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Hotel Taharaa, Papeete, Tahiti (hotel)

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Name:Hotel Taharaa


I first learned about the Hotel Taharaa reading the Book of Tiki. The hotel was perched atop a hill above Moorea Bay outside of Papeete in Tahiti. The hotel had a majestic A frame, but the real Tiki connection occurred when Ed Crissman from Oceanic Arts carved a giant Tiki for the hotel.

I purchased a postcard recently showing the A-Frame structure on top of the hill.

Did some research and found some more images.

Another shot of the hotel.

A luggage sticker

Another view in a brochure

And, THE TIKI (photo from Armchair Travelling)

Here is the article about Ed Crissman and the photo from BOT.

The hotel is gone now.


...and then there is the photo on page 94 of Tiki Modern of that woman posing with the Ed Crissman giant. I found that pic at her estate sale. And also this one...that lady was one swinging gal:

We need more Wahines to dress like that at Tiki events!

Now here is a nice painting by my friend Moritz R. that was inspired by the Tahara'a:

DC, are you sure it is completely gone now? Because for years it stood closed up and deserted, DVD director Jochen got to sneak into the complex and shoot it for his documentary, I'm so jealous! That place, together with the Coco Palms
and the Rainmaker Hotel in Pago Pago
was on the top of my "Forgotten Tiki temples in the South Seas" list.

All three, Coco Palms (1956), the Rainmaker (1966) and the Tahara'a (1969) were built by Pete Wimberly's firm, the architect who build Canlis and the Waikikian/Tahitian Lanai.

Wowza, that's one exotic dame. Missed that pic in Tiki Modern.

Bigbro, you are right, the Taharaa buildings and Tiki still stand with no hotel operating, rotting in time like the Coco Palms. I read that there was an attempt at condos at one point.

I found some more current photos on Fickr.

Somebody's got to save that Tiki.


Well...what are we waiting for, let's go and sail to Tahiti!

Zeta posted on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 11:40 PM

So cool... So mysterious... I bet there's some tropical ghosts holding ectoplasmic Mai-tais in there... Mr. Dusty, the grass on the pictures you posted look like was recently cut. I guess those pictures where taken to show and try to sale the place... I would love to see come pictures of the place unkept and with some wild vegetation taking over. So so cool...


The flickr credits on the photos indicate they were taken in 2009, so they are fairly current.


You indicated that the hotel was designed by the famous Architect Peter Wimbly. I found some additional info on the architect Neal Prince who is credited with designing the interiors of all of the Inter-continental Hotels during this period using local materials and cultures.

I wonder if he ordered the Tiki from OA?

In January 1961, Mr. Prince was hired to work full time as the Director of Interior Design Division in the Pan-Am Development Department with the intention, at least in developing countries, that Inter-Continental Hotel would produce its International Hotels' Interior Designs "in-house" and be reimbursed at cost under the TSA's. Mr. Prince shortly engaged Kenneth Smith, an International Interior Designer from the Walter M. Ballard Firm, and Charles R. Alvey, a famous specialist in Graphics and Industrial Design. Mr. Prince's concepts and ideas were the forefront of its time, after designing and opening as many as 154 International Inter-Continental Hotels from 1961-1985, Mr. Prince gained the deepest respect on the International Interior Design level. Mr. Prince is a person who uses function with ethnic style which mostly are lacking in today’s designs. With his ability to design each new Hotel using local materials and talents, such as the native artists and craftsman, he produced each Hotel with its own National personality and flare but maintained the Corporate highest standards of Inter-Continental Hotel. Mr. Prince gained the respect and acceptance by the local authorities. This in turn avoided any local resistance in building the new Hotels around the world. With the assistance of Charles R. Alvey, Kenneth Smith, James Ray Baker and Richard W. Simpson, Mr. Prince created an industry of International Hotel Designs and personalities that reflected the Country in each property. Inter-Continental Hotels gained much growth and respect throughout the world by those concepts of designs. Still today, his work is unknown on a domestic level, but his concepts and designs are still cherished by all guest, management and the organization of Inter-Continental Hotels Group

Another shot showing the rooms built into the side of the hill overlooking the bay.


[ Edited by: Dustycajun 2010-06-27 15:50 ]

Interesting, good find.

On 2010-06-27 15:45, Dustycajun wrote:
Mr. Prince is a person who uses function with ethnic style which mostly are lacking in today’s designs. With his ability to design each new Hotel using local materials and talents, such as the native artists and craftsman, he produced each Hotel with its own National personality and flare but maintained the Corporate highest standards of Inter-Continental Hotel.

Using local materials and talents, and native artists and craftsmen -- like Ed Crissman at Oceanic Arts in Whittier, California? National personality and flair (!) -- like a Maori Tiki in Tahiti? :D

Another thing worth mentioning is the fact that though the Tahara'a Tiki was certainly the tallest ever carved by O.A., they used its design repeatedly for the Kona Kai chain. Its main characteristic is that it is holding a whale bone war club:

It was initially designed by Irving Weisenberg for the Kona Kai flag ship at the Philadelphia Marriot, but the Chicago Kona Kai at the O'Hare Marriot had two versions in different sizes at its exterior (on the right). One of these resides at Duke Carter's place now, you can see it in Tiki Quest.

Another thing I noticed about the Tahara'a giant is that he seems to have been brought to his knees. Unfortunately the postcard does not show its base...

...but there is one big difference between this photo shot at its inception at O.A. in 1968...

...and the swinger gal photo shot in 1979:

The Tiki was shortened at its knees. Initially, because he was too tall? Or years later, because of wood rot?
I bet Leroy or Bob would know...

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2010-06-27 18:58 ]

I am guessing that with the onset of wood rot the tiki became unstable and they were forced to cut off the bottom. Then to make it stable again they pured cement around it to make the new base and hold the tiki in place. The base looks very round and perfect.

Or they had the wooden base already cemented into the ground, so that the feet were ground level, and then just poured a cement base around the feet up to the knees?

Hope this helps!

Thanks, yes. So it was erected in its complete form, and later (as I suggested above) they poured an additional base around it.

Oh man, I wanna go there so badly and photograph this guy and that place!

Bail Tekey,

Thanks for posting that great photo, mystery solved on the disappearing legs.


Great research as always, thanks for adding to the post. Looks like you need to swing by Tahiti on your next trip abroad.

Here is another postcard showing the incredible location of the hotel on Moorea Bay. It's really bewildering that this property has laid dormant for so long.



Wonderful, wonderful place! Thanks for sharing this info guys.

I couldn't help but try to dig around on the Net for more info myself...You all most likely found this already, but it looks like from the discussions I found here:


That the Hotel contained the following:
"Captain Cook Restaurant, Mahana Terrace ( Polynesian specialties), Discovery Bar, Mahana Bar, La Grotte Snack Bar "

Plus - "There is talk of remodeling it into a senior living complex."

I can't think of a better place to be able to go to gum one's Jello down :)


When we were there a couple years ago, I started walking around the trail that leads up to the building to get some pictures, as I was really dying to see this tiki. I made it part way, but then I thought better of it, as I really didn't want to spend the rest of my vacation on a stinky french jail in Tahiti. I wasn't able to get an angle to be able to tell if the tiki was still there, unfortunately......


wow, awesome research. Yes, I wish I could go back there too, and kiss that tiki.
I didn't know the great Moritz painting that I have loved for so long was inspired by the hotel. Thanks.

Zeta posted on Wed, Jun 30, 2010 9:00 AM

Virani, you been there? Please show some pictures.

Martian Tiki just posted this video link on the 1964 Miami Beach Luau thread that shows some great shots of the inside and outside of the Hotel Taharaa!


Gotta love Tiki Central for the dynamic flow of info.


Babalu posted on Thu, Jul 1, 2010 8:08 AM

Man, what a place!

Interesting tiki by the pool there too...

It's like an imagined paradise in paradise...how cool is that!

Also interesting are those mugs shown...doesn't that one green mug (19:52ish) look like the Cobra Fang mug that is sitting on the shelf over there at OA? It would make since I guess...

Some more images of the hotel:

:up: Unfortunately, I don't own this brochure, so can't post a larger or clearer image.

Zeta posted on Wed, Jul 7, 2010 10:27 PM

Congrats Martian-tiki! One more post and you will become a tiki socialite. I really admire your sources. You are king at posting Hi-res links and obscure connections. Great research! Respect! Sabu and Dusty too, but that's not new.

Wow....hotel employees on the rampage, forcing guests to leave their rooms...if that doesn't spell the deathblow to a hotel, I don't know what does.

I just found a matchbook from that hotel last weekend:

Buzzy Out!

On 2010-07-07 22:27, Zeta wrote:
Congrats Martian-tiki! One more post and you will become a tiki socialite. I really admire your sources. You are king at posting Hi-res links and obscure connections. Great research! Respect! Sabu and Dusty too, but that's not new.

Thanks Zeta - I missed the post where it turned over but thanks for alerting me. You are, I'm sure, the Rey of all spanish tiki-dom.

once again this is my favorite thread

I just got this really nice old news wire photo of the A-Frame and the Tiki at the Taharaa Hotel during the pre-opening phase of the project.

Here is the description on the back of the photo.

It is so cool that this Tiki still survives (even if a little shorter). Maybe we can send Hakalugi over to Tahiti to get it rescued (like the Redondo Beach Barney West)!


Cool pic. Did they trace the outlines for some graphic lay out, you think?


Damn DC!!! ( I'm just upset out of jealousy! ; - ) )
I was watching that!
It's a fine specimen, indeed.
Congrats, man!


The photo has some blue/purple hi-lights around the A-Frame and Tiki, not sure what the heck it was for but it looks really cool in person.


Thanks, having started this thread I was especially stoked to have grabbed this beauty. The old photos are the bomb.


Got a new postcard with a double view of the Hotel Taharaa.

Another photo of the Crissman Tiki under the A-frame.

And this is nice, the back side of the A-frame and the stone wall with the Polynesian motif.


Love the photos, thank you, Wendy

Thanks Wendy.

Here is a photo of the artist rendering for the Taharaa as seen on ebay.



Spectacular, yes, but also a harbinger of how mass tourism blew up the human scale of recreational edifices until the romance of the South Seas was no more.

Waikiki being the classic case, this unchecked development is what rightfully lead the younger generation to become disenchanted with their forefathers ways.

Don's original International Marketplace, the original Hilton Hawaiian Village, and the Waikikian Hotel vs the Ililkai are all examples of how capitalism bulldozed the grass hut.

No No posted on Thu, Aug 22, 2013 2:15 PM

Hi guys.... I found this site last spring and have meant to post something ever since, but I forgot about it. The posts seem to be months/years apart but if anyone is interested, I think I could add a little history. I am a 77 year old adventuresome kid who was there before ground was broken on the hotel's construction and worked on the "team" to see it through to fruition. I know the history. (sort of) I can tell you many stories that only a few of the "Inner Circle" of the construction team know. But alas, most of them are pushing up daises now. So unless I write a book about it, this forum may be the last place to present some interesting factoids. Let me know of any interest.

Yes, please, first-hand reports from such Tiki "power places" as the Hotel Tahara'a would be much appreciated!

No No posted on Fri, Aug 23, 2013 7:36 AM

Great! What I can remember after 46 years might stir up some interest in both me and the "Tiki Community". I will set about to gather my thoughts and facts and return with my first subject post in a few days.


Well, where to begin? At the beginning is a good place I guess. Joseph M. Long was born in Covelo, Calif. A one room school house provided him with all the education he would get prior to heading off to U. C. Berkeley with his first pair of store bought shoes in tow. His mother was the teacher at this little school house and done him right proud. With a couple of degrees under his belt, he set about to build a retail empire with his brother, Tom. Over 450 stores in 7 states unfortunately culminated in the sale of the Longs Drug Store family run chain to CVS a few years back.
Somewhere along the line, Joe developed a love affair with Polynesia and the fruition of that dream was: Societe Hoteliere De Tahara'a, more commonly referred to as Hotel Tahara'a.
Got to go for now. I will post more later

[ Edited by: no no 2013-08-25 15:06 ]

No No posted on Sat, Aug 24, 2013 3:18 PM

What one must realize about this man was the fact that he was the antithesis of a "headline grabber" He quietly moved behind the scenes making things happen. He was a caring person who had a strong passion for furthering education as was demonstrated by the many philanthropic causes to which he donated millions. A keen sense of the great outdoors and a love for flora and fauna was enhanced by the tropics and their mysterious beauty. After successfully developing the Del Webb Townhouse in San Francisco, he expanded his hotel interests to Bora Bora, where over the water bungalows were an instant hit.
As an aside, when he saw all the beautiful children on the island smile, he was greeted with almost all toothless smiles.....too much sugar cane! He set about to correct that problem. A state of the art dental clinic was built and he invited his dentist friends to Bora Bora for a free stay. One catch....they must ply their trade. Soon there were no cavities an the island. No one was afraid to smile.
Then, it was on to Tahiti and the culmination of his tropical paradise vision. After extended negotiations with the French authorities, the green light was given to proceed. He gathered together his team and the work began.

"THE TEAM" consisted of the following players:

  1. Architectural firm - Wimberly, Whisenand, Allison & Tong - Honolulu, Hawaii - George Whisenand AIA (boots on the ground)
  2. General Contractor - Swinerton & Walberg, S.F. Calif.- Don Leyman - Site Construction Manager - "Tex" was the Supt. (got things done)
  3. Interior Designer - Neil Prince - New York, NY - He put the ambience in every nook and cranny of the hotel.

No No, welcome to Tiki Central. Wow this story is really interesting and you just got started. I am looking forward to all you are going to share here. Please continue as often as you can even if it's just a small tidbit of history at a time. We are honored you are here. Thanks for your memories!

No No posted on Sat, Aug 24, 2013 4:06 PM

Sorry...ran out of room. Soooo... "The team" continues:
4) IHC (as they were known) was selected to manage the hotel. I never dealt with them they were aloof. Inter Continental Hotels was a subsidiary of Pan American Airlines who owned 35% of the action.
5) Edward Fearon - Joe's man in Polynesia - He looked over what IHC was doing and kept track of the goings on in Bora Bora.
6) Landscape Architect - Parry Laird (me)- Volcano, Calif.- Designed and oversaw the installation of the gardens and pitch & put golf course.

We worked closely together to ensure that the project moved along smoothly, on time, on budget and that it was built to the highest quality standards that we could achieve in such a remote location

[ Edited by: no no 2013-09-09 20:30 ]


Fantastic stuff No No. Nothing better then when the people that lived it come and share their experiences. Thank You!


Fantastic stuff No No. Nothing better then when the people that lived it come and share their experiences. Thank You!

No No posted on Sun, Aug 25, 2013 4:06 PM

A little more....
Tiki Toli, 8ft Tiki, and bigbrotiki....thank you all for your encouraging remarks. I will try to keep the creative juices flowing as best I can.

A few things you should know about me so you can understand better where I am coming from, is the fact that I am a detail oriented, organized technical person. Friends call me "Mr. Clean." I never met the standards of my super demanding parents, so for years, I thought of myself as an "low potential, low achiever." That self impression began to change about the time I was included as the last and youngest addition to "the team" I was like a mouse in the corner trying to sop up all the knowledge I could from this high powered group of professionals. George Whisenand took me under his wing and together we explored the design potentials for the integration of the landscape with the structure. I will tell you a few of the most interesting ones, but first I must digress. I would like to clarify a few things: Inter Continental Hotels did not ever own Tahara'a. They were brought on board as a "Hotel Managing Partner" so to speak. Also,in a few posts,the entrance structure was innocently referred to as an "A" frame. It is more correctly considered architecturaly a hyperbolic parabola and the French in Tahiti called it a Porte Cochere. The massive size was intended to provide the visitor with a "WOW" factor first impression. The Tiki's size was right in scale and an integral part of that "WOW" concept.

Thank you No No for all this background. So if the O.A. Tiki was made to scale, does this answer my earlier question of...

On 2010-06-27 18:48, bigbrotiki wrote:

The Tiki was shortened at its knees. Initially, because he was too tall? Or years later, because of wood rot?

...the cutting of the feet must have been due to rot?

Ever since I found out that the builder of the Tahara'a was American (and retired in Glendale CA, if I recall correctly?) I wanted to know more about the whole story. I found this out from the manager of the Royal Tahitian Hotel in Papeete, an English gentleman who once been a manager at the Tahara'a (I think his name was, err, Roger ?.....? - I am glad YOU have such good memory :) ) and who sold me the last original Royal Tahitian logo shirt they had there.


P.S.: Comparing the photos of the Tiki in this thread again, it actually looks more like they did not CUT the Tiki's feet, they just poured a new base of concrete around them, to strengthen a base probably weakened by time and climate.

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2013-08-26 01:41 ]

No No posted on Tue, Aug 27, 2013 7:30 PM

first of all...to Dustycajun, I meant no offense concerning your "A" frame references. For if it was not for you and all your great posts I would not have had my Polynesian fires rekindled! I guess that is the "Mr. Clean" in me.
With regards to the Tiki and the surrounding mystery, I was not there for its installation nor do I know who commissioned the work. But I can speculate. First, there were 4 woods available on the Pacific coast at that time....pine, fir, redwood and cedar of a size suitable for such a carving. Ponderosa pine, the cheapest, was chosen to use. It is the most susceptible to termites and rot and would have been my last choice. By comparing the chin height of the Tiki to the lower edge of the glu-lam beams supporting the Porte Cochere in the first available photos (new landscaping) to more recent photos, you can see there is no difference in height. Hence, the Tike is still at the original mounting height. The base came later and was constructed around the carving as it was originally installed. Preventative measures must have been taken at that time to protect it from rot and termites and to structurally secure it to the base (I hope), otherwise it would have fallen over a long time ago. I am not sure that this is what happened. I am just realizing, after 46 years, that I got left out of the loop! I checked my landscape plans and found only a note to a drawn circle in the center of the turn around stating "Tiki here." I wish I knew more....more research...more research!
That is the long way around to say "I think you are correct," Bigbrotiki.

[ Edited by: No No 2013-08-27 19:36 ]

[ Edited by: No No 2013-08-27 19:37 ]

No No posted on Thu, Aug 29, 2013 3:09 PM

It never ceases to amaze me that a team that worked so well could have had such bad communication problems. Case in point: Neal Prince commissioned a 21 ton REDWOOD Tiki. Ed Crissman used a PONDEROSA PINE to carved a 20 foot tall tiki weighing 5 1/2 tons. Neal wanted it in the lobby and it ended up about where I showed it on my landscape plan because he thought it was too heavy. hmmmm. A break for me!

Imagine the fact that no one on the island knew how to carve a tiki .....give me a break! His writers need to make up better stories and write in more better English. (See excerpt from Neal Prince Trust below)

Comments: http://www.nealprince-asid.com

Mr. Prince designed the interiors of the Hotel. During this time, no one on the island had the skills or the know how to carve a Tikis. Thus, Mr. Prince hired the Oceanic Arts Inc., of Whittier, California (USA) to produce Mr. Prince's sketches. The owners of said firm, Leroy Schmaitz and Robert Van OOsting produced the 21-foot Tiki for Mr. Prince. When the Tiki was delivered, the Tiki was to be placed in the lobby of the Hotel. However, due to the weight and height of the Tiki, it was not able to fit. So, the telephone Mr. Prince and inquire what to do with the Tiki. Mr. Prince asked where the Tiki is now, and the Mr. Crissman noted that it is currently located in the front of the hotel, which Mr. Prince replied, "Great, then leave it right there!!". And so, it remain an icon of the Hotel for many years until the Hotel closed.

No No posted on Sun, Sep 22, 2013 7:41 PM

Well, I am back again to hopefully add a little color to this part of the Tahara'a story.
croe67, you might appreciate this tale more than the others. Where you were on the trail to the black sand beach is just about where this story begins. It was in the spring of 1967 on a beautiful sunny day. The rough outline of the "Passage Way to Paradise" trail as we then called it, was slowly forging its way to the beach. Tex, the gruff, ram rod, project superintendent was concerned with the progress of the brush cutting crew as it related to the tight schedule we were on. He decided to leave the confines of the job shack and check out the progress for himself. When he came to the point on the trail, just about where you were, he was flabbergasted to see all 11 members of the crew sitting on the side of the trail singing songs. In a loud voice, with hands and arms gesturing,he expressed his displeasure with their progress. The interpreter tried his very best to convey the superintendent's concerns but to no avail. The crew foreman, however, got the message. Without hesitation, he climbed the nearest cocoanut tree barefoot, cut one and came back down to the ground. With one swipe of his machete, he clipped off the top. With the whitish milk splashing out, he handed it to Tex, sat down and resumed singing and playing his uke. In a fit of anger, Tex fired the entire crew on the spot. He told the interpreter to hire more men. What he did not know was the fact that this was the only brush cutting crew on the island. No one else would work in their place. After almost a month of attempted recruiting, which turned out to be an exercise in futility, Tex ate humble pie, apologized, gave them a raise and soon they were back on the job. MORAL: Tahitian Culture....learn it and engage your brain before your mouth. When a Tahitian offers you a drink, Tahitian style, graciously accept it and then talk calmly. It's a great trail!

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