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The fact that Waikiki’s Royal Hawaiian Hotel is reopening is big news this month. After $85 million in renovations, the iconic “Pink Palace” is a shade pinker on the outside and a lot more modern on the inside. There are new and more modern amenities that demanding high-end travelers now expect: granite-and-glass bathrooms, flat-screen TVs and iPod docking stations, for example.
The makeover closed the hotel for seven months. The Royal has welcomed about 50 guests since Decemcer 31 to ease it through its “soft opening” period while finishing touches were added. The next official opening date is January 20, for a ball to celebrate the presidential inauguration of Hawaii-born Barack Obama. The actual grand opening will be on March 7, when the hotel opens all its rooms.
The history of the venerable hotel is generally considered to begin in February of 1927, after it had been built in its present location. Actually, the hotel dates back to February 29, 1872, when it opened in Downtown Honolulu — as the “Hawaiian Hotel” (the “Royal” was added some years later) with a grand ball. It was located diagonally across from the Iolani Palace grounds. At the time it was considered to be ”…sufficient to accommodate all travelers that we may expect this way for some time.” Apparently it was, at least for about 30 years. In 1901, the Moana hotel was opened on Kalakaua Avenue to accommodate the increasing number of vacationers who preferred Waikiki to Downtown Honolulu.
The Royal Hawaiian saw its heyday during the reign of King Kalakaua, who maintained a suite there and entertained distinguished guests.
In 1917, the land and building were purchased to become the first home of the Honolulu Army and Navy YMCA. Eventually, age, termites and heavy use led to its being razed in 1926. When plans were made in the 1920s for for a magnificent new hotel in Waikiki, it was decided to use the name of the old one. The “new” Royal Hawaiian was acclaimed to be one of the finest hotels in the world, a reputation it has maintained.
The Royal had surrendered its role only once before the recent renovations. It was taken over by the government as a rest and recreation center during WWII for submarine crews and marine fliers. It was refurbished and reopened in January, 1947 with a week of glamor, gaiety and nostalgia.
Once again, we’re glad to see it back.