There is not much allowed to stand in the way of progress along Waikiki Beach.

A visitor is apt to hear more jackhammers than ukuleles, and a writer who grew up here suggested not long ago that it might make more sense to hand tourists hard hats instead of flower leis when they get to town.

Before the advent of jet travel, when it took some real effort to get here, only three hotels stood along the beach - the Moana, the Royal Hawaiian and the Halekulani.

They are - or should be - historical landmarks, now, the kinds of places for which the word venerable was coined, slices of old Hawaii in a sea of slick, plastic highrises.

But history and economics don't mix.

The Moana has been expanded and remodeled. The Royal Hawaiian, now owned by Japanese interests and managed by the Sheraton Corp., cater primarily to packaged tour groups. And now the Halekulani, after 70 years, is about to succumb to the inexorable Waikiki sprawl.

It will be the end of an era.

The pressures of time and a state tax system conceived in the 1960s to promote development have caught up with the once-secluded old hotel and sometime this summer its 37 one-and two-story cottages are scheduled to be leveled.

In this place is planned a modern, 14-story hotel with almost triple the existing capacity.

Efforts to give the hotel a tax break by having it declared a historical landmark have not been successful, and even if they ahd been there is no assurance the development would not have gone forward.

"We're aware of the charm of the hotel and the attachment our guests and the community have for this place," William Clapp of Seatele, son of owner Norton Clapp, said. "At the same time, the operation must be economically feasible."

Squeezed on five acres and dwarfed by such neighbors as the Sheraton-Waikiki and the Cinerama Reef, the Halekulana has a rich history dating to the turn of the century when it was the site of the home of the Robert Lewere family, one of the early Caucasian familities in Honolulu.