Renovated hotel offers a royal good time


POSTED: Sunday, May 31, 2009

At 82 the Royal Hawaiian is still pretty in pink. Reopened in January as a member of Starwood Hotels & Resorts' elite Luxury Collection, the grande dame of Waikiki is showing off the spectacular results of an eight-month, floor-to-ceiling refurbishment that features new furniture, artwork, textiles and other contemporary design elements.





        » Address: 2259 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki

» Phone: 923-7311


» Web site: www.royal-hawaiian.com


Historical Tour


A free 45-minute tour of the Royal Hawaiian is offered daily. Open to the public, it includes a peek at a room in the Historic Wing, which dates back to the hotel's opening in 1927; stories about famous guests such as Clark Gable, Shirley Temple and President Franklin D. Roosevelt; and the hotel's 3 1/2 -year stint as an R&R facility for Navy seamen during World War II.


Advance reservations aren't necessary; meet in the lobby by the concierge desks at 1:45 p.m.


Farmers' Market


Each Saturday morning on the grounds of Kapiolani Community College, 60 vendors display a tantalizing array of wares at the state's biggest and best farmers' market.


Diversions include sausages made of Oahu-raised, hormone-free beef; goji berry fruitcake; strawberry mochi; Hawaiian coffee, honey and chocolate; blue-ribbon produce and plants; and a changing slate of healthy-cooking demonstrations, live entertainment and made-to-order breakfasts. Between 7:30 and 11:30 a.m., guests receive free limousine transportation to and from the market on a first-come, first-served basis.


Kamaaina Package


This great escape includes an upgrade on accommodations, early check-in at 2 p.m. and late checkout at 2 p.m. (depending on availability), free self-parking and a 25 percent discount on food and beverages at all of the hotel's restaurants.


Nightly rates begin at $290 ($330 for oceanfront rooms). To book, call (866) 716-8110 and refer to the code KAMVIP. The package is valid through Dec. 25; blackout dates might apply.




As a guest at the Pink Palace, you'll also enjoy new services and amenities, some of which are not found anywhere else in Waikiki. Here are highlights:

Royal Celebration

Presented in three acts, the Royal Hawaiian's fresh interpretation of the standard hotel luau lights up the Ocean Lawn Mondays from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Act 1 features demonstrations of poi pounding, kapa (tapa) making and fishing tools.

The sound of a conch shell beckons guests to Act 2, the feast, where servers present guests with ahi gyoza (dumplings), soy butterfish on pickled cucumbers, kalua pork spring rolls with Kona coffee barbecue sauce, hearts of palm ceviche with Chinese roasted duck, haupia cake, cheesecake lollipops and other delights.

Long ago, the area where the Royal Hawaiian stands was known as Helumoa. The story of Helumoa, from ancient through modern times, unfolds during Act 3's hourlong pageant of songs and dances.

Cost is $175 for adults ($150 for hotel guests and adult kamaaina), $75 for children ages 5 through 12 and free for kids under 5.


Chef de Cuisine Jon Matsubara shops at the Honolulu Fish Auction each morning to bring the prime catches of the day to this oceanfront fine-dining restaurant, which is open only for dinner.

While you'll be pleased with everything on the menu, Azure's signature preparation is of special note. It sears fish uniformly in a 1,200-degree oven, sealing in all of the juices, oils and flavors. Seasonings are kept simple in order to enhance, not overpower, this natural goodness.

Choose either white wine, fresh herbs and a Meyer lemon mist or an island-style option that continually changes to best complement the type of fish being served. Ingredients include shrimp paste, Vietnamese chili sauce, sesame oil and seaweed.

Cultural Activities

Special cultural events are offered every month or so in partnership with Mea Makamae, an on-property retail store that specializes in pahu (drums), koa bowls, feather work and other museum-quality Hawaiian art.

Previous presentations on Niihau shell leis, lau hala weaving and hula featured talks, demonstrations and displays of products and implements. Lua (Hawaiian martial arts) will be the focus in June or July. Call 921-7248 for more information.

Mea Makamae also plans complimentary daily activities such as haku lei making, ukulele lessons, Hawaiian quilting and hula therapy, taught by former Miss Hawaii Patricia Lei Murray, that combines stretching and gentle movements for an effective workout.

Beachboy Program

At the Royal Hawaiian, an ocean of fun is just minutes away from your room! Go on an outrigger canoe ride. Learn how to surf and paddleboard. Rent a bodyboard and snorkeling equipment. Attend a free surfing clinic on Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The hotel's beachboys are in charge of it all.

You can even arrange for a personal beachboy valet

to make your playtime even more memorable. Between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., he will handle the equipment, snap photos, talk story about life in Hawaii and be your buddy for the day. Cost is $325 per person; call for lesson and equipment rental rates.

Royal Beach Club

Lounge in style on the sand. These six beachfront cabanas come with Wi-Fi connection, small refrigerators, audiovisual systems, iPod stations, magazines, newspapers, board games, sofas, chaise lounges and the services of a personal concierge.

The rate of $500 per day ($250 from 5 p.m. to midnight) also includes bottled water and a fruit bowl. Hungry? You can order anything from the hotel's restaurants—for example, omelets and pancakes from the Surf Lanai, pizza and beer from the Mai Tai Bar and rice paper-wrapped Caesar salad and sake-steamed Manila clams from Azure.

The cost of food and beverages will be added to your tab.

Party on your own or invite up to five friends to join you; either way, it's a great way to relax and enjoy some royal Hawaiian hospitality.


Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Bulletin have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.