I think in reviewing this classic hotel it is important to know a little of this landmark’s history. The Royal Hawaiian opened on February 1, 1927. The then six-storey, 400-room structure was fashioned in a Spanish-Moorish style, popular during the period and influenced by screen star Rudolph Valentino. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin described the newly opened Royal Hawaiian as “the first resort hostelry in America”. Set on ten acres of prime Waikiki beachfront, the hotel’s site boasts a majestic lineage having been used as a playground for King Kamehameha after he conquered the island of Oahu.
The Royal Hawaiian Hotel was built as a luxury resort for Matson Cruise Line passengers, before the advent of air travel across the Pacific, the only means of reaching Hawaii was a minimum five day sea voyage from the US mainland.
Child actress Shirley Temple created a stir by strumming the ukulele on Waikiki Beach when she visited the Royal in the 1930s.
In January 1942, the hotel was taken over by the United States Navy as a rest and recreation center for those serving in the Pacific Fleet.
The Royal Hawaiian was re-opened to the public in February 1947 after a nearly $2 million renovation. In 1959 ITT Sheraton purchased The Royal Hawaiian from Matson. The Royal Tower Wing was added in 1969 and then sold to Kyo-ya Company, Ltd., with Starwood Hotels & Resorts operating it under a long-term management contract.
My wife and I spent a few days at The Royal Hawaiian on a recent Hawaiian vacation. I’ve always had a soft spot for what many affectionately call “The Pink Palace”. On arrival we received a very warm welcome, with the traditional lei and a glass of their signature Pink Lemonade. We were seated at a desk for our check-in formalities, which made for a comfortable start.
The hotel consists of the original building and a newer tower. The majority of rooms in the original building do not have balconies. We always choose to stay in the more modern tower in which, I believe, the rooms are larger and all possess spacious balconies overlooking Waikiki Beach. Our room also had outstanding views to Diamond Head. The additional cost for rooms with a premium view is well worth it. Sitting on the balcony watching the sun go down each evening is a real delight. For some reason the sunsets in Hawaii are never to be forgotten.
The rooms and bathrooms, although comfortable and spacious, could perhaps do with a slight modernization. The in room coffee making machine was appreciated, it made a great cup of coffee.
Breakfast in the main restaurant, situated literally on the beach, was a most pleasant experience. Their Eggs Benedict must be tried, perhaps one of the best I have ever tasted.
The spacious gardens and verandahs located around the property makes for a very relaxing ambience, especially sitting on their rocking chairs. There were several weddings on the lawns which we enjoyed watching during our stay.
Their famous Mai Tai Bar in the garden beside the beach is a not to be missed attraction, especially at sunset where guests and locals alike gather to listen to the live Hawaiian band that plays till late. Light snacks were also available. We made several new friends at the Mai Tai Bar.
There are several excellent shops in an arcade within the property and the piece de resistance is “Newts” Hawaiian shirt and Panama hat shop located by the garden. More great shops, galleries and restaurants can be found in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center that stretches along Kalakaua Avenue which is the main tourist and shopping street in Waikiki.
One should consider a stay at this iconic property an experience that you will always remember.