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Village of Contentment

April 24, 1988|FRANK RILEY | Riley is travel columnist for Los Angeles magazine and a regular contributor to this section

HONOLULU — Henry Kaiser's multimillion-dollar vision of his Hawaiian village, which began here more than three decades ago and which was continued by the late Conrad Hilton, has become more than just a dream.

The Hilton Hawaiian Village recently reopened after an expenditure of $100 million for architectural work and additions, including the "super" pool, floral landscaping, rock landscaping and bird sanctuaries.

However, the development of five, high-rise towers melds with the skyline of Waikiki and Honolulu and has grown up from being a village.

Tranquil Gardens

Four towers of accommodations--apartments, restaurants, lounges, a health spa, ballrooms and conference centers--shelter the landscaped gardens, towering coconut trees and small bird and fish ponds, set amid natural rock formations and mini-waterfalls.

Throughout, nature is complemented by an art collection that is mix of East and West, modern and period.

The black swan pond is presided over by two black swans. Penguins and flamingos have their own ponds, as do small fish and koi, the Japanese name for carp.

The "super" pool is actually two pools with tropical greenery and lava rock waterfalls. There also is a smaller pool and a pool with spa on the terrace of redesigned Ali'i Tower.

Between the beach and the geodesic Dome, where Don Ho entertains, is an oasis with the only private lagoon along this highly developed shore on Oahu.

The Golden Dragon restaurant in the Rainbow Tower overlooks the lagoon and beach. There are more than 100 shops and boutiques in the village. Within the bazaar you can wander from a Thai temple to a Hong Kong Alley to a Japanese pagoda and to a farmhouse.

From a private pier, a catamaran sails on champagne breakfasts and luncheon cruises to Diamond Head.

The lagoon has its own sandy beach and calm waters that beginning windsurfers can use.

Thirty thousand cubic yards of sand were imported to create the beach, and palm trees were planted. Kaiser opened the reef channel and put in the pier. Snorkelers now swim along the reef, scarcely a hundred yards off the beach. The lagoon went in about the same time, with a pumping system to keep the ocean water refreshed.

Kaiser Sold Interest

In the same year Kaiser built the Ocean Tower, now the deluxe Ali'i Tower. By 1961 Kaiser sold his interest in the project to Hilton.

Biggest changes are in the Ali'i Tower, which takes its name from the highest social class in ancient Hawaii, the ali'i (chiefs), who were believed to be descended from the gods.

Each night in the guest rooms an ali'i card bears the name and portrait of one of the Kamehameha kings.

The luxury rooms and suites, with special concierge services, have old Hawaii furnishings including pewter fixtures, colonial wooden furniture, colorful comforters and ruffled pillows.

Room rates start at $130 through June 30, then at $135 until Dec. 20. For more information and reservations, call (800) HIL-TONS.

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