While the Moana is touted as the First lady of Waikīkī, the Hale‘iwa Hotel, at the end of the OR&L train line in North Shore O‘ahu was constructed a year before the Moana.
In 1898, as part of the O‘ahu Railway & Land Company (OR&L) rail system, the Hale‘iwa Hotel (“house of the ‘iwa”, or frigate bird) was completed.
The hotel was part of a bigger plan to expand and diversify operations of the OR&L rail line. OR&L primarily serviced the sugar plantations, adding a hotel at the end of the line opened up opportunities to expand the number of people riding the train.
Passenger travel was an add-on opportunity that not only included train rides; they also operated a bus system. However, the hauling for the agricultural ventures was the most lucrative.
Typical hotels, like the Moana and later the Alexander Young Hotel in downtown Honolulu, served the traditional function of accommodating visitors; Ben F. Dillingham’s hotel sought that, as well as the diversified use of his train line.
On the continent, railroads were building hotels on their lines as a means to enhance the passenger counts – Hawai‘i, through OR&L, was doing the same.
By the early-1900s, the expanded railway cut across the island, serving several sugar and pineapple plantations, and the popular Hale‘iwa Hotel. They even included a “Kodak Camera Train” (associated with the Hula Show) for Sunday trips to Hale‘iwa for picture-taking.
When the hotel opened on August 5, 1899, guests were conveyed from the railway terminal over the Anahulu stream to fourteen luxurious suites, each had a bath with hot-and-cold running water.
Thrum’s ‘Hawaiian Annual’ (1900,) noted, “In providing so tempting an inn as an adjunct and special attraction for travel by the Oahu Railway – also of his (Dillinghams’s) creation – the old maxim of ‘what is worth doing is worth doing well’ has been well observed, everything About the hotel is first class…”
The weekend getaway from Honolulu to the Hale‘iwa Hotel became hugely popular with the city affluent who enjoyed a retreat in “the country.”
Reportedly, a round-trip, two-day excursion by train from Honolulu to Hale‘iwa, around Ka‘ena Point, cost $10. It included an overnight stay at the Hotel, a tour through Waialua sugar mill and a ride up to Wahiawa to tour the plantations.
The original manager was Curtis Iaukea, who had been chamberlain to Kalākaua’s royal household and was famed for his knowledge of protocol.
To while away the time there, the hotel recreational activities offered guests golf (reportedly the second course to be constructed in the islands,) tennis, fishing, canoeing and glass-bottom boat rides.
With the opening of the Hale‘iwa Hotel, the business climate expanded and tourism began to play a hand in the area. Many of the early business families and their original business buildings still remain in Hale‘iwa town today. Some of the town’s buildings are protected landmarks.
As noted in ‘The Union Pacific Magazine,’ (1924) “there are few more charming spots in the Hawaiian Islands than this delightful hotel with its bungalow cottages for guests and its beautiful grounds sloping gently back to the bank of a crystal clear river that runs out between lava rocks to the sea”.
By the late-1920s, it was hard to maintain the luxury and level of service at the hotel. What had been built two decades before to lure passengers to ride the train no longer applied, as more and more people owned cars.
In 1930 the railroad closed the hotel and it became a private ‘Haleiwa Beach Club.’ Later, the Haleiwa Hotel became the ‘Haleiwa Army Officer’s Club.’
During the height of its popularity, the hotel had made the name Hale‘iwa famous, and when its, ultimately, doors closed in 1943; its name remained as the name of the surrounding community – Hale‘iwa.
The last ride on OR&L’s train operations was on December 31, 1947, ending 58-years of steam locomotives hauling all kinds of people, freight and other around O‘ahu.
By 1953, the aged, termite-ridden structure had been torn down. Hale‘iwa Joe’s restaurant now stands where the Hale‘iwa Hotel once stood.