The Royal Hawaiian Hotel is a beachfront luxury hotel located on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii on the island of Oahu. One of the first hotels established in Waikiki, The Royal Hawaiian is considered one of the most luxurious and famous hotels in Hawaii tourism, and in its nearly 90 year history has been host to numerous celebrities and world dignitaries. The hotel's bright pink hue and prominent location on the beach have earned it the nickname "The Pink Palace of the Pacific".
With the success of the early efforts by Matson Navigation Company to provide steamer travel to America's wealthiest families en route to Hawaii, a series of resort hotels were built in Honolulu in the first decades of the Twentieth Century. These included the Moana Hotel (1901) and Honolulu Seaside Hotel, both on Waikiki Beach, and the Alexander Young Hotel in downtown Honolulu (1903).
In 1925, the Territorial Hotel Company, by then owner of all three hotels, decided to demolish the Honolulu Seaside and replace it with a large, modern resort. They hired Warren & Wetmore, the nation's premier hotel architects of the era, to design the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. The sprawling pink Moorish complex, built at a cost of over $5 million, was surrounded by a fifteen-acre landscaped garden. The hotel was built roughly shaped like the letter "H" to catch the trade winds and featured 400 rooms, each with bath and balcony. The hotel also had an offsite golf course, designed by Seth Raynor, today known as the Waialae Country Club. The Matson Line built the ocean liner SS Malolo at the same time in a joint effort to bring tourists to Hawaii.
The Royal Hawaiian opened its doors to guests on February 1, 1927 with a black tie gala attended by over 1,200 guests, and quickly became an icon of Hawaii's glory days. The hotel was a huge success, and in 1928 the islands counted over 20,000 visitors for the first time. Unfortunately the Territorial Hotel Company was bankrupted by the Great Depression and the Matson Line took over its hotels in 1932.
During World War II, the Royal Hawaiian was closed to tourists and instead served as a place of rest and relaxation for members of the U.S. military. While the Royal Hawaiian's lush tropical garden was (and still is) tranquil and poetic, on the beaches fronting the Pink Palace (sometimes referred to as the Pink Lady) one saw reminders of the war with rolls and rolls of barbed wire planted in the sand. The hotel was sold, along with the rest of Matson's hotels in Hawaii, to the Sheraton Corporation in 1959.
During the 1960s, the Pink Palace was home to "Concert by the Sea" which broadcast daily through Armed Forces Radio Network (AFN). Soldiers would listen to sounds of home all across Vietnam, and then on R&R would come to Waikiki to visit the Pink Palace in person.
In September 1974, Japanese businessmen and brothers Kenji Osano and Masakuni Osano purchased the Royal Hawaiian Hotel from ITT Sheraton. The Osano brothers formed Kyo-ya Company Limited, a subsidiary of Kokusai Kogyo Company Limited as the corporate entity charged with overseeing the hotel properties they had bought from Sheraton: Sheraton Waikiki Hotel, Moana Hotel, Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel, Sheraton Surfrider Hotel, Sheraton Maui Hotel, Sheraton-Palace Hotel, and Sheraton-West Hotel. The purchases put the Osano brothers on the Forbes List of World's Richest People in 1999.
After the Osano brothers' deaths, Takamasa Osano inherited their properties, worth billions of dollars. Along with the Moana Hotel, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel continues to be one of the flagship hotels in the Osano corporate empire and is the part-time residence of the Osano family.
The ground upon which the hotel is built is owned by Kamehameha Schools, which leases the land.
The Royal Hawaiian closed on 1 June 2008 for a complete renovation. The property reopened on 20 January 2009 as a member of The Luxury Collection Resort division of Starwood Hotels. An extended renovation of the Royal Beach Tower was completed in 2010. The Royal Hawaiian Hotel is a member of Historic Hotel of America the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The Royal Hawaiian cost USD $4 million and took one and a half years to build. The six-story structure had 400 rooms and designed in the Spanish and Moorish styles popular during the 1920s. The Royal Hawaiian Hotel was also influenced by Hollywood legend Rudolph Valentino and his Arabian movies. Cupolas were created to resemble Spanish Mission style bell towers. The pink color was taken from a popular American obsession of the era. The architects were Warren and Wetmore of New York City.
The hotel's public rooms, notably the Oceanside Lobby and Recreation Lounge, were redecorated in 1946 by Frances Elkins, the sister of architect David Adler.
Notable guests and tenants
As soon as The Royal Hawaiian opened, a non-stop flood of tourists from the mainland United States poured through its doors. It served as the Pacific home to the world's most influential statesmen and early Hollywood stars.
Its first official registered guest was Princess Abigail Kawananakoa, who would have been queen of the Kingdom of Hawaii had the monarchy survived. Duke Kahanamoku, the legendary Olympic swimmer and popularizer of the sport of surfing, frequented the Royal Hawaiian Hotel restaurants and private beachfront. The Royal Hawaiian Hotel became a favorite stomping ground for Kahanamoku's famed group, dubbed the "Waikiki Beach Boys".
Prior to the 2010 renovation, a framed replica of a Guest Registration Card bearing the signature of then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt was displayed in a main hallway corridor of the main hotel. The card was dated during the Great Depression.
During World War II, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel became home to many returning sailors off long war patrols.
In popular culture
The hotel has featured in numerous media projects.
- In 1931, the hotel was used in the Charlie Chan film "The Black Camel".
- In 1952, the hotel lobby was captured in the John Wayne film Big Jim McLain.
- In 1961, the hotel appeared in scenes of the movie Gidget Goes Hawaiian.
- In 1978, the hotel was used in the film Goin' Coconuts
- In 2002, the hotel was featured in several scenes of P.T. Anderson's film Punch-Drunk Love.
- In 1977, the hotel was featured in the Charlie's Angels episode "Angels in Paradise".
- In 1979, the hotel was featured in the Eight Is Enough episode "Fathers and Other Strangers" Parts 1 and 2.
- In 1986, the hotel was featured in the Murder She Wrote episode "Magnum on Ice", starring Angela Lansbury and guest starring Tom Selleck.
- In 2002, the hotel was featured in the My Wife and Kids episode "The Kyles Go To Hawaii".
- In 2013, the hotel featured prominently in the Mad Men season 6 premiere, "The Doorway".
- Glen Grant (1996). WaikÄ«kÄ« Yesteryear. Mutual Publishing Co. ISBNÂ 1-56647-107-9.Â
- Don Hibbard and David Franzen (1995). The View from Diamond Head: Royal Residence to Urban Resort. Editions Ltd. ISBNÂ 0-915013-02-9.Â
- George S. Kanahele (1996). WaikÄ«kÄ«, 100 BC to 1900 AD: An Untold Story. University of HawaiÊ»i Press. ISBNÂ 0-8248-1790-7.Â
- Royal Hawaiian Hotel official website