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At 90, Honolulu's Royal Hawaiian Resort is still pink and oh-so-dreamy

At 90, Honolulu's Royal Hawaiian Resort is still pink and oh-so-dreamy
With a prime location along Waikiki Beach, the Royal Hawaiian Resort was Honolulu's second luxury hotel when it opened on Feb. 1, 1927. (Royal Hawaiian Resort)

As it turns 90, the Royal Hawaiian Resort is inviting Honolulu to learn about its storied history during free tours of the beloved pink Spanish-Moorish building.

The beachfront hotel welcomed its first guests Feb. 1, 1927. It was, at that time, only the second luxury property along the now-fabled Waikiki Beach. (Moana Surfrider, now now a Westin resort, opened in 1901.)

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"A lot of our travelers at that time were from Europe. They were the well-heeled. They were very affluent," says the hotel's historian, Kehaulani Kam. They arrived from ports in California aboard the Matson Navigation Co.'s ocean liners.

A vintage postcard of the beachfront Royal Hawaiian.
A vintage postcard of the beachfront Royal Hawaiian. (Royal Hawaiian Resort)

As she leads one-hour tours twice a week, Kam discusses how guests would head to their rooms – along these little-changed, open-air corridors -- dressed in their finery instead of shorts and sandals of today. The hotel band serenaded new arrivals too.

"You put yourself into that time," she says. "You can't help but do that."

Visitors are fascinated by her stories from the 1940s and World War II, when all 384 rooms were occupied by members of the armed forces. "Leisure travel had stopped. No was coming over on a vacation," she explains.

Sailors and nurses stroll the Royal Hawaiian Resort's grounds during World War II, when the Navy used it as a center for rest and relaxation for war-weary members of the military.
Sailors and nurses stroll the Royal Hawaiian Resort's grounds during World War II, when the Navy used it as a center for rest and relaxation for war-weary members of the military. (Royal Hawaiian Resort)

The Navy leased the entire resort for $17,500 a month to provide sailors with a place to rest and recuperate from the rigors of war.

"The Monarch [ballroom], which was the fine dining Persian Room prior to Dec. 7, 1941 … became the mess hall for the Navy," Kam points out. "You can only imagine what that room transformed to."

Tours begin 1 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Arrive a few minutes before at the concierge desk in the lobby.

The hotel is often referred to as the "Pink Palace of the Pacific." Kam said its "pinkish-peach" color is the result of the Portuguese influence on its architectural design.

A regal dinner signaled the 1927 opening of the hotel. A gala dinner on March 3 will replicate that event of 90 years ago.
A regal dinner signaled the 1927 opening of the hotel. A gala dinner on March 3 will replicate that event of 90 years ago. (Royal Hawaiian Resort)

Next month, the Royal Hawaiian will re-create the dinner party held to celebrate its opening in 1927. The 90th Anniversary Gala will be held March 3. It is a fundraiser for the ALS Assn.

Wednesday marks the opening of the Royal Hawaiian Bakery, which is known for its banana bread.

The bakery sells croissants and Danishes as well as uniquely Hawaiian items, including honey macadamia nut sticky buns and pineapple-roasted coffee cake. Customers may choose to carry their purchases in commemorative tins created to mark the 90th milestone.

For those who want to visit for Valentine's Day, prices start at $351 a night, excluding fees and taxes, according to an online check.

Info: Royal Hawaiian Resort, (808) 923-7311

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