Hale Koa History

Hawaiian Hospitality

The Hale Koa Hotel celebrated its grand opening on October 25, 1975 with what is now its Ilima Tower. The Hotel and the site where it is located both reflect a rich history of caring for members of the Defense Community and, prior to the establishment of Fort DeRussy, played an important role in early Hawaiian culture. Today, more than one million military personnel and dependents enjoy the Hale Koa’s hospitality each year.

The Army’s Outstanding Soldiers of the Year were flown in from all over the world to be among the first guests at the opening, which included a traditional Hawaiian blessing complete with a royal procession and evening festivities with many island dignitaries in attendance.

In the early days of Hawaii, the area was named Kalia and was a thriving community with farmers and fishermen. It featured fish ponds and taro patches, all of which provided for the community and Ali’i (royalty). In 1906, the U.S. War Department acquired a 72-acre parcel of land which was named Fort DeRussy, in honor of Brigadier General R. E. DeRussy of the Army Corps of Engineers. The fish ponds were filled in with dredged material, and the area was transformed from wetlands to solid ground.

Battery Randolph along with Battery Dudley (since demolished) were completed in 1911 as part of the Army’s defenses for Honolulu Harbor. Battery Randolph’s extremely solid structure with walls 20 feet thick proved too difficult to demolish and is now an Army Museum.

Fort DeRussy played an important role from World War I through the Korean and Vietnam Wars, remembered by many as an area for recreation, lodging, and leisure for all service members. It was designated an Armed Forces Recreation Area in 1950.

In 1995, on the twentieth anniversary of its opening, the Hale Koa Hotel celebrated the completion of the Maile Tower, increasing the guestrooms from 420 to 818 and adding other amenities for the military guests and visitors to relax and enjoy.

A complete renovation of the Ilima Tower in 2010 included banquet facilities, restaurants and kitchen facilities. In 2019, projects totaling over $100 million were completed, including a complete renovation of the Maile Tower, a new state of the art ocean side pool complex and many infrastructure updates to the facilities. And in 2022, the Ilima Tower refurbishment of guest rooms with improvements to the wallpaper and flooring, refinishing of existing furniture, and new decorative accessories.

From its royal beginning, the Hale Koa Hotel continues to exceed expectations. Leaving behind the concept of separate dining and sleeping areas for enlisted and officers, the Hale Koa Hotel opened as it remains today, an all-ranks, all-services hotel committed to providing an exceptional resort experience without regard to status. Its mission remains unchanged: To provide a first class hotel and recreation facility at affordable prices for military members and their families.

The Hale Koa Hotel is operated by the Department of the Army under the US Army Installation Management Command’s G9 Section. Designated an Armed Forces Recreation Center, this facility is totally self-supporting with no use of taxpayer funds. All expenses including salaries, operating expenses and even capital improvement projects are paid with revenue generated by the hotel’s operations.