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2259 Kalakaua Ave, Waikiki
The Royal Hawaiian is one of the premier resorts in Waikiki. Back when they built this place in 1927, there was only one other hotel—the nearby Moana. The Royal Hawaiian’s developers had their pick of where to build, so they chose this part of the beach. And no wonder—this is probably the best stretch of Waikiki—surfable waves offshore and sandy near-shore waters. (Though the water tends to be oddly cloudy here.) Also, this area is the heart of Waikiki with tons of stuff to do nearby, yet it’s insulated from busy Kalakaua Avenue by the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center. By location alone they stand apart. But it gets even better when you add the fact that it’s a six-story, low-rise building with pretty grounds that have plenty of breathing room, dominated by some old, meandering trees—popular for weddings. The result is a less bustling atmosphere than many of the nearby tower-dominated resorts.
Known locally as the Pink Palace, every shade of pink imaginable is represented—that’s their trademark. Of the two buildings, we recommend the “historic” low-rise. Although the rooms are slightly smaller than the tower rooms, they’re more quaintly decorated in keeping with the early 20th century style. Pink is the accent color in the rooms, and they’ve added new modern, but small, bathrooms. The common areas of the resort have a more up-to-date look with shades of pink continuing the theme on their last renovation.
If you want your ocean views a bit more unobstructed, go with the tower rooms. The room decor offers a nice contrast to the old building—modern clean lines without being stark and cold. Bathrooms boast hand-held showerheads, Toto heated bidets and $200 hair dryers that dry your hair 60 percent faster (hairstylist not included). Almost no rooms in the historic building have lanais, but the tower building rooms have generous lanais.
Royal Hawaiian’s multi-level pool is shared with the Sheraton Waikiki, has a water slide and can be busier than their own pool. Cabanas by the pools are $175–$225 per day and include some amenities. You can get two chairs and an umbrella for the beach for $40 per day. All these must be reserved in advance of your trip.
Their Mai Tai Bar sits right next to the beach. Ask for a plastic cup, and you may be able to take your drink away to the beach, which is technically illegal but rarely enforced. (And you’re a rebel anyway, aren’t you?)
Royal Hawaiian is an obviously popular place for weddings and photos. And they have a plenty of places to hold them from outdoor settings to luxury suites. Their Abhasa Spa has treatment hales set in their tropical gardens.
Their staff does a reasonable job of making you feel welcome, and you have signing privileges at all the other Sheratons in Waikiki. It can take up to 20 minutes to get your car from the valet, so call them way in advance or simply park it yourself. It’s the same price either way. Some amenities, such as a children’s program and laundry facilities, are not on-property but at the Sheraton next door.
With a location like this, they can pretty much charge what they want and get it. Royal Hawaiian rates are expensive, but you can always get a package of some kind. Starwood Preferred members get discounts off rates listed below at this Luxury Collection property. Rooms (324–350 sq. ft.) are $830–$1,430. Suites (540–1,774 sq. ft.) are $1,850–$9,500.