Almost every iconic photo of Waikiki contains the famous, venerable, and ultra-retro Royal Hawaiian Hotel, commonly known as the Pink Palace of the Pacific. It opened on February 1, 1927, with a big party with 1200 invited guests. The place is so retro, I can almost hear the island music and the revelers when I walk through the hotel.
This property actually closed for about six months in 2008-2009, and is part of the Starwood hotel group, also known as the Sheraton chain. The hotel has also been designated a Historic Hotel of America. The distinctive pink color has attracted visitors for almost a century. But believe it or not, I have never stayed here.
The Matson cruise line first developed the hotel for its cruise line passengers. Matson purchased the Moana Hotel in 1901 as the very first hotel in Waikiki. When it became so successful, Matson built the Royal Hawaiian. During World War 2, after Pearl Harbor, the hotel was closed and used by U.S. submariners. It was sold to Sheraton in 1959. Then in 1974, it was purchased by the Osana Brothers from Japan. The purchase of this hotel and others (Sheratons in Hawaii) placed the Osanas on the Forbes List of the World’s Richest People in 1999.
The hotel cost $4 million to build and took a year and a half to build. The hotel had six stories and 400 rooms. The architecture is considered Spanish and Moorish style, which was popular in the 1920s. I find it rather eye pleasing compared to the cement and glass of downtown Waikiki and even surrounding Honolulu.
Many famous people have stayed here over the years. Prominent guests include: Duke Kahanamoku, President Franklin Roosevelt, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Shirley Temple, and the ubiquitous Kevin Costner. Is it coincidence that he has been everywhere I have been? It has been used in numerous films, including Gidget Goes Hawaiian. TV shows that featured the hotel were Charlie’s Angels, Murder She Wrote, and Mad Men. What about Hawaii Five-Oh, and perhaps the greatest Hawaiian movie of all time, “From Here to Eternity?”
But many consider the Royal Hawaiian to be the world’s greatest romantic wedding venue. They say the gentle island breeze fans the grove of coconut trees bringing good fortune and health to its wedding participants. I wonder what the divorce rate is for couples who have been married here?
Nonetheless, it will be an interesting afternoon and evening attending a wedding and reception here. I have my white linen suit cleaned and pressed. I can already hear the island music in the background as the guests arrive. This is only the second wedding I have attended here on the islands. The first was for a dear colleague of mine at Kaiser, who got married on a cruise ship down by the Aloha Tower.
One’s arms never need twisting to visit the islands, for any reason at all. But when a dear friend from Seattle gets married here in her homeland, it is truly special. We look forward.