Waikiki’s Iconic Royal Hawaiian Gets Ready for Its Closeup
With a multimillion makeover nearly complete, the legendary Pink Palace of the Pacific prepares for a new era of pampering guests from around the world!
(HONOLULU, HI; September 2008)—Travelers have long flocked to the Hawaiian Islands in search of paradise. At the center of it all, Oahu’s Waikiki Beach is the favored destination for those drawn by the sun, beaches, crystalline waters, and the enduring spirit of “Aloha.”
A gorgeous stretch of white sand lapped by gentle waves, framed by the dramatic Diamond Head, and blessed with cloud-free skies, Waikiki is the most iconic of Hawaiian locales—its status cemented when the stunning Royal Hawaiian hotel opened its doors there in 1927. Sporting magnificent Spanish-Moorish architecture with an exterior painted in a brilliant shade of coral pink, The Royal Hawaiian launched a new standard of vacationing in paradise, and, for over 80 years, has drawn people from around the world eager to get leave their everyday lives far behind.
The Royal Hawaiian is again redefining luxury and is poised to capture the imaginations of a new generation of pleasure seekers. In early 2009, the famed hotel, a member of Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ elite Luxury Collection, will unveil the results of a multimillion transformation and usher in a new age of exquisite discovery, embodying the allure of Hawai‘i’s spirit and the essence of indulgent escape.
The 14 acres of prime Waikiki beachfront land now occupied by The Royal Hawaiian has a long, storied history. They were originally used as a playground for King Kamehameha I after he conquered the island of Oahu. Queen Kaahumanu’s Summer Palace was previously located in what is now the hotel’s Coconut Grove garden.
Developed in the mid-1920s, The Royal Hawaiian officially opened its doors on Feb. 1, 1927, perfectly embodying the beauty of its location and the romantic atmosphere of what would soon become one of the most popular destinations in the world. Indeed, it attracted a coterie of elite visitors—from the Rockefellers to the Beatles, as well as heads of state and Hollywood luminaries such as Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood, and Dean Martin.
beachIn December 1941, The Royal Hawaiian closed its doors after nearby Pearl Harbor was attacked. Subsequently, the United States Navy used the hotel as a rest and recreation center for enlisted sailors. The Navy vacated the hotel shortly after the end of World War II and it reopened in January 1947, setting the stage for new interest in travel to what would soon become the nation’s 50th state.
As air travel to the islands increased, the Royal Hawaiian was the destination of choice for the well-heeled and well-traveled. With its stunning views of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head, it remained the premier spot at which distinctive clientele could relax, dine in style, and immerse themselves in Waikiki’s tropical splendour.
Renovation and Redesign
The redesign of the Royal Hawaiian is being spearheaded by architect Robert Iopa of Honolulu-based WCIT Architecture, ranked as the 60th fastest growing business in America in Entrepreneur magazine’s 2008 “Hot 100 List,” and specializing in luxury resort, resort-residential, and spa design and development. Working in conjunction with WCIT is award-winning interior design firm Philpotts and Associates, Inc. Together, the firms are reimagining and revitalizing the entire property—from the stunning reception area to each detail of the 529 guest rooms. The distinctive architecture and its rosy hue remain, as do the elegant details that nod to the hotel’s storied past. Now, however, 21st-century upgrades will seamlessly meld with the thoughtfully chosen, classic design elements, creating a decidedly chic atmosphere that is still captivatingly Hawaiian.
Guests will arrive at the Royal Hawaiian via a breathtakingly redesigned porte-cochere and step through the grand arches of the entrance into a comfortably elegant reception area. Once inside, they will be greeted with a traditional Hawaiian lei and chilled oshibori towel with which to refresh themselves, along with a choice of banana bread and freshly squeezed juices. Check-in will now be conducted at koa wood desks in the lobby, which is enlivened by a series of Eugene Savage’s classic, Hawaiian-themed artwork and brilliant tropical floral displays. Prior to being escorted to their rooms, guests may relax outdoors on the Coconut Grove Lana‘i or Ocean Lana‘i to bask in the gentle trade winds, or simply lounge in the Grand Hall—each locale providing beautiful views of the azure Pacific beyond.
Once guests have been escorted to their rooms, they will find beautifully reimagined spaces evoking a rarefied but inviting tone, mixing contemporary conveniences with classic Hawaiian design elements that pay tribute to the hotel’s majestic heritage. The newly designed guest rooms feature vintage koa seating, exotic furnishings, historic photographs and other indigenous objets d’art. Bathroom floors and shower stalls of sable-colored stone are coupled with dark stained millwork that is both exotic and contemporary. Stylish personal amenities flesh out the offerings, further enhancing the guest experience.
A dedicated concierge who will attend to their every need will greet guests at the Royal Beach Tower—a decadent “hotel within a hotel” located adjacent to the main building. The remarkable suites in the Royal Beach Tower are immaculately detailed, affording breathtaking views of the island shoreline and included six ultra-exclusive, two-story spa suites, which are defined by their Zen ambience, featuring carved teak furnishings, spacious living rooms, and palatial bathrooms with specialty spa baths and showers, as well as private lana‘is on which private massages are offered. Guests at the Tower also have access to their own pool, a lushly detailed romantic hideaway ringed by private cabanas.
No matter where guests stay, their access to Waikiki’s soft white sand is immediate via the Royal Beach Club, which features six private beachfront cabanas situated on the best stretch of sand in Waikiki—oases built for those with a taste for decadence, and staffed by a cadre of attendants serving cool drinks and a refreshing Evian spritz. A host of other gorgeously landscaped water features, complete with rock pools and cascading waterfalls, ensure that each guest is just steps away from a peaceful grotto in which to relax.
Fine Dining and Entertainment
Renowned for providing world-class dining to island visitors, the Royal Hawaiian’s well-deserved reputation is highlighted by a number of venues, each providing an unforgettable sensory experience.
Guests can begin their days with either breakfast or lunch at the Surf Lana‘i, a poolside space that will provide a variety of epicurean delights al fresco. With a menu that blends local ingredients with international preparation techniques, palates will be satisfied by inventive twists on classic dishes and surprised by unique offerings that highlight contemporary Hawaiian cuisine.
Azure, an oceanfront, dinner-only space is illuminated by candlelight, mother-of-pearl mosaics, and accented by plush banquettes and pillows. Serving only the freshest fruits de mer, from ahi to onaga, Azure’s menus highlight locally caught fish selected each morning at the Hawai‘i Fish Auction and prepared in either a high-heat aromatic roasting or innovative Hawaiian style served with bright tropical flavors. Skilled wait staff and sommeliers will also be on hand to pair the delicate seafood flavors with the best wines from around the world.
No visit to the Royal Hawaiian would be complete without a tropical drink at the world-famous Mai Tai Bar, a sumptuous space with a panoramic view of Diamond Head and the shimmering ocean that is being completely revamped in advance of the hotel’s re-opening. Even with a modern update, this classic locale remains the renowned spot where the Shirley Temple drink was invented, and where dozens of Hollywood stars, jetsetters, and diplomats alike have been dazzled by the ambiance, the view, and entertainment courtesy of some of the islands’ most talented musicians.
Those seeking a more intimate way to end the night will be able to partake of the laidback ambiance of Pool Lounge at the Royal Beach Tower. The candlelit enclave of pool cabanas is enhanced by the sounds provided by the Royal’s own audio architect, as well as an exclusive menu of cocktails and gourmet bento bites.
Abhasa Waikiki Spa
The Royal Hawaiian’s famous Abhasa Waikiki Spa will see its own refresh as a result of the property-wide enhancements. Already the only spa on Oahu to offer luxurious spa treatments in cabanas situated in the midst of a tropical garden, the new Abhasa further enhances each guest’s relaxing experience with expanded facilities, including new garden cabanas, 14 new treatment rooms, as well as a dedicated yoga and Pilates area and an updated menu offering classic spa services and Hawaiian-inspired treatments.
Among the highlights of the distinctive offerings are the choices of Body Cocoons, which combine nourishing mud and seaweed wraps with targeted, restorative massage; the Abhasa Tropical Facial; the Lomi Lomi, a rhythmic, Hawaiian-inspired massage designed to invigorate and inspire; and the Quattro, an indulgent massage involving the four hands of two therapists and a variety of therapeutic techniques to ensure the ultimate relaxation.
Meetings and Events
No other location in Hawai‘i is as distinctive or inviting as the Royal Hawaiian, whether for a lavish destination wedding or an important executive gathering. With over 66,000 square feet of outdoor space and a stunning setting, the enhancements to the hotel will provide brides and grooms to-be with the most majestic of locations at which to host a wedding, with lushly landscaped patios, gardens, and picturesque vistas.
The outdoor space encompasses the open-air, oceanfront Monarch Terrace, the 10,000-square-foot Ocean Lawn, which can host dinner for up to 650 people under the stars, and the legendary, 56,000-square-foot Coconut Grove, an expansive garden at the heart of the grounds that was once the playground for Hawai‘i’s kings and queens.
In addition, a variety of ballrooms and suites can help make any size event a success. As part of the renovation, the Royal Hawaiian’s interior boardrooms and ballrooms, totaling 12,000 square feet, will also be restored to their original splendor. The backdrop of Waikiki Beach complements the stunning Monarch Room, a landmark in its own right known for its signature triangular shape and intimate atmosphere—complete with an elevated stage for live entertainment and arguably the best view of Diamond Head on the beach. The Regency Room can be used for large presentations, or divided into three smaller, more intimate spaces; and the Puela and Akala Hokele rooms are optimal for intimate gatherings and breakout meetings.
No matter which venue guests choose, the Royal Hawaiian’s experienced and knowledgeable staff will ensure that every detail is attended to—from exquisite floral arrangements to custom-designed banquet menus—and that each guest departs with what is a hallmark of any Royal Hawaiian visit: indelible memories.
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