Partnership Revitalizes Kauai Lagoons Vision

Today, when travel agents and Hawaii habitues think of Kauai Lagoons in Lihue, what's most likely to come to mind are the two 18-hole golf courses designed by Jack Nicklaus. Savvy longtimers may remember former Hawaii developer Chris Hemmeter's grand plans for a mixed-use destination resort.  The Ninini Point lighthouse sits near one of Kauai Lagoons' existing resort golf courses

Almost two decades ago, Hemmeter carved out a freshwater lagoon and the golf courses, as well as developing what is now the Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club on an adjoining oceanfront parcel. However, for years, the lagoon and much of its surroundings lay dormant, with only the hotel, a restaurant and the two golf courses in use.

That all will change under plans unveiled late last month by master developer Kauai Lagoons LLC, which is a partnership between Kauai Development LLC and an affiliate of Marriott International. The foliage fringing the navigable 38-acre lagoon has been trimmed, vessels are being gathered to ply the waters, and plans are in the works for a marina, an extensive spa, a retooling of several holes of the golf courses, a new free-standing restaurant and a number of vacation homes and condominiums across a range of Marriott brands.

This is according to Hawaii developer Kevin Showe, who leads Kauai Development. (Agents should note that the developer anticipates some buyers will make units available for retailers to book on a commissionable basis.)

"We are happy to see the announcement of the revitalization of the Kauai Lagoons area that once thrived with a variety of experiences—from golf to dinner to shopping," says Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau. "Marriott has been a strong partner on the island of Kauai, and we are pleased to see some of their brand products, being introduced to the island's visitor inventory."

Kauai Lagoons is reviewing two locations for its resort spa, says Showe. One, at the site of the former Fashion Landing, would enable the development of a spa of about 13,500 square feet, with about 20 treatment rooms. Another possibility, he says, is partnering with the Kauai Marriott and making use of the space now occupied by three tennis courts to build a spa of at least 22,000 square feet, with about 28 treatment rooms.

Plans call for the spa and a new restaurant overlooking the coast, Kiele's 13th hole and Ninini Point lighthouse to open during the second quarter of 2008.

Also underway early in the project's 10-year lifeline are changes to six holes of the Kiele and Mokihana courses, says Showe. Most noticeable for golfers will be the realignment of the 14th and 15th holes of the Kiele course to hug the coastline, resulting in five consecutive oceanfront holes, four of them lateral.

Showe anticipates that work on the six holes will begin early next year, noting that this multimillion-dollar project is still in the design phase. He adds that usual timing for such work is 18 months —from the date work starts to the date the hole is back in play—which would place completion by the end of 2009.

Also open to the public will be miles of walking, jogging and bike paths, including shoreline access trails.

"We are committed to putting in lots of public access," Showe says. In the planning is a lateral shoreline access route between Kiele's 16th hole and Ninini Point Lighthouse, with picnic areas, recreational shelters and bathrooms.

Kauai Lagoons also is working with KauaiCounty to develop a four-mile public access route from KalapakiBeachPark to Ahukini Landing.

As for the lodging, Marriott is breaking new ground of its own by bringing together a mix of brands within a single resort. Represented at Kauai Lagoons will be Grand Residences by Marriott, the Ritz-Carlton Club, Ritz-Carlton Residences and Marriott Vacation Club. It will be the Grand Residences two- and three-bedroom units and the Kalanipuu villas that retailers will be able to book for their clients, with specific availability determined by how many purchasers make their units available in this manner.