Hawaii in the 1960s: 23 Classic Photographs


Simply put, Hawaii in the 1960s was the place to be. The newest addition to the US, Hawaii fascinated Americans with its tropical temperatures, crystal blue waters, and rich culture.

Naturally, vacationers flocked to the state, as did many celebrities and politicians. Elvis Presley gave the island a popularity boost after filming “Blue Hawaii” in 1961, and as surf culture began to take the nation by storm, so did the state.
Keep scrolling to see some classic photos of Hawaii during its ’60s heyday.

Hawaii was granted statehood in 1959, and vacationers began to flock.

GettyImages 3142295

Stunt surfers in Hawaii, 1960. Keystone/Getty Images

Hawaii became a tourist hub in the 1960s and people flocked to the new and exotic state for vacation. According to the Smithsonian, “travel boomed in the subsequent decades” following World War II, especially “thanks to lower prices, new routes, more efficient aircraft.”

Americans romanticized Hawaii and all it had to offer.

GettyImages 55948926

Hula dancers circa 1960s. H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images

According to Huff Post, throughout the decade “a romanticized idea of Hawaii spread like wildfire, complete with tiki torches, bright aloha shirts and beautiful, tanned hula dancers.”

And surfing was the activity du jour.

GettyImages 480013113

Hawaiian boys surfing, 1960. Ralph Crane/The LIFE Premium Collection/Getty Images

Surfing has ancient Polynesian roots, but many Americans were unaware of the sport until the ’60s. The surf culture explosion of the decade had a lot to do with the Beach Boys’ 1962 hit “Surfin’ Safari.”

This couple decided to brave the waves of Waikiki in 1962.

GettyImages 50692245

Couple surfing, 1962. John Dominis/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Between 1960 and 1970, tourist arrivals increased from 296,000 per year to 1.7 million.

The clear waters of Oahu made for ideal surfing conditions.

GettyImages 700180588

Surfer in Oahu, 1963. George Silk/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

To this day, the surfing in Waikiki is world-renowned, and the beach even offers lessons.

GettyImages 700180616

Surfers in Oahu, 1963. George Silk/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Since the beach waters are super gentle, surfing is easy to learn along the coast of Oahu.

Pearl Harbor was also a big draw for tourists.

GettyImages 480013559

Mother and child visiting Pearl Harbor, 1960. Ralph Crane/The LIFE Premium Collection/Getty Images

You can still tour the historic site today.

Hawaii was beloved for its natural beauty and exotic vegetation.

GettyImages 480013553

Women sorting through flowers, 1960. Ralph Crane/The LIFE Premium Collection/Getty Images

Here, Hawaiian women are sorting through bright pink flowers.

It’s also an island with a rich history.

GettyImages 543617761

Women at Aloha Festivals. Archive Photos/Getty Images

To honor the history of the island, Hawaii has celebrated Aloha Week since 1946. In 1991, Aloha Week became Aloha Festivals — a statewide celebration with over 100,000 attendees on the island of Oahu. Here, two women are pictured at Aloha Festivals in Hawaii circa 1960.

The views from Waikiki Beach were stunningly blue.

GettyImages 552266849

Waikiki Beach circa 1960. Archive Photos/Getty Images

Sunbathing (shown above) is still a popular activity.

Elvis Presley also drew attention to the state after filming “Blue Hawaii” in 1961.

GettyImages 74291063Elvis at a press conference in Honolulu, 1961. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The King of rock ‘n’ roll was also largely responsible for the Hawaiian zeitgeist of the 1960s. Elvis Presley filmed the popular film “Blue Hawaii” on the islands of Oahu and Kauai in 1961, and it quickly became one of the superstar’s most successful forays in film. The soundtrack went Gold in 1961, and features the now-standard “Can’t Help Falling In Love.”

Other stars, like Don Ho, came out of Hawaii.

GettyImages 140994981Don Ho and company, 1968. NBCU Photo Bank

Don Ho was one of Hawaii’s most popular entertainers with a string of successful albums in the 1960s. Ho had fans worldwide and made many TV appearances throughout the decade.

The Beach Boys took their surf inspiration to its source in 1967.

GettyImages 74286364The Beach Boys, 1967. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Here, the legendary band is rehearsing for a performance at the Honolulu International Center.

Visitors loved to soak up the local culture — including hula dancing.

GettyImages 524230064Hula dancing, 1960. Eric Bard/Corbis via Getty Images

Guests at the Hawaiian Village Resort in 1960 are watching a traditional hula dance in the hotel’s lounge.

In this photo, Hawaiian Congresswoman Patsy Mink holds a traditional doll.

GettyImages 50543853Congresswoman Patsy Mink, 1960s. Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Hawaiian Patsy Takemoto Mink made history when she was elected to the House of Representatives in 1964: she became the first woman of color elected, and the first Asian-American congresswoman.

Hawaii wasn’t just for celebrities: world leaders and politicians frequently visited.

GettyImages 515501722President Lyndon Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, in Hawaii in 1966. Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

President Lyndon Johnson arrived on the island in October 1966, and he and his wife were greeted with leis.

Airport welcomes were customary, and they still are.

GettyImages 1063541868Women hula dancing at the airport, 1963. Roland Witschel/picture alliance via Getty Images

Dancers Rose Marie Alvaro and Priscilla Leggett showed their skills — and colorful dresses — on the tarmac in 1964.

GettyImages 1081620156Alvaro and Leggett, 1964. Barry James Gilmour/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Alvaro also appeared in an episode of Hawaii Five-O.

Actually, Rose Marie Alvaro won Hawaii’s Beauty of the Pacific contest in 1962.

GettyImages 106505209Rose Marie Alvaro, 1962. Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

She was a poster girl for the Hawaii Visitors Bureau.

Hawaii’s obvious beauty also inspired the fashion industry. Here’s a snapshot from Vogue’s Hawaii spread in 1966.

GettyImages 611837878Veruschka von Lehndorff, 1966. Franco Rubartelli/Condé Nast via Getty Images

Model Veruschka von Lehndorff poses in Hawaii for a Vogue photo spread wearing Oscar de la Renta circa 1966.

The beach provided a stunning backdrop for photographs.

GettyImages 611837896Veruschka von Lehndorff, 1966. Franco Rubartelli/Condé Nast via Getty Images

Hawaii even inspired the fashion itself.

GettyImages 509564944Veruschka von Lehndorff, 1966. Franco Rubartelli/Condé Nast via Getty Images

In this photo, Veruschka von Lehndorff sports a sarong pajama set designed by Sun Fashions of Hawaii in 1966.

At the end of the day, nothing beats Hawaii’s unique charm.

GettyImages 92744327Model posing in Hawaii, 1966. Tom Kelley/Getty Images

Source: insider.com