History of the Ilikai: Ilikai Condominiums Honolulu, Hawaii

In 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States and Chinn Ho, a self-made multimillionaire, had a vision to add a contemporary classic to Waikiki. The Ilikai, a legenday Honolulu hotel and residential condominium at the gateway to Waikiki, opened in 1964 as Hawaii's first high-rise luxury hotel.

Born in Hawai`i in 1903 (died in 1987), Chinn Ho worked in his family's rice fields, within a stone's throw of the land he would later develop. He revealed entrepreneurial skill even as a child, selling kiawe (mesquite) beans at 15 cents a bag. Ho later parlayed his talents and energy into various businesses.

Ho raised $27 million to create The Ilikai-a dream that became a reality in 1961. The monkeypod tree at the poolside courtyard was planted during the groundbreaking ceremony by Ho and world famous Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanomoku.

On February 29, 1964, Chinn Ho forever changed the landscape of Waikiki when The Ilikai (translated in Hawaiian as "surface of the sea") opened its doors as Hawaii's first high-rise luxury resort. Overlooking the recently expanded Waikiki Yacht Harbor and the Pacific Ocean, the project included 1,050 rooms and condominium apartments.

Designed by architect John Graham, whose credits include Seattle's Space Needle, the three-winged Y-shaped Ilikai was an architectural landmark for Waikiki. The Ilikai's angular lines, its innovative use of pre-cast, pre-stressed concrete, as well as its white and turquoise façade, defined it as distinctive for its time. Standing thirty stories high, it was one of Hawaii's tallest high-rise buildings in 1964 and its glass elevator was one of the highest-reaching in the world.

The Ilikai's landmark status was further enhanced when Hawaii Five-O featured the hotel in its opening sequence-a panoramic shot of Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett standing on his penthouse balcony surveying Waikiki with aerial views of the Pacific Ocean and Diamond Head.Jack Lord, Hawaii Five-0

Celebrity guests have included presidents, ambassadors, Olympic athletes and entertainers. They include Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Gerald Ford, and celebrities, Dolly Parton, Mickey Mantle, Elvis Presley and Lucille Ball.

The Ilikai hotel's success led to a $10-million expansion, adding the elegant Pacific Ballroom. In 1974, having fulfilled his dream, Chinn Ho sold the property for $35 million. In 2000, the hotel was reflagged as the Ilikai Waikiki Hotel, a franchise of Marriott and managed by Interstate Hotels.

Nearly 40 years since opening, The Ilikai Waikiki Hotel celebrated the beginning of a new era. Ho's $27-million development received more than $27 million in enhancements, completed in March 2002. The dedication of a Wyland whale art sculpture, gracing the entrance, took place on March 6, 2002.

Today's Ilikai Waikiki Hotel is linked to a period when coconut palms towered over thatched hale (houses) and fishponds were built for Oahu's highest chiefs.Duke Kahanomoku

Kalia, the Hawaiian community where The Ilikai resides, was enriched by its beach-lined contact with the sea and the free-flowing waters of the Pi'inaio Stream. Fed by rains falling over the lush Ko`olau Mountains, the stream wove a braided course through Kalia's coastal wetlands, creating a broad, fan-shaped delta.

The Hawaiians who first settled in Kalia between the 12th and 14th centuries redesigned the landscape, draining wetlands and building walls and irrigation channels that made the area a maze of fishponds linked by narrow footpaths. In the 1450s, the ruling chief of Oahu, Mailikukahi, established Waikiki as the royal capital of his island kingdom. Its reef-sheltered waters provided easy access to the open sea-perfect for harvesting seaweed, as well as reef and deepwater fishing.

During the 20th century, Hawaii's political and economic ties to the United States created a new dynamic society. While native Hawaiian families remained in Kalia, they became neighbors to families such as the Enas and Paoas, as well as famed Olympic swimmer and renowned surfer Duke Kahanamoku's family line.

While Kalia retained the pace and feel of a tightly knit, local community, the 20th century saw the opening of some of Waikiki's first guesthouses and small hotels for vacationers making the five-day cruise from California.

Commercial jets made Hawaii more accessible to travelers, marking the beginning of a new era for Waikiki-transforming it from a sleepy neighborhood to one of the most popular travel destinations in the world.