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Makaha Resort: Here Yesterday, Gone Today

Once upon a time, the Makaha Valley, north of Waianae on O’ahu’s west coast, was a thriving sugar cane plantation. Some 75 years ago, Hawaiian businessman Chinn Ho purchased some 5000 acres in the Valley with an eye toward creating “the Palm Springs of Hawaii.”

Mr. Ho’s plan would take some twenty years to bring about. First, in 1964, he developed the Ilikai Hotel in Waikiki (and inspired Detective Chin Ho’s name). He wanted the Makaha Valley to become a new Waikiki with several hotels, two golf courses, access to the beach, and subdivisions of homes.

In 1969, Mr. Ho opened the Makaha Resort and two golf courses. In the spring of 1970, Hawaii Five-0 showcased Mr. Ho’s development in the episode “Kiss the Queen Goodbye” (Season 2).

The venture failed, even though numerous investors bought it and tried to make it work, until in 2014, the striking hotel with its Dickey-inspired volcano-style roof was razed, leaving only a golf club. In 2017, the golf club closed.

So, what is the problem? There are several.

First is location. As any real estate salesperson will tell you, it’s all about location-location-location. The Makaha Valley lies just off the Farrington Highway, and the Farrington Highway ceases to be a four-lane, divided highway at Waianae. North of Waianae, it is a two-lane road with traffic that moves at a snail’s pace.

Second is demographics. The Makaha Valley is not a wealthy area. The poverty rate is 27 percent. People there earn only 30 percent of Honolulu’s median income. They cannot afford to have a resort community for millionaires move into their neighborhood.

Third is the lack of availability of public utilities in an area that simply was not developed to support a large population. The fresh water supply is not there (and is dwindling all across the island). Can officials really hope to find still more water for a project that includes 10,000 houses and multiple hotels?

One would think that would put paid to the idea of bringing it all back, but no. There are still groups that are trying to find a way to turn the Makaha Valley into the utopia that Chinn Ho once envisioned. Will they succeed? Should they succeed? Should they even try?

If the current residents of the Valley have their say, the answer is a resounding “No!” If past experience has its say, the answer is a resounding “Don’t be foolish!” If those with compassion in their hearts have their say, the answer is “For once, let the needs of the Hawaiian people rule over big business.”

You can watch “Kiss the Queen Goodbye” on Paramount+.

Source: Gomes, Andrew. "Waianae residents concerned by Makaha Valley Resort 'rebirth' plans involving Tiger Woods. Howzit Kohala. May 11, 2019.

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