One of the first hotels established in Waikiki, The Royal Hawaiian is considered one of the most famous hotels in Hawaiian tourism. These days, the hotel has lost some of its luxurious feeling, but still remains a lovely place to stay.
Recently we were reunited with our beloved Royal Hawaiian hotel in Waikiki. Affectionately known as the Pink Palace of the Pacific, the Royal Hawaiian is a Luxury Collection (formerly SPG, now Marriott) that was built back in 1927.
We have stayed here many times and mostly on celebration events, so it has a special place in our heart, and we have made friends with a number of the staff over the years. We were last here five years ago and this is our most recent review. We began our trip with a wonderful flight on Hawaiian Airlines, a brand we highly recommend.
Snuggled between the high rises of the Sheraton and Outrigger Waikiki and right behind the Cheesecake Factory and shopping of Kalakaua Avenue, the Royal Hawaiian enjoys an enviably wide and relatively long strip of Waikiki Beach’s white sand. It’s a nine-mile drive from Honolulu airport.
Style and Character
The pink theme can be a bit overwhelming, and, despite its place right on the beach, the Royal Hawaiian’s dark lobby with vaulted archways and many original rooms have an unusual focal point: a leafy central corridor instead of the sea.
Constructed by maritime company Matson in 1927, it’s said that once traveler’s reached Hawaii by ship, they’d had their fill of ocean views. Though there are some historic rooms that face the water, a newer 17-storey room tower, also rose-rimmed, offers elevated views. Its exclusive lobby lounge and separate check-in feels a little disjointed from the original grounds.
Sadly this did not start out well. As a Bonvoy Gold member I completed the online check in via the app in the hopes of saving time but whilst reception was not busy we were not greeted with a welcome back and I had to ensure that the room I booked was the one allocated to us….It wasn’t but was quickly corrected once I pointed out the error.
We historically have chosen rooms from the smaller original lodgings in the six-floor historic building, with intricate pink patterned wallpaper, paddle fans and four-poster beds (in some suites), on this trip we sought out a corner rooms in the more contemporary rooms and suites of the Mailani Tower. Those rooms have balconies with plush pink outdoor seating, bathrooms with raised basin sinks and multi-setting Japanese toilets. All rooms come with coffee-makers, pink robes and locally-made Malie Organic toiletries.
Whilst our stay was comfortable I am afraid the Grand Old Lady of Waikiki is definitely showing her age and in my humble opinion is now in need of some TLC /upgrading.
Food and Drink
Though the historic Mai Tai Bar didn’t invent its eponymous cocktail, some say it was the first to import it to Hawaii and add its now often-standard tropical twist: pineapple and freshly squeezed lime. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better Mai Tai anywhere on Oahu.
The Surf Lanai, on a deck above the sand, is rather overpriced but does a decent à la carte breakfast and if you are lucky to get a beachfront table well worth it just for the morning view of paradise.
Oceanfront and candle-lit seafood eatery Azure is open for dinner only.
For casual dining most of the day the menu at the Mai Tai bar is excellent.
Service and Facilities
The experience feels personal and upscale, from the beads around the neck at check-in. (Guests also have sharing privileges to use the seaside pool with waterslide at the Sheraton Waikiki next door). The Abhasa Spa offers a range of treatments, including massages in outdoor cabanas hidden among the thick ferns and towering palms of the onsite garden which we always use for relaxing treatments.
All in all, a great resort but for some reason we felt the value proposition was being eroded and not just because of COVID restrictions either.
Thinking about trying Halekulani or the Moana Surfrider for our next visit so stay tuned!
For Andrew, travel is so much more than just learning history or taking photos. Rather, the value of travel is witnessing a lifestyle, bonding with locals, and gaining rich cultural experiences. That’s why he founded the Luxury Wanderer; a place to share itineraries, offer advice, swap stories, and foster a like-minded community of curious travellers.