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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 4, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 09
Royal Hawaiian is an indulgent experience
Arts & Entertainment
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Royal Hawaiian is an indulgent experience

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Pink looks good on you - at least at The Royal Hawaiian it does. The iconic hotel, known as the 'Pink Palace of the Pacific' or 'Pink Lady,' is a resting point for the rich and famous vacationing on the island of Oahu. Opened in 1927, it has wooed everyone from American presidents to Japanese princesses to Hollywood's elite, yet during my stay, I spotted newlyweds, young families, and Gay couples lounging at the pool or riding the elevators, give or take a celebrity or two. Everyone's on the A-list here. Should your splurging budget allow for a grandiose experience such as this (rooms generally start around $569 per night), you won't be disappointed, and the memory will last a lifetime - I'm still dreaming in pink! Let me guide you through an overnight stay at The Royal Hawaiian.

CHECK-IN
This not being your typical hotel, the check-in process at The Royal Hawaiian is one-on-one. When arriving through either of its palatial entrances, you're immediately welcomed by a staff member who greets you with a kukui nut lei, and then offers you a cold towel and glass of guava juice. You're personally escorted to your room, and a loaf of banana bread with chilled bottled water is delivered to your doorstep within minutes.

ROOMS / SUITES
The Royal Hawaiian consists of 529 rooms and suites in two adjacent properties, situated on 14 acres of beachfront real estate. The six-story Historic Building, with Moorish-style architecture, is opulent at every turn - the columned passageway leading from its lobby to the pool area puts you in an elite state of mind, while hallways on each floor are bright and wide with tall, wooden doors individually designed and imported from the Philippines. Not entirely pink (toned down from pink overkill in years past), rooms provide a tropical oasis all their own - mine faced Waikiki Beach, so I awoke to the sound of ocean waves and was cradled nightly by Hawaiian music played below at the Mai Tai Bar. Hotel amenities include the standard bells and whistles, yet interestingly no robes or slippers were available in my closet - however, the Gilbert and Soames bath products and heavenly bed mattress nicely made up for this. The Royal Beach Tower is more contemporary with the same amenities as those in the Historic Building, minus the legendary setting.

DINING
Three separate restaurants are located on The Royal Hawaiian premises: Mai Tai Bar, Azure, and Surf Lanai. Of the three, only Surf Lanai is open for breakfast - the eggs Benedict with Kahlua pork hash at Surf Lanai was as scrumptious as the views of morning surfers in low-riding trunks. Mai Tai Bar is an outdoor pub-lounge with burgers, sandwiches, and Kona FireRock Pale Ale on tap. It also has unbeatable lookouts to the beach and shirtless passersby, and lives up to its reputation of making the best version of a mai tai, said to have been invented at this very spot. Should your palate desire gourmet cuisine, Azure boasts a decadent menu of seafood and meat dishes in a classy ambiance. A final option is Aha'aina, The Royal Hawaiian Luau, a buffet-style meal with community seating that includes performances by local musicians and hula dancers. Reservations are suggested for Azure and Aha'aina, and expect a short wait at Surf Lanai for weekend breakfast. Lastly, because The Royal Hawaiian, Sheraton Waikiki, and Moana Surfrider are all under the Starwood hotel brand, you can eat at any restaurant or cafe on either property and have the bill added to your room tab.

POOL / GARDENS
While the Royal Beach Tower Pool is small, it provides an intimate escape from the masses of tourists - plus, its guests-only policy guarantees no party crashers. On my visit, beautiful newlyweds and a cocktail-sipping Gay couple were some of my fellow swimmers, as were those reading a book under a patio umbrella or enjoying a bite to eat poolside. Wishing to be closer to the action, The Royal Hawaiian can set you up with fold out chairs, umbrellas and towels on a private strip of beach - roaming attendants will also bring you ice water or anything from the bar. And, definitely schedule time to stroll through the hotel's manicured gardens with colorful, scented flora unique to Oahu.

OTHER AMENITIES
Abhasa Spa offers a menu of massage treatments in a borderless environment, and a surfboard rental hut - with instructors - is just steps away from the pool area for those wanting to hang ten. The concierge can also arrange any sightseeing or adventure excursions for you, and within walking distance are the Honolulu Zoo, International Market, Waikiki Aquarium, and an overwhelming amount of retail and souvenir shops. And, a business center on the ground floor offers complimentary hard-wire computer service for guests who left their laptops at home.

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