The History of Hawai‘i From Our Files: Big Island Wrestles with Luxury Development for 20-Plus Years

HONOLULU Magazine emerged from predecessor Paradise of the Pacific, which began in 1888, fulfilling a commission by King Kalākaua. That makes this the oldest continuously published magazine west of the Mississippi with an enviable archive worth diving into each month. Here’s a look back at August 2001.


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As the high-end luxury development of Hawai‘i Island rankles and worries some residents, HONOLULU’s Scott Whitney takes a closer look at what the changes might mean.


In “The Billionaire’s Big Island,” the piece opens with a quote from poet Pablo Neruda, asking if there’s nothing quite as “harsh as a rich man’s fence.” The island was reeling from a sharp turn away from agriculture after sugar plantations closed. Ranching was dwindling in scale and scope, and tourism was the main game in town. Whitney talked to people about how global-economy billionaires were buying into former ranch land as golfers replaced cattle and cactus. Even the name of the Hōkūli‘a development prompted criticism for not being a real Hawaiian word but one invented to mean “star of gladness.” It seems, “’Hōkūli‘a,’ invented or not, has become a one-word fuse that can set off gnarly arguments anywhere on the Big Island. Residents along the Kona coast, from Nāpō‘opo‘o in the south to Kalaoa, north of the Keāhole International Airport, visibly tense when asked about the Hōkūli‘a development.”


The debate continues 20 years later. The Big Island still hosts billionaires, amid controversies over about tourism and opposition to the building of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.


SEE ALSO: How the Conflict Over the Thirty Meter Telescope Has Reawakened a More-Than-Century-Old Battle


August Fof Covers


Learn more about the evolution of covers in HONOLULU Magazine and Paradise of the Pacific: 125 Years of Covers, available at


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