"This place had the aloha spirit from Day One," says sixth-generation Kauaian Larry Rivera, 77. Rivera started as a busboy and wound up as headliner, hobnobbing with the likes of Elvis and Ricardo Montalban, whose Fantasy Island series included scenes filmed on Kauai. He now croons Kauai, the Last Paradise during weekly gigs at the nearby Hilton, but still officiates about two dozen Blue Hawaii weddings a year from the same lagoon-side spot where Elvis said his celluloid vows.
A new Coco Palms plan, proposed in the Hawaii legislature late last month, would use public and private funding to transform the onetime home of the island's last reigning queen into a historic park and cultural center — including the wedding chapel that helped bring Elvis, and Kauai, so much fame.
For his part, Rivera wants to see his iconic haunt returned to its resort glory days. But he's mindful, too, of the lyrics to a song he recorded in 1999: "This is one island, many peoples, all Kauaian. … Hawaii belongs to everyone, to take care of and share."