Defense Department-owned Hale Koa pumps $14M into its new pool area

The Hale Koa Hotel in Waikiki is located on Fort DeRussy and serves all U.S. Armed Forces members.


By LEILA FUJIMORI | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: July 18, 2018

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — The Hale Koa Hotel’s swimming pool complex on Waikiki Beach, including its popular Barefoot Bar, is getting a $14 million makeover.

Construction on the 2.5-acre pool area began last week and is expected to be completed by July 2019. The pool renovations are part of a larger initiative to “refresh” the entire 72-acre military hotel, which was built in the 1970s.

The Hale Koa, which means “House of the Warrior,” is reserved for military members and their guests, but its Barefoot Bar, located on Waikiki Beach, is open to the public. While the construction is ongoing, the hotel has set up a temporary replacement called the Ho‘okena Bar on the lawn nearby with double the seating of the old Barefoot Bar.

The hotel will also remain open throughout the renovation.

The project includes:

  • A 400-person main pool with two slides.
  • A 20-person hot tub.
  • A children’s splash pad and wading pool.
  • A raised deck for live music.
  • New restrooms.

“All design elements of the pool complex will incorporate Hawaiian culture and aesthetics,” officials said in a news release. “The entrance will be flanked by waterfalls cascading down lava rock walls topped by fire bowls, and gas tiki torches will line the perimeter. The pool complex will also feature brick pavers throughout, and the resort’s renowned banyan tree, Esmeralda, will be prominently featured in the design.”

The work is being managed by Stellar, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based general contractor.

The hotel has converted its smaller, adults-only Maile Pool into a family pool during the renovation, and that pool will remain open.

“It’s been kind of hard being in this one pool with how many people are staying here, especially for a year,” said Hale Koa Hotel guest Cassandra Cunningham, 36.

Kelly Hupp, spokeswoman for the Hale Koa, said the hotel is doing what it can to ease the transition. “We want to minimize the impact of this renovation,” she said.

Joe Mark, a Stellar operations manager, said, “Working in such a high-traffic area is certainly a challenge, but we’ve devised a strategy to make the renovation process as least disruptive as possible,” using “special pathways to transport materials to the job site discreetly.”

Green screening has gone up around the construction site and will eventually be covered with decorative panels.

The new 400-person infinity pool with two slides will be “dynamic and modernized, with three points of zero access,” said Hupp. Zero-entry pools allow users to walk in gradually, an experience that is similar to entering the ocean at a beach. The new pool, at 8,035 square feet, is 46 percent larger than the pool it is replacing. It will include a 15 percent larger kiddie pool.

Hupp emphasized no taxpayer dollars fund the $14 million project. Instead the funds are “generated by the operations of the hotel, which operates free from taxpayer support.”

Money comes from the Army’s Non-Appropriated Funds and is one of the military’s Family & Morale Welfare Recreation facilities. Stellar has worked with Morale Welfare Recreation facilities on more than 30 projects.


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