The Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial is a World War I living memorial on Oahu, Hawaii, USA. It is a salt-water swimming pool built in the ocean on Waikiki’s San Souci beach.
History of the Natatorium
The memorial was designed to honor the ~10,000 men and women from Hawaii who served and the 101 who gave their lives during World War I. The opening ceremony took place on 24 August 1927.
- Read more about the history of the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial.
The Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial is currently closed to the public due to disrepair and neglect by the local and state government. It has been shuttered since the 1980s, and there is an ongoing effort to try and preserve the memorial and the legacy of those who served, sacrificed.
Documentary ‘The Tank’
The most recent effort is a documentary film The Tank which chronicles the role of the Natatorium in the lives of thousands of Oahu children and families, as well as the world-class swimming culture that was spawned by olympians and local folks.
We regularly hold memorial services on the park grounds of the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial. Consider attending for Memorial day and Veterans day. But there are more ways to help honor this memorial, and preserve it for future generations. You can help!
- Consider ways to contribute time, effort, and financial support.
Friends of the Natatorium
This website is run by the Friends of the Natatorium is a registered 501c3 non-profit organization which is dedicated to saving the natatorium from destruction.
- Info on the 2022 Memorial Day Observance at the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium — Sunday, May 29, 10 a.m.
- A Memorial Day Message from the Friends of the Natatorium
- Yes, we will observe Memorial Day and honor America’s war dead in 2020 — just differently
- Support the work of the Friends of the Natatorium. Mahalo!
- Mahalo, Natatorium supporters!
- Honor our Veterans at the Natatorium, 11 a.m. on Monday — Veterans Day
- Attend the 2019 Memorial Day Observance, Sunday, May 26, at the Natatorium
- Action Alert: Send a Letter Now to Support Honolulu’s New Plan for the Natatorium
- Join us! 100th anniversary of the end of World War I; observances at the Natatorium
- Attend the Natatorium Memorial Day Ceremony, Sunday, May 27
Looking for places to visit when we vacation in Hawaii next month. This would have been pretty high on our list if it was open. Hope Hawaii can find a way to continue honoring the people who sacrifices in the past so that the people today can have what they have…..
What a relevant comment Mike! The Friends of the Natatorium are continuing to support the city and state efforts to work together with a public/private partnership and get things moving to restore this iconic community gathering place.
The Waiki Natatorium is a wonderful place and to honor what it represents
Thanks for your thoughts Jim. These next two years are going to be big for the Natatorium and other WWI memorials around the globe. -Mo Radke
As this place has long been there, was t actually assigned a CCH street address?
Having a memorial that is in deplorable condition due to 50 years of neglect is a dishonor to our WWII vets. There is no longer a need or desire for a salt water pool located on the shore of one of the world’s finest beaches. Honor our vets by demolishing the deteriorating structure, restoring the beach, and either move the arch forward or build a new structure in the park. Fifty years of government inaction is enough.
Actually, it is a World War I memorial, and is 90 years old.
I hope it’s a goal date for restoring use and the structure. At least for by the 100th anniversary it would be nice to sit for sunsets,sunrise,watch the ocean and ….:) It’s be nice to have the seating back…
Michael R Kennedy
It is deplorable that our great country neglects any memorial that honors our troops’ who fought valiantly to keep our country safe and protected our constitutional rights as American citizens. To keep the republic alive and well. Sometimes I feel Hawaii is not treated as part of the republic. Government officials need to pay more attention to Hawaii and preserving its great history. Thank you Thomas Riddle, for your post.
I remember this place it is truly a shame what the govt has done. one other problem is parking. its so hard to find parking even with it closed I cant imagine what it would be like if it did open back up. where would anyone park??????
The site was closed in 1979, that was 38 years ago. It’s current state is a tribute to the effectiveness of the Hawaii Democratic Party.
Maybe they could fix it up after they build a train to the mainland – per the Green New Deal
I found this WWI Memorial by chance, it really is beautiful even in its current condition, I truly hope to see it fully restored one day.
Mahalo, Trish. We’re with you!
How can I donate and get tickets for Bruno mars concert?
Thanks for your interest, Sherry! Unfortunately, the Bruno Mars tie-in ended earlier this month. But you can still support reopening the Natatorium by clicking on the “Donate” button on any page at https://natatorium.org/. Mahalo!
alice wright belknap
My father Ralph R Wright Sr. broke a World and Olympic Record 200 Meters Breaststroke in this pool under the great Coach Sakamoto in 1946. This was a salt water pool, also my dad was a member of the 800 freestyle relay team that won the the gold medal. Hawaii Swimming under Coach Sakamoto was the National Champions that year as well. Ralph R. Wright died in 1966 but is alive in Spirit at the University of Louisville, The Ralph R. Wright Natatorium. Under our great coach Arthur Albiero we are a world class college swimming program with swimmers in the last 3 Olympics, Beijing, London, Rio. We are blessed and we are highly motivated. I would love to see the restoration of the War Memorial Natatorium, it is a tribute to Hawaii swimming !!!
Mahalo for sharing your story, Alice! Folks can see photos of the Ralph Wright Natatorium here. A beautiful facility! And there’s more about Coach Wright’s many contributions to U.S. swimming here.
I belong to the National American Legion Press Association. For our upcoming centennial, states have been asked to submit photos and information about their veteran memorials. Hawaii has a submission and a link to this website. However,unlike the other states, a picture of your memorial is not uploaded to the opening page of http://www.legion.org/memorials For your information and possible action.
For God & Country, Vernel Warren, Historian American Legion Auxiliary Unit 583 Eatonton, GA
Mark L Coggins
I did a lot of diving there in the 1960’s from the tower which was 39 feet tall.
i think the waikiki Natatorium should not be taken down because its been there 91 years ago and it is a great place to chill and swim.
I think we should keep it open because one of the schools in Hawaii will want to make a trip but if not then the people who are gonna close it down will be in the shit pool
I swam and dove in the Natatorium in the early sixties. I loved it then and would love to see it reopened. As an unthinking teenager, I didn’t know at the time it was a memorial! Now, as a 70 something, I will donate to its restoration. Thanks for all the information!
11/11/2018. Why not move the most ornate portion of the Natatorium entry and several arches inland closer to Kalakaua Avenue, demolish the old bleachers and pond walls behind it, and open up the beach? That way everybody is happy. The War Memorial is wall is preserved, the grounds can be beautified and maintained, and the beach is now accessible. — from Kea’au, Hawaii
Thanks for your comment, Sonya! We appreciate your interest in this issue. The “new beach” option is actually (and counter-intuitively) a more expensive option than the preservation/perimeter deck option. Why? First, it involves the demolition and removal of the stands (and the extensive environmental permitting process that would go with it). Second, the arches could not just be moved; they are integral to the current structure. They would not survive the demolition and would have to be re-created. Third, demolition would force a probably expensive relocation of the lifeguard office located under the current Natatorium stands. Fourth, and the biggest reason the alternative you suggest would be so expensive: oceanography. If you look at very old photos, you learn that, before the Natatorium was built, there was no Kaimana Beach. It is the structure of the Natatorium itself that has trapped sand on the Diamond Head side, creating and preserving Kaimana Beach. If the Natatorium is demolished, there will have to be replacement groins built in the water not only to create the proposed new beach, but also to preserve Kaimana Beach.
With all that, the city’s draft environmental impact statement concludes that the preservation option is cost-competitive and actually significantly cheaper than creating a beach where the Natatorium now stands. Thanks again for your interest!
Having visited Hawaii once a year for the last 3 years I find it shocking that state and local government can’t see the tourist potential in this Great War memorial. Have these politicians got no foresight.
we should fix it and reopen it to the public for free.
Guys I hung around wiz when we were Jr. High school 1953 0r 1955 made rubber nose-guard from used inner rubber tubes and went to top of diving platform and jumped off – rubber nose guard was to keep water from going up our nose. Thinking back was good fun. Like others I hope they reopen Natatorium. Mahalo Iko
It is a major part of history, culture, and Waikīkī itself. Been surfing nearby for 25 yrs and I can’t imagine Kaimana Beach without it. So glad it will remain standing
The Natatorium devoted towards those who served from Hawaii and died should be restored instead of destroyed. The cost to demolish the structure far exceeds the cost to rehabilitate.
Quoted from Savingplaces.org: “Equally important, the city’s plan is fiscally prudent, as a revised cost estimate found that rehabilitation ($31.8 million) would cost less than demolition ($35.2 million).”
In a 10 year span in the 1990’s they demolished 5 beautiful and historic art deco theaters as well as several landmarks. Then I got to see the renovation of the Natatorium only for it to be abandoned and fall into despair again. What is wrong with Hawaii??? Complete this amazing part of history while we still have it and charge people to use it. Stop destroying our past!