The Royal Hawaiian Hotel Honolulu is one of Waikiki’s finest grand old hotels. It’s proud to be called the “Pink Palace of the Pacific” and is just as stylish and luxurious today as it was almost 100 years ago. The grand opening on 1 February 1927 marked the start of a new era of travel by the rich and famous to Honolulu.
After spending a couple of nights at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel Honolulu on Oahu I can testify that it has withstood the test of time. Let’s take a look at what makes it so special.
The History of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel Honolulu
The original 6-story, 400-room hotel was built in only 18 months at a cost of $4 million – a huge price tag for the time. It earned its “Pink Palace” nickname because of the stucco facade in bright pink complemented by the Spanish-Moorish architectural style. Warren and Wetmore of New York City, the architects, were apparently inspired by the Arabian movies of Hollywood film star Rudolph Valentino.
The introduction of weekly flights to Honolulu by Pan-American Airways in 1936 introduced a new era of opulence at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel Honolulu. It was an icon of Hawaii’s glory days which ended with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.
In the following years, the Royal Hawaiian became a rest and relaxation center for Navy personnel. It was only restored to its pre-war state by 1947 and remained the dominant luxury hotel on Waikiki Beach until the 1960s.
Since then, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel Honolulu underwent many upgrades. This included the addition of the Royal Tower Wing and the Mailani Tower. The hotel is now a Luxury Collection Resort with more than 500 rooms.
If you like to learn more about the history of the Royal Hawaiian, historical tours are conducted every Tuesday and Thursday at 13:00.
5 Reasons to Stay at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel Honolulu Today
1. Location, Location, Location
The Royal Hawaiian is spectacularly located on the famous Waikiki Beach. Hotel guests have access to a variety of beach activities and water sports. You can choose to go parasailing, surfing, snorkeling, or simply relax on the sand or next to the seaside pool.
Restaurants and shops of Kalakaua Avenue are only minutes away. Buy yourself an Aloha shirt at Newt’s, Reyn Spooner or Tori Richard. Or vintage-style Hawaiian flip-flops at Island Slipper. At the eastern end of Waikiki, Kalakaua Avenue follows the beach and the parks. And for something else, why not explore the Fort deRussy military reservation?
2. Rooms Fit for Royalty
The Royal Hawaiian Hotel Honolulu has no less than 528 rooms spread out in the Historic Wing and the Mailani Tower. This includes 33 suites of which 18 have ocean views. If you’re lucky enough, you can stay in one of four Prestige Suites where there is someone to attend to your every beck and call.
All guest rooms feature historic photographs and indigenous objects d’art to remind you of the special place you are staying in. I love the rooms in the historic wing with their boudoir pillows and bold pink and silver headboards. In the Mailani tower, each room offers a lanai experience for private ocean views.
3. Wining and Dining
Of course, the dining experience at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel Honolulu matches the general 5-star quality and service experienced everywhere on the premises. Recommendations are:
Mai Tai Bar – Sipping on the hotel’s famous variation of the Mai Tai cocktail at sunset is a must while staying at the Royal Hawaiian.
Azure Restaurant & Bar – World-class food in a world-class setting under the Spanish-Moorish canopy on the beachfront. You must order some of the locally caught fish or other fresh seafood.
Surf Lanai – More casual and relaxed that Azure, serving classical Hawaiian dishes. Like the others, it also has a prime beachside location.
4. The Abhasa Spa
You will find no other spa in Oahu in such a beautiful tropical garden setting. No wonder it’s ranked the no. 1 spa in Hawaii. You wouldn’t want to get up after enjoying a hot stone massage. Or how about a detox de-stress massage to get you in the holiday spirit?
Abhasa, which means illusion in Sanskrit, naturally also offers facials, body wraps, waxing, nail, and hair treatments. If you can’t settle for just one, there are some pretty attractive spa packages to choose from.
5. Guest Activities and Entertainment
If you can’t sit still even though you are on holiday, there is enough to keep you busy at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel Honolulu. A range of sporting and fun activities are organized every day to keep guests happy and entertained. They include:
Surfing introduction lesson
A traditional Hiu Wai sunrise cleansing ceremony
Flower lei making
Live entertainment at the Mai Tai Bar
Hawaiian quilting demonstrations
Island music, dances, and cuisine at the Aha Aina Luau show
Making your own shell bracelet
Fun Facts about the Royal Hawaiian Hotel Honolulu
Several rich and famous guests have laid their heads on the pillows of the Royal Hawaiian over the years. In fact, it was very popular among important statesmen and Hollywood stars shortly after its opening. The first official guest was Princess Abigail Kawananakoa, who would have been queen if the Hawaiian monarchy survived. Other early guests included Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The Royal Hawaiian has been featured in many motion pictures from 1931 to 2014. It started with the Charlie Chan film The Black Camel. The 2002 film Punch-Drunk Love and Big Eyes (2014) are the last two in which you will recognize the “Pink Palace”.
Murder She Wrote, Charlie’s Angels and Eight is Enough are three of the popular television series in which the Royal Hawaiian Hotel Honolulu appeared.
The Royal Hawaiian is even immortalized in a song. Joni Mitchell refers to it as the “pink hotel” in her 1970 song Big Yellow Taxi.
Nearby Things to Do and Places to Visit
Dating from 1926, the 184-feet tall Aloha Tower in Honolulu Harbor is almost as old as the Royal Hawaiian. The tower was originally built with two reasons in mind: it was to serve as a lighthouse and also to tell residents what time it was through a loud siren that went off 3 times a day.
Diamond Head State Monument is Hawaii’s most recognizable landmark. The monument parking area is a short drive from the Royal Hawaiian Hotel Honolulu or can even be reached on foot along the beach.
This unique crater was formed 300,000 years ago by a single volcanic eruption. Hiking to the summit on a clear and sunny day is a very rewarding activity. You can see so far across the ocean from up there, that the US Military used it as a post to prevent attacks against Honolulu.
The royal residence of Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs. The first occupant was King Kalakaua who had it built in 1882. Besides serving as the royal living quarters, Iolani Palace was also the political and cultural epicenter of Hawaii. Queen Lili’uokalani was the last official resident when the monarchy was overthrown in 1893.
At the turn of the 19th century, Iolani Palace was the capital of Hawaii when it became a United States Territory. It also served as military headquarters after Pearl Harbor was bombed. It has now been restored to its former grandeur and enjoys the status of a National Historic Landmark.
Kailua Beach Park
If you can manage to pull yourself away from the Royal Hawaiian and Waikiki Beach, a day at Kailua Beach Park is a great alternative. The 2,5-mile long beach on Oahu’s easterly shoreline has beautiful calm turquoise water and every facility for an enjoyable day on the beach.
What’s more is that the town of Kailua is a charming oceanfront community. The fine sandy beach, protected by Kailua Bay, definitely deserves its place as the 2nd best beach on Oahu.
Another famous beach on the north shore of Oahu. Waimea Bay is at the end of the Waimea Valley and the mouth of the Waimea River. Waimea means “reddish water”.
Waimea is most famous for its legendary surfing events. Winter storms create exceptionally large waves, making Waimea a popular destination for big wave surfers.
While you are here, make time to visit the Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau State Monument, a Native Hawaiian historical site. It is just above the bay off Pupukea Road. From there you will enjoy magnificent views of Waimea Bay and the Waianae mountain range.
Hawaii’s largest city, Honolulu stretches across Oahu’s South Eastern shore, all the way from Pearl Harbor to Makapuu Point. Somewhere in between lies Waikiki Beach and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel Honolulu. The name means “sheltered bay” in Hawaiian.
The cosmopolitan city is home to the majority of Hawaii’s population. Nearly one million people or 80% of the state’s residents live here. Despite the fact that it is highly populated, Honolulu was ranked one of the safest cities in the US in 2015.
Honolulu’s climate is moderate and tropical. There is very little variation in temperature during the course of the year. At the highest end of the spectrum, the temperatures reach around 90°F and at the lowest around 65°F. The ocean water is 82°F in summer and 77°F in winter, making it the warmest in the US.
The chances of your vacation being interrupted by rain are slim. The average rainfall in summer is less than half an inch compared to almost three inches in winter.