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Discover the Royal Hawaiian Hotel (Pink Palace)

There is more to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel than meets the eye. The Pink Palace of the Pacific is one of the most visually striking beachfront buildings in Waikiki, but the secret of its uniqueness is not just in its looks. This pink lady is not only a luxury hotel, she truly is a palace! You will feel the difference if you spend your dream Hawaiian vacation here.

Royal Hawaiian Hotel Entrance

Anyone taking a walk down Waikiki beach cannot overlook this flamingo pink-hued extravaganza, completely different from the modern high-rise towers all around, with its irregular sprawling shape, Spanish-Moorish architecture and bell tower, and its balconies and stucco facade.  The style may remind you of a Spanish colonial compound from some old movie set in California or Spain.

Royal Hawaiian Hotel

Not by chance, because the inspiration came from Rudolph Valentino.   His home in Beverly Hills, the "Falcon Lair", was built in the same Spanish Mission Revival style, very popular among Hollywood stars in the 1920s.  If you wonder why the Royal Hawaiian hotel is pink, this is the second most popular color for "mission houses". It's much more striking than white if you want to impress your wealthy clientele with something extraordinary.

Valentino would never get a chance to stay at the Royal Hawaiian, because his untimely death happened just a few months before the grand opening gala of the hotel on February 1st, 1927.  But many of his Hollywood colleagues spent their holidays there in the years that followed: Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, Shirley Temple, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Frank Sinatra, to quote some of the most resounding names.

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Step Inside the Royal Hawaiian

Royal Hawaiian Hotel HallRoyal Hawaiian Hotel Lounging Hall

You don't need to be a guest at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel to enjoy the common areas of this Pink Palace, including its bars and restaurants that are open to the public.  Directly from the beach, if you start from there.

Take a walk across the Royal Grove gardens if you are coming from Kalakaua Avenue. It's located in the center of Waikiki, across from the shopping mall with the same name, the Royal Hawaiian Center.  If you turn right in the direction of the entrance of the Sheraton Waikiki, you will reach the main entrance of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

Royal Hawaiian Hotel Night PhotoRoyal Hawaiian Hotel at Night

The opposite direction will take you to the Coconut Grove garden and the other entrance, graced by the historic Coconut Lanai, where afternoon tea used to be served in the 1930s.  Now rocking chairs and nearby tables invite you to enjoy the row of the palms and the scarlet ginger flowers.  Add the delight of nibbling on a slice of freshly baked banana bread or a macadamia muffin from the Royal Hawaiian Bakery that you will find just inside.

Or you can discover a more secluded corner of the gardens, where the cabanas of the Abhasa spa of the Royal Hawaiian offer a unique experience of an open-air massage, surrounded by lush greenery and scents of colorful tropical flowers.  You don't need to be a hotel guest to book a treatment at the Abhasa spa!

Royal Hawaiian Hotel tropical garden with tiki torches.Royal Hawaiian Hotel tropical garden with tiki torches

Then take a walk down the line of covered columns, also known as "the Breezeway". Here you can explore the many boutique shops that line the corridor.  End your pleasant stroll at the beach and enjoy a cocktail (a Mai Tai at the Mai Tai Bar is my favorite) or a meal at one of the resort's celebrated bars and restaurants.

Whichever direction you choose to enter the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, you will encounter no doors but grand open arches, which allows the freedom of movement from both visitors and the refreshing ocean breezes. Walking down the long and spacious lobbies connecting the sides of the sprawling pink building is another interesting promenade.   There are so many details to take in, from the stylish furniture to the historical photos documenting the rich history of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

Take in the warmth of the tropical wood ceilings, the classic woven carpets, and the paintings that grace the walls.  And enjoy the scent of tropical flowers while listening to the gently playing Hawaiian music, and relaxing in one of the wooden rocking chairs on the Ocean Lanai.

Renovating the Pink Palace Hotel

The Royal Hawaiian has gone though a few renovations over the years, including a new 17-story tower named the Mailani Tower "Treated Royalty" .

In 2008, the realization prevailed that the original style was better, which initiated one more giant renovation project, costing about 60 million dollars, and lasted nearly two years.

What you can admire today is the result of that mammoth effort to bring the Royal Hawaiian Hotel back to the charm of its early days as much as possible.

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Restaurants & Bars

The Royal Hawaiian has a handful of restaurants and bars on its premises, including an outdoor Surf Lanai for breakfast and bakery to grab fresh treats to go.  But most noteworthy is their Mai Tai Bar that even outside guests flock to, and the other is a fun luau that takes place on their grand lawn.

The Mai Tai Bar

The Mai Tai Bar has become a classic spot on Oahu to enjoy one of these iconic tropical drinks or any cocktail for that matter.  Between this spot and popular Dukes Waikiki next door, you don't need to venture any further for discovering the best Waikiki bars.

The Mai Tais are not cheap here, but their drinks are pretty potent, and one is usually enough for most folks. You'll find this spacious outdoor Mai Tai Bar oceanfront at Waikiki Beach.

It's hard to miss, with all the canopy of pink umbrellas shading the tables, which also help give its special character. It also happens to be located on a curved balcony that provides grander views of the beach all the way to Diamond Head.

It's a perfect spot to people-watch and take in all the activity surrounding the beach and ocean. By no surprise, sunset hour is the busiest time, so make sure to get here early, or you'll find yourself standing in a long line waiting to get a table.

Live music daily from 6 PM to 10 PM

Azure Restaurant for Dinner

Sharing the view with the Mai Tai Bar, is the Royal Hawaiian fine dining restaurant called Azure.  The food is as spectacular as the ocean view.  They are currently serving a four-course meal Wednesdays thru Sundays.  Enjoy some inspiring dishes like Poached Scallops in a Coconut Vinaigrette,  a Farmed Striploin & Short Rib with a Pommes Puree, and a Lemon Crème Citrus Olive Cake for dessert.

Attend a Royal Hawaiian Luau

Royal Hawaiian Hotel tiki torches on the side of the hotel.

Many Waikiki hotels do not have enough space to host big events, but the Royal Hawaiian Hotel has a grand lawn next to the beach that is perfect for a luau.  Tiki torches are lit as the conch shell is blown, and the fun begins at 5 PM.

This is a full production, called the Ahaaina Luau "A Royal Celebration".  It's scheduled with performances into the evening and a Hawaiian feast to enjoy.  If you're fortunate to be around Monday through Thursday, then make sure to make a reservation early by calling (808) 921-4600 as they tend to sell out.

Staying at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel

Royal Hawaiian Hotel beautiful hallway with shops.

There are over 150 different configurations of the guest rooms.

When the Royal Hawaiian was built, standardized designs and floor plans did not exist yet. So do not be surprised if you find considerable diversity in the rooms and suites of the Pink Palace. Under the categories Historic Garden and Historic Ocean (rooms, suites, junior suites), variations in details of shapes, dimensions, and views are much more numerous.

The 17-story Mailani Tower has different categories too (Premier Ocean Rooms, Oceanfront Suites, Oceanfront Rooms, Corner Rooms, Loft Suites), but more standardized.  Unlike the historic building, the Tower offers Ocean views from all its units.

Overall, the resort features 528 rooms, with 33 suites, of which 18 are oceanfront.  The most unique and luxurious are the four Prestige Suites in the historic building: the King Kamehameha Suite, the Queen Ka'ahumanu Suite, the Ali'i suite, and the Royal Hawaiian Suite.  While these four have kept their names unchanged through various reorganizations, other categories have been rebranded.

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Today, when you spend money at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, you are also giving a contribution to the education of native Hawaiian children. Princess Bernice, like several Hawaiian royals, was a well-known philanthropist. In her will, she established the "Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate", Hawaii's largest private landowner.

Part of its 375,000 acres are leased to commercial enterprises, including the owners of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. The income from commercial leases finances cultural institutions, such as the Bishop Museum, and the private Kamehamea Schools that educate children of Hawaiian descent.

Things to do at the Royal Hawaiian

Royal Hawaiian Beach Waikiki

Today guests can discover the ancient Hawaiian art of riding the waves on long surfboard or paddling in an outrigger canoes with the help of the Waikiki Beach Boys, just as Hollywood stars, the wealthy, and heads of state did back in the day.  The Royal Hawaiian has its own Beach Boys, who can provide instructions and organize water activities for the guests.

The resort's concierges are always available to provide information on external activities, trips, events, hikes, and attractions in Waikiki and Oahu in general.

The Royal Hawaiian includes a series of daily Hawaiian cultural activities.  Some of these are free workshops where guests can learn how to string a lei with tropical flowers, shells or kukui nuts.  Guest can also make colorful haku bracelets, weave traditional lauhala (leaf) fabrics, learn to dance the hula and play a ukulele.

There are also free morning yoga classes you can participate in, and historical tours of both the Royal Hawaiian and Moana Surfrider hotels.

Cultural activities are also frequent at the neighboring Royal Hawaiian Center, just a few steps from the hotel. The open-air stage in the Royal Gardens of the Center is often a venue for free hula shows, concerts, and other events.

The best value of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel though is for those guests who mainly desire peace and quiet without renouncing the advantage of being right in the pulsating heart of Waikiki.  The "green belt" of gardens around the Pink Palace and its seclusion from the highly-trafficked, densely-built urban center, is the majestic element that does the trick.  As a result, the Royal Hawaiian resort is an oasis of tranquility, despite being located in the heart of the Waikiki district that attracts several million visitors annually. But the lobbies, lanais, and gardens of the Royal Hawaiian are never crowded, noisy, or stressful.

Plunge into the Malulani or Helumoa Pools

Royal Hawaiian Malulani Pool, surrounded by tropical gardens and poolside cabanas.Malulani Pool

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel has not 1 but 2 pools on site for relaxation and cooling off.  The Malulani Pool is smaller private oval shaped pool.  It's reserved strictly for guests, and surrounded by lounge chairs and private cabanas that you can rent for the day.

The Helumoa Pool is much larger and is shared with neighboring Sheraton Hotel guests.  Its a 2-tiered pool with a waterfall cascading from the upper level right into the lower level pool.  It has lots of twists and curves to the layout and surrounded by beautiful palm trees. The upper level also features a 70 foot long water slide!  The Helumoa Playground also has 2 hot tub spas to relax in.

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