See Hawaii in the 60s: How the stunning tropical islands used to be, and how they changed

Hawaii in the 60s: Beach scene

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Hawaii in the 60s: Sun, sand & a sea of change

Let’s rewind to Hawaii in the 1960s, an era where the islands buzzed with the energy of a growing tourism scene. In the vintage newspaper reprints and advertising collateral we’ve collected below, you’ll get a glimpse of Hawaiian life as it once was — from the sun-soaked beaches to the lively luaus.

Picture the swaying palm trees and the gentle hum of ukuleles, setting the rhythm for a decade of change. It’s a colorful, nostalgic trip back to a Hawaii that was gearing up for the future, one hula step at a time.

Hawaii Diamondhead Honolulu 1960

Vintage vacation travel to Hawaii in the sixties (3)

Note: The 60s-era retro reprints collected here provide a historical perspective on Hawaii’s tourism and development that may not have aged well in terms of cultural sensitivity and accuracy. The viewpoints and descriptions of Hawaiian culture and history from this era could reflect biases or inaccuracies.

It’s essential to recognize that our understanding of cultural respect, indigenous cultures, and historical context has evolved significantly since the 1960s. We encourage you to consider the historical context of these reprints and recommend seeking out more current and comprehensive sources for a better understanding of Hawaii’s rich cultural heritage and history.

Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America's First Imperial Venture
  • Siler, Julia Flynn (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 415 Pages - 01/08/2013 (Publication Date) - Grove Press (Publisher)

VIDEO: Vintage newsreel of Hawaii in the 60s (1967)

YouTube video

ARTICLE: Why people visited the islands of Hawaii in the 60s

The San Francisco Examiner (California) September 17, 1967

Each island in Hawaii is a little different from the others. On all of them, you can find beautiful beaches, stunning scenery and tropical breezes. But to find your favorite, you must visit them all.

Summer surfers invade Hawaii - Sports Illustrated 1967

Oahu is sophisticated and has the most action, especially at night. But the Neighbor Islands — Kauai, Molokai, Maui and Hawaii — have a special charm. The pace is slower and the mood shifts deeper into Polynesia.

Jet travel between the islands is low in cost. From Honolulu, you can fly to Kauai for $12.57, to Molokai for $9.05, to Maui for $12.57, to Hilo, Hawaii for $19.14, to Kona, Hawaii for $16.95. Family plan fares and early bird discounts make inter-island travel even cheaper.

1960s Sheraton hotels in Hawaii

New airline common fares from the West Coast enable visitors to fly direct via Honolulu to any of the islands. There is no stop-over in Honolulu.

So see all the islands of Hawaii you can. Each has its own special, wonderful sights. Each enjoys a slightly different climate. Each has its own unique legends and lore. All are truly Polynesian and all quite distinct.

ALSO SEE: Don Ho: Why the ‘Tiny Bubbles’ singer was one of Hawaii’s first superstars in the ’60s

Hawaii tourism in the sixties - 1967 (2)

Island of Kauai

The Garden Isle is the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain, and is covered with lush greenery. Sweeping crescents of sand dot the shoreline. There’s spectacular colorings of Waimea Canyon, and the fierce, half-mile high cliffs of the Na Pali coast.

Captain Cook made his first Hawaii landfall on Kauai. A Russian Czar once had a fort on the southern shore. The rainforest atop Mount Waialeale is one of the wettest spots on earth.

There are stone ruins left by the legendary race of Menehunes, Hawaii’s “little people.” Natives speak of a “lost tribe” in a hidden valley high in the mountains.

Hawaii in the 60s - Scenic lily pond - tropical

Island of Oahu

The Aloha Isle is Hawaii’s main island, with Honolulu the state capital, principal port, major airport and center of business, finance and education. America’s military forces in the Pacific are headquartered on the lands around Pearl Harbor.

Dramatic cultural mixes occur at the East-West Center. Symphonies and combos play in the Waikiki Shell. Bishop Museum, founded by Hawaiian royalty, holds the world’s largest collection of Polynesia. At Iolani Palace, Robert Louis Stevenson chatted with King Kalakaua. The North Shore and Makaha offer the world’s finest surfing. Hula girls perform in the center of Waikiki.

About the classic TV show Hawaii Five-0, plus hear that original iconic theme song

Hawaii in the 60s - Sheraton Hotels

Vintage Hawaii - Diamondhead in a tourist photo from the 60s

Island of Molokai

The Friendly Isle has rolling pineapple plantations at one end, dashing cliffs and rugged coasts at the other. In the deep forests is adventurous hunting for wild boar and deer. The island offers marvelous scenery. Unbothered by the 20th Century, Molokai remains a place of quiet, gentile, old-style living.

Along the Maui coastline, Hawaii's new Kapalua villas (1978)
Flying over Molokai 1968
Flying over Molokai 1968 – From ClickAmericana’s collection of family photos

Island of Maui

The Valley Isle is marked by the broad stretch of pineapple and sugar plantations that lies between its two mountain ranges. On the East rises mighty Mount Haleakala, the world’s largest dormant volcano whose vast crater could swallow New York’s Manhattan Island. Hawaii’s royalty once gamboled at Kaanapali Beach.

Charming Lahaina Town’s peaceful mood belies its boisterous days as a whaling port and royal capital. Herman Melville, author of “Moby Dick,” sojourned here, and Humpback Whales can be seen offshore in winter months.

The island is named for a great demigod who once snared the sun. Hawaiian cowboys entertain in rustic Hana on the idyllic eastern coast. Leilani Rum is distilled near Wailuku.

Hawaii in the 60s - Maui tourism

Hawaii tourism in the sixties - 1967 (1)

Island of Hawaii

The Orchid Isle is well named for the lands around Hilo teem with orchids, anthuriums and other tropical flowers. Hawaii is the largest island in the chain, larger than some states. Visitors walk across live volcanoes on Mauna Loa.

ALSO SEE: This 1960s Hawaiian living room was a serene green retreat

World’s greatest marlin fishing is off Kona Coast, where Captain Cook met death. Great Britain maintains a monument there Kamehameha the Great, founder of the monarchy, grew up in Kohala. Vast Parker Ranch has excellent hunting grounds for goat, boar.

Ancient spears and battle-axes can be found along the trails to the old City of Refuge. Natives say Madame Pele can be seen walking across the lava flows at night. Missionaries landed on the Orchid Isle in 1820. In winter, there is skiing on the lofty slopes of Mauna Kea.

Vintage Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in the 1960s

Hawaii in the 60s - Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Quaint Kona, Island of Hawaii, famous for balmy climate, deep sea fishing (1960s)

Kona was King Kamehameha’s Playground

On this very spot, a hundred and fifty years ago, Hawaiian Royalty reigned in colorful splendor. Today a fascinating display of Polynesian artifacts is on view in the same palace used by Queen Kapiolani.

Not far down Hawaii’s coast is the “King’s Slide” and the interesting City of Refuge. Towering 13,000 feet above is the volcano Mauna Loa, whose long-dead lava flows, covered with fragrant ginger, mango trees and coffee farms, rest side by side with the fresh black flows of 1950. Great cattle ranches, misty valleys, leaping waterfalls high-light a drive around Hawaii Island to the orchid port of Hilo, Hawaii National Park, beautiful Puna district, and the famous black sand beach of Kalapana.

All this and more, just minutes away from Honolulu, capital of the 50th State . . . Make your “lifetime dream” come true this year in the romantic neighbor isles, Kauai, Maui and Hawaii. Hotels, food and drinking water are excellent.

Hawaii in the 60s - Kona

We’ll be seeing you soon in the Islands of Hawaii

One of the most delightful things about Hawaii is the sincere friendliness of its people. Accept this invitation to come soon and share their lovely land …

Hawaii is just 4-1/2 smooth hours by jet from the Pacific Coast ($266 round trip) or a 4-1/2 day vacation cruise by luxury liner ($380 round trip). Currency and language are pure U.S.A. No passports, visas or “shots” are needed. Many fine new hotels give you a wide choice of accommodations with assurance of no waiting for rooms –rates from $5 to $30 per day.

Stay long enough to see all the Islands, Kauai, Oahu, Maui and Hawaii. The weather is fine any month of the year — about 74° average. Travel light — buy reasonable “Island things” when you arrive . . . All things considered — isn’t this your year to visit Hawaii?

Hawaii in the 60s - Tourism in 1961

Hawaii in the 60s: Vacation tips


Jet fares are as low as $200 roundtrip from Pacific Coast; luxury ocean liner economy class from $280, first-class from $414 roundtrip from California. Modern hotel accommodations on all islands start at just $5 a day per person, double occupancy. And most of Hawaii’s best attractions are free.

What to bring

Average 74° weather means you only need clothes for one climate. Supplement your wardrobe with some of our colorful Hawaiian leisure fashions. Don’t forget your camera! Naturally, you won’t need passports, visas, inoculations.

A 1950s tour guide to Hawaii: See what the islands looked like before becoming the 50th state

Visit Hawaii - Matson cruise lines 1963

Things to do

Lie on a beach, ride a wave, learn the hula, eat sushi, hit a hole-in-one, watch a sunset, go to a luau, sail a catamaran, sip a mai-tai, spear a fish, inspect a palace, give a lei, visit a Buddhist temple, study a volcano, wear a muu-muu, smile.

Winter excitement

This Winter is a fun-packed time in Hawaii. December: Christmas Festivals and International Surfing Championships. January: Hula Bowl, Chinese New Year, Narcissus Festival. February: Cherry Blossom Festival.

HAWAIIAN FUN: How to have a retro Hawaiian luau party

Hawaii tourism vintage info from 1965 (2)

ARTICLE: Hawaii’s tourist boom brings growing pains (1960)

The Paris News (Paris, Texas) August 26, 1960

Hawaii is experiencing its greatest tourist boom in history. But there are fears that the Islands’ friendly “Aloha spirit” will be sacrificed in the rush to keep pace with the influx.

The growing pains are most evident in the famous sun-bathed Waikiki Beach community. The skyline is changing. Giant hotels are rising higher and higher above the palm trees.

Sheraton hotels in Hawaii in 1960

An estimated 243,000 tourists visited Hawaii in 1959, and spent about 101 million dollars, according to the Hawaii Visitors Bureau. This year’s tourist crop should be even larger. In 1930, there were only 18,651 visitors. The tourist industry is fourth in Hawaii’s economy ladder behind the military, sugar industry and pineapple.

The sands where Hawaiian royalty once played is taking on a Coney Island look — crowded, with people as well as neon signs. Today, an estimated 20,000 persons are permanent residents of Waikiki.

Hawaii time: Vacation in Waikiki in '73

1960s Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Vintage Postcard Hawaii HI

The reasons behind the rush to Hawaii in the 60s

What caused the sudden rush of mainlanders and foreigners to see the Pacific paradise? Surf, sand and sea, to be sure. But, there were many other contributing factors.

The Hawaiian Visitors Bureau has kept up a mammoth campaign to put Waikiki vacations within reach of persons of moderate means. Real effort was made to promote the islands as an easily-accessible paradise. Scheduled air and sea service was increased and improved. Seven multi-deck hotels rose in rapid succession.

Then, the standard of American living rose. The jet age put Hawaii within five hours of California.

Vintage vacation travel to Hawaii in the sixties (2)

Vintage vacation travel to Hawaii in the sixties (1)

The sudden influx of tourists was most noticeable immediately following statehood last year. Hotels were not ready for the boom.

Airlines and tour agencies complained they had to turn travelers away because of hotel room shortages. There were cries that advance reservations were canceled. Crowded, hotels shuffled some occupants into small rooms without baths. The hotels do not want this to happen again.

About Magnum PI, the classic TV show that shot Tom Selleck to stardom (1980-1988)

Hawaii Diamondhead Honolulu 1960

Waikiki adding more hotels

More than 2,000 additional hotel rooms in Waikiki will be completed this year — a 45 percent increase over the present number. Also, there will be 352 new rooms on nearby islands.

With all the good things have come some bad. Too many people — tourists and residents — are crammed into too small an area. A few Waikiki businessmen are overly concerned with extracting that last buck from the visitor.

Waikiki’s charm must not be lost. Old timers say they do not want it to become another Miami.

Waikiki has grown too fast for its surroundings. It is a little shabby around the edges. Outlying areas are referred to as “high class slums.”

Howard L. Cook, an architect, says, “There is nothing authentically Hawaiian in Waikiki. Examine the true Hawaiian grass shack culture — that is not what the tourist wants.

“Waikiki is different, certainly, but it is not the tropical paradise people come 2,000 miles to see. That is what they picture — a tropical paradise. But then they insist on all the features of a good hotel.”

Cook adds, “Waikiki is a residential area we are trying to make into a resort.”

Vintage Hawaii in the '60s - Sheraton Hotels Waikiki Beach

Not enough land for everything

Tropical foliage is disappearing under hotels and parking lots. Architects demand more land for landscaping. Hotels need the land for more rooms. To keep the semi-tropical atmosphere, gardens, palms and ferns are planted everywhere. Giant palm trees can be found in hotel lobbies.

Harland Bartholomew of Washington, DC, head of a national planning firm which has a Honolulu office, has summed up the fears of local city planners. “You must not overcrowd the land to the point where you lose the things which bring the tourists here.” Bartholomew describes recently-constructed apartment buildings at the foot of famous Diamond Head as “warts on the face of a beautiful woman.”

7 delicious old-fashioned pineapple pie recipes: Real classic ways to make this tropical dessert

Hawaii is as near as your telephone – call the islands

Hawaii in the 60s - Call the islands (2)

Hawaii in the 60s - Call the islands (1)

Hawaii in the 60s - Sheraton on Waikiki

Drawing of Honolulu as of 1963
Drawing of Honolulu as of 1963

Newspaper ads from 1960 showing the new developments

Hotel Beachwalk Terrace (1960)

Your opportunity to share in Hawaii’s booming tourist business! Now you can be part owner of a deluxe 9-story 100-room hotel with a choice, advantageous heart-of-Waikiki location!

New construction in Hawaii: Hotel Beachwalk Terrace (1960)

The Ilikai apartment complex in Honolulu

Fabulous new landmark on the Waikiki horizon!

23 story – 1060 unit co-operative apartment – 88,000 square feet – on the water – fee simple

New construction: The Ilikai apartment complex in Honolulu (1960)

Hawaii travel by coach - United 1960

NOW SEE THIS: Hawaii travel in the ’70s: Look back at Honolulu & Waikiki

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