With the opening of the first thirty-one units of the Hotel Molokai in December 1966, the newspapers heralded it as Molokai's “first modern tourist hotel,” the island's “first major bid for tourism.” Newspaper coverage emphasized tourism's favorable welcome by the people of Molokai, but also acknowledged the hotel as a harbinger of change, an element of the outside world intruding on what had been a relatively isolated rural community.
South Sea Resorts, headed by Frank S. Robert, sought to integrate the hotel with the spirit of Molokai. The informality and tranquility of the open-air office sets the tone for this low-key hotel, with its present fifty-five units housed in eleven one-and two-story cottages. Steep, flared, shingled rooflines, characterized by Robert as “a restudy of the A-frame,” dominate the hotel's design. This distinctive form evokes, in a nonderivative manner, Polynesian thatched architecture. Recessed lanai, accessed through sliding doors, contribute to the tropical ambiance and lend another dimension of repose and outdoor living. The thatch-roofed poolside lanai/concession area and some entrance-flanking carved tikis complete the popular visitor image of Hawaii. Located in an existing coconut grove at Kamiloloa Beach, the 2.5-acre site's landscaping adds more than tropical lushness. The origins of the plantings serve as a reminder of Molokai's generous community spirit, as the island's residents donated plant materials from their yards for the site. The hotel pool constructed in 1966 was the first on the island.
Frank S. Robert (1918–1969) graduated from the University of Oregon, and then studied with Eliel Saarinen at Cranbrook Academy of Art. He came to Hawaii in 1955 and designed the Naniloa Hotel (1966) in Hilo and the Kauai Surf Hotel (1960; demolished) at Nawiliwili. In addition to operating the Hotel Molokai, he was president of Air Molokai until his death.