THE ROYAL HAWAIIAN “THE FIRST RESORT HOSTELRY IN AMERICA”
WAIKIKI BEACH, OAHU, HAWAII— The opening of The Royal Hawaiian on February 1, 1927, ushered in a new era of luxurious resort travel to Hawai‘i. The resort was built with a price tag of $4 million and was completed in 18 months. The six-story, 400-room structure was fashioned in a Spanish-Moorish style, popular during the period and influenced by screen star Rudolph Valentino. The first general manager of the hotel, Arthur Benaglia, presided over a staff of 300, including ten elevator operators and lobby boys dressed in “Cathayan” costume. At the grand opening’s black-tie gala celebration, members of the Honolulu Symphony entertained over 1,200 guests at the $10-a-plate event-of-the-year. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin described the newly opened Royal Hawaiian as “the first resort hostelry in America.”
Set on ten acres of prime Waikiki beachfront, the site of The Royal Hawaiian boasts a majestic lineage. The area was used as a playground for King Kamehameha after he conquered the island of Oahu. Queen Kaahumanu’s Summer Palace was previously located on what is now the resort’s Coconut Grove garden.
The resort was the brainchild of Ed Tenney, who headed the “big five” firm of Castle and Cooke and Matson Navigation, and Matson manager William Roth. The Royal Hawaiian was conceived as a luxurious resort for Matson passengers.
Before the advent of air travel across the Pacific, the only means of reaching Hawai‘i was 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. Child actress Shirley Temple created a stir by strumming the ukulele on Waikiki Beach when she visited the Royal in the 1930s.
The Royal Hawaiian played host to numerous celebrities, financiers, and heads of state until World War II. In January 1942, the hotel was exclusively leased to the United States Navy as a rest and recreation center for those serving in the Pacific Fleet. The Royal Hawaiian was re-opened to the public in February 1947 after a nearly $2 million renovation.
ITT Sheraton purchased The Royal Hawaiian from Matson in June 1959. The Royal Tower Wing was added to the existing structure in 1969. The resort was sold in 1974 to Kyo-ya Company, Ltd., with Starwood Hotels & Resorts operating it under a long-term management contract.
The classical elegance of the guest rooms and public areas in The Royal Hawaiian has been preserved through extensive restoration and renovation. The Royal Hawaiian was recently recognized as the Overall Grand Award Winner in the 15th annual Renaissance Remodeling Competition. Meticulous research into the resort’s historical archives was used to recapture the grandeur of the past. Today, guests of The Royal Hawaiian enjoy a welcoming experience of modern convenience, warm service and luxury accommodations amidst the setting of a world-class historic landmark. A free walking tour is offered every Tuesday and Thursday at 1pm to educate guests about the resort’s rich history and famous guests.
The legendary 'Pink Palace of the Pacific' began restoration on a new era of redefined luxury around June 1, 2008. The Royal Hawaiian closed for seven months and reopened in late 2008 as one of the world’s elite collection of hotels for luxury and romance.
The owners would never consider any plans to take away from The Royal Hawaiian’s majestic architecture, ambiance and history. The restored resort reopened to usher in a return to grandeur in Waikiki — recapturing the essence of the destination where the world fell in love with Hawai‘i and all things Hawaiian. The resort highlights the indigenous culture and history of the islands in its new guest programs, offering authentic and enriching experiences, refined service culture and an elevated ambiance of unrivaled facilities and location.
And to ensure the resort remains at the forefront of luxury travel accommodation, The Royal Hawaiian renovated yet again and in November 2010 reopened the Tower Section as The Royal Beach Tower with upgraded rooms, boasting handcrafted furniture and classic, sophisticated style.
The resort has now been entirely refreshed and returned to its legendary glory and grandeur. Join us at The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort, for history recreated and paradise redefined.