Legendary Kauai Icon Larry Rivera Passes Away at 92
Larry Rivera, a legendary fixture of Kauai, Hawaii whose career spanned over seven decades and who worked alongside Elvis Presley in ‘Blue Hawaii’ has passed away at the age of 92. Also known as “Mr. Coco Palms,” Rivera was a key fixture of Kauai’s entertainment culture where he started his career in the 50s and performed at the famed Coco Palms Resort until it closed.
Larry remained a mainstay of entertainment and was known throughout the Hawaiian Islands. In 1951, Rivera took a job as a waiter at a small lodge on Kauai’s east shore. After being drafted into the U.S. Army and stationed on Oahu, he formed a music group and entered a talent contest with thirty other acts under the name “The Beach Boys,” ten years before the Wilson brothers in California. The trio finished first, giving Rivera the confidence to chase his dream as an entertainer.
After his honorable discharge from the Army, Rivera returned to Kauai, and his job, to find it had been sold and renamed The Coco Palms Resort. Finding the second love of his life (the first being his beautiful wife, Gloria) with his passion for music, Rivera soon became part of the nightly entertainment at The Coco Palms Resort. Never missing a beat; writing, and performing his original music, Rivera was making a name for himself on several Hawaii radio stations and quickly became a local legend. He remained at The Coco Palms Resort until its closure in 1992 due to the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Iniki.
In 1953, Hollywood discovered the beauty of The Coco Palms Resort and came to the island of Kauai to film ‘Miss Sadie Thompson,’ starring Rita Hayworth and Jose Ferrer. Due to the beauty of the resort and its rising popularity as a popular Hawaiian destination, the Hollywood blockbuster, ‘Blue Hawaii,’ starring Elvis Presley began production in 1961. During production, Rivera met Presley on the set, and they became fast friends. Throughout the years and during several return trips to Kauai, Presley continued to support his friend and even joined Rivera on stage at their beloved resort.
After the closing of The Coco Palms Resort, Rivera continued to perform weddings on the same raft that Elvis’ character, “Chadwick ‘Chad’ Gates” was married on, and entertained guests that were taking tours of the beloved grounds. He has earned many accolades and awards throughout his career including a Na Hoku Hanohano Lifetime Achievement Award and was fondly revered as Kauai’s “living legend of Hawaii music.”
Rivera is survived by his wife, Gloria, six children, seventeen grandchildren, and countless fans from around the world who took comfort in his lyrics and humble personality. During every conversation and throughout his shows, Rivera always performed his popular single “Love And Aloha,” using his music to spread kindness, hope, and the true Kauai spirit.