The Royal Hawaiian Hotel is a beachfront luxury hotel located in Waikiki in Honolulu, Hawaii, on the island of Oahu. It is part of The Luxury Collection brand of Marriott International. One of the first hotels established in Waikiki, the Royal Hawaiian is considered one of the most luxurious and famous hotels in Hawaiian tourism, and in its 90-year history has been host to numerous celebrities and world dignitaries. The bright pink hue of its concrete stucco façade with its Spanish/Moorish styled architecture and prominent location on the wide sandy beach have earned it the alliterative nickname of "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 at the start of the twentieth century, including 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 contracted Warren and Wetmore to design the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. The sprawling pink stucco concrete façade Spanish/Moorish styled complex, built at a cost of over $4 million (1927 prices), was surrounded by a fifteen-acre (60,700 m²) landscaped garden. The H-shaped layout featured 400 rooms, each with bath and balcony. The complex had an offsite golf course, today known as the Waialae Country Club.
The hotel commenced operations 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.The Great Depression struck in 1929, bankrupting the Territorial Hotel Company. In 1932 the Matson Line purchased the company's hotels.
During World War II, the Royal Hawaiian was used exclusively by the US military as an R&R center. Barriers of concertina wire blockaded access from the adjacent beaches.
The hotel recouped much of its clientele after 1945. It was sold, along with the rest of Matson's hotels in Hawaii, to the Sheraton Hotels and Resorts chain in 1959.During the 1960s, the "Pink Palace" was home to "Concert by the Sea" which broadcast daily through the Armed Forces Radio Network (AFN).
In September 1974, Japanese businessmen-brothers Kenji Osano and Masakuni Osano purchased the Royal Hawaiian Hotel from ITT Sheraton. They formed Kyo-ya Company Ltd, a subsidiary of Kokusai Kogyo Company Ltd as the corporate entity to manage all their hotels.
After the Osano brothers' deaths, Takamasa Osano inherited their properties.
The ground upon which the hotel is built is owned by Kamehameha Schools, which leases the land.The Royal Hawaiian closed on June 1, 2008 for renovation. It reopened on January 20, 2009 as a member of The Luxury Collection. An extended renovation of the Royal Beach Tower was completed in 2010.
The Royal Hawaiian Hotel is a member of Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The six-story structure has 400 rooms. It was designed in the Spanish and Moorish styles with stucco façades. Its design was influenced by Hollywood film star and legend Rudolph Valentino and his Arabian movies. Cupolas were created to resemble Spanish Mission style bell towers. The architects were Warren and Wetmore of New York City.The hotel's public rooms 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 Campbell Kawānanakoa. Duke Kahanamoku, the legendary Olympic Games swimmer and popularizer of the sport of surfing, frequented the Royal Hawaiian Hotel restaurants and private beachfront. The hotel became a stomping ground for Kahanamoku's group, dubbed the "Waikiki Beach Boys".
Prior to the 2008-2009 renovation, a framed replica of a Guest Registration Card bearing the signature of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt was displayed in the hotel. The card was dated during the "Great Depression". FDR also stayed at the hotel during World War II for military conferences, tours of nearby Pearl Harbor naval base, and to meet with his Supreme Allied Commander in the Pacific Theater, General Douglas MacArthur in July 1944. During that time the hotel was in service as a military R&R center.
In popular culture
The hotel has featured in numerous media projects.
The hotel was used in the 1931 Charlie Chan film The Black Camel.
The hotel lobby was used in the 1952 film Big Jim McLain.
The hotel appeared in the 1952 Tom and Jerry animated/cartoon theatrical short Cruise Cat.
The hotel was used in the 1962 movie Gidget Goes Hawaiian.
The hotel was used in the 1978 film Goin' Coconuts
The hotel appeared in the 2002 film Punch-Drunk Love.
The hotel appeared in the 2014 film Big Eyes
The hotel was mentioned in the 1953 film "From Here to Eternity" by Burt Lancaster's character, Sgt. Warden. The film took place in 1941, so the reference to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel was in the context of 1941, not 1953, when the film was made.
The hotel's exterior appeared in the 1968-1980 procedural drama Hawaii Five-O.
The hotel appeared in the 1977 Charlie's Angels episode "Angels in Paradise".
The hotel appeared in the 1979 Eight Is Enough episode "Fathers and Other Strangers" Parts 1 and 2.
The hotel appeared in two episodes of the series Murder She Wrote.
The hotel appeared in the 2002 episode "The Kyles Go To Hawaii" of My Wife and Kids.
The hotel appeared in the 2013 Mad Men season 6 premiere, "The Doorway".
The hotel is referenced in Joni Mitchell's 1970 song Big Yellow Taxi (as the "pink hotel").
In video games
The hotel was featured in the Hawaii level in Tony Hawk’s Underground, released in 2003 for the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube.
In books and novels
The hotel is featured in the 1953 A A Fair novel "Some women won't wait" (Cool and Lam series)