.

In response to the need to provide visitors with distinctive, comfortable accommodations in a pleasant setting, the original Kaimana Beach Hotel opened in the late 40’s. The owner, a local Japanese American, Shigeo Shigenaga, had originally intended the hotel to service a small but growing clientele of Japanese who were visiting Hawaii to conduct business. While the Kaimana Beach Hotel has always provided a hospitable setting for the Japanese traveler, the major source of clients to the hotel has largely been mainland United States visitors seeking a quiet yet accessible Pacific retreat.

In 1964 the hotel went through major renovation. Under a consortium of new owners, a large, 156 rooms, 9-story high-rise was built along the oceanfront while a portion of the original structure was transformed into small shops and suites. The new structure contains a unique blend of Polynesian and Asian culture. While the Hau Tree Lanai Restaurant retained a portion of Old Hawaii in the wood railing of the original McInerny home, one of Honolulu’s finest Japanese restaurants, Miyako, was opened with a marvelous view of the ocean. The Hotel’s Imperial banquet room was designed to incorporate Asian motifs and ambience – the room replicates the Nijo Castle in Kyoto. In the intimate Sunset Lanai lounge, patrons not only can enjoy casual conversations and ocean viewing, but the music of Hawaii.

The openness of the hotel to its neighbors has also been of paramount importance to The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel. Local resident bathers and sun-worshippers at Sans Souci Beach have freely enjoyed the amenities at the hotel. For beach goers, the hotel has consistently kept sand and park areas clean of debris. And for many years, one of the beach users’ favorite treats was the hotel’s small hamburger stand near the sand that served beach-goers with grilled burgers and snacks. During a “sweep” of Waikiki beach vendors in 1983, the Kaimana was ordered to remove the stand, which was deemed in violation of zoning laws. Despite an out-pouring of community support, a petition signed by 5,000 voters, newspaper editorials, letters to the editor and political endorsements, the “Battle of the Hamburger Stand” was resolved in 1985 when the hotel lost its last round of court appeals. “The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel has been a good citizen on the beach,” the Honolulu Advertiser sadly noted as the government bureaucracy brought an end to the stand. The personal warmth and hospitality of its family of employees, specializing in quality service, will continue to offer a truly Hawaiian experience. This “jewel of a hotel” is prepared for tomorrow by acknowledging the importance of aloha, a tradition of loving welcome which for hundreds of years has blessed the land and people of Hawaii.