Yesterday, I featured the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa and today I’m here to tell you about its sister Starwood property, the Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort. These two have a lot in common, besides being managed by the same hotel company. The most important is that the Moana Surfrider is in the oldest building in Waikiki and the Royal Hawaiian is in the second oldest. My wife (@NatalieDiScala) and I recently had the opportunity to spend three glorious nights at this 528-room beachfront luxury resort, thanks to an invite from the hotel.
The hotel is comprised of two buildings, the Royal Beach Tower and the iconic Historic Building, which is where we stayed and is, in my opinion, the place you want to be. The guest rooms are elegant and furnished with custom dark wood, crisp white bedding, boudoir pillows, and a warm paint palette accented by a bold fuchsia pink and platinum silver headboard. It’s really marvelous.
Here are 9 things to love about the Royal Hawaiian:
Without a doubt, the best thing about staying at the Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, is that it’s set on 10 acres of prime Waikiki beachfront. It’s next door to the Outrigger on the Beach and one hotel over from the Moana Surfrider. There are countless restaurants, shops within a 300-yard radius, and of course, there’s the beach as well. It’s where all the action takes place including Waikiki’s most famous restaurant: Duke’s. Here are seven great places to eat in Honolulu, including Duke’s.
The Royal Hawaiian opened on February 1, 1927, and was built with a price tag of $4 million. The six-story, 400-room structure was fashioned in the Spanish-Moorish style popular during the period and was influenced by screen star Rudolph Valentino. The Royal Hawaiian was conceived as a luxurious hotel for Matson passengers. Before planes filled the air over the Pacific, the only way of reaching Hawaii was via a minimum five-day sea voyage. Travelers arriving to the islands would stay for a considerable period of time, bringing numerous steamer trunks, servants, and even their Rolls Royce vehicles. The late Shirley Temple created a stir by strumming the ukulele on Waikiki Beach when she visited the Royal Hawaiian in the 1930s (incidentally, the Shirley Temple cocktail was supposedly invented at the hotel).
The hotel has hosted numerous celebrities and heads of state since before World War II. In January 1942, the hotel was leased to the United States Navy as a rest and recreation center for those serving in the Pacific Fleet. But the hotel re-opened to the public in February 1947. ITT Sheraton purchased the Royal Hawaiian from Matson in June 1959. The Royal Tower Wing was added to the existing structure in 1969. The hotel was sold in 1974 to Kyo-ya Company, Ltd., with Starwood Hotels & Resorts operating it under a long-term management contract.
3. The views
Just check out that view above—I took that photo from my fourth-floor room. You’ll fall in love with the view of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach and will photograph it over and over as you watch the light change from day to night.
4. The welcome
Pulling up to The Royal Hawaiian is a treat as guests get welcome leis, chilled towels, and drinks made of a delicious and unusual blend of hibiscus, vanilla, acai, and lemon.
5. Rocking chairs
Just like the Moana Surfrider, the Royal Hawaiian has perfectly lined up wooden rocking chairs. The only difference is that theirs don’t overlook the busy Kalakaua Avenue but rather their peaceful gardens. It’s a great place to relax with a book and because it’s shaded, it’s a perfect respite when the sun gets too hot.
One of my favorite parts about the hotel is that it has lush tropical gardens so walking through, them you feel like you are in the South Pacific. In fact, you feel so far removed from the bustle of Waikiki that’s just outside, that it feels like a tranquil escape.
7. Live music
The Royal Hawaiian has live music at their Mai Tai Bar from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm daily except Mondays.
8. Mai Tai Bar
And speaking of the Mai Tai Bar, if you’re looking for a relaxing place to soak in the Waikiki atmosphere, hit the Royal Hawaiian’s Mai Tai Bar. It’s a lively place to kick back with a drink and watch the sunset.
When my wife walked into the bathroom she gasped. I thought there was a bug in there but no. She’d spotted the Frette pink and white striped robes hanging on the back of the bathroom door. They’re definitely girly but they’re super comfy to hang out in after a hot shower following a day at the beach.
Good to know:
-Like many Hawaii hotels, the Royal Hawaiian comes with a resort charge that is billed directly to all guests, at a daily rate of $36.65 per room, per day. The good news is that it includes: free wireless internet, self-parking for one vehicle, unlimited local and 1-800 telephone calls, up to 60 minutes of long-distance and international telephone calls per day, one drink coupon per person per stay, one 4″ x 6″ color portrait by a professional photographer, daily cultural activities (lei-making, historical tours, hula lessons, ukulele lessons) and more.
-There’s a Bathers Elevator for when you’re headed to the beach, which is a great idea. But it leads to a spooky basement that’s difficult to find your way out of.
-It’s $41 to rent two beach chairs and an umbrella. After 2 pm, it’s half price.
-Stand-up paddle boards cost $30 for the first hour and $15 for every hour after.
-The Royal Hawaiian has pens worth bringing home—at least for your wife, since it’s in the hotel’s signature color, pink. When my wife saw them, she nabbed one so I had to write my notes using my plane pen.
-Rack room rates start at $725 but I know people who’ve gotten a room for half the price.
Yes, you do accentuate the positives. Because if you were a paying guest, you would have had a list twice as long with negatives. I just returned home from a stay the RH. It was a bucket list item. Everything on you positive list is great. However, the rooms in the tower need facelifts desperately. They are worn out. The carpet in the halls and rooms is embarrassing. Since the RH is tagged in the “luxury collection”, I expected way more luxury. Everthing was worn out – Linens, beach towels, carpet, etc. The key to happiness is setting your expectations properly. I am always happy with my travel/hotel choices because I am a pro at setting expectations. The Royal Hawaiian was a disappointment with the rooms themselves only because they are not “luxury”. We had a fabulous corner wrap balcony that we loved. For what we spent $$$, I could have been back in Lanai at the Four Seasons with breakfast included. Not a great value, but it was fun fulfilling my dream of staying at the Pink Palace.