The Royal Hawaiian Hotel Review: stay at the pink palace
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In a nutshell: The pink palace is an iconic hotel located in the heart of Waikiki that somehow also manages to feel secluded.
Overview of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel
Located on 15 acres in the heart of Waikiki, the Royal Hawaiian is a hotel that draws us back again and again. From the serene setting to the ease access of everything else in Waikiki, the Royal Hawaiian offers a great stay and so much more.
Royal Hawaiian Hotel Location
At the Royal Hawaiian Hotel you are located in the heart of Waikiki. You’re walking distance to so many things! You’re approximately 20 minutes from the airport, a one hour drive to the north shore, and a 10 minute drive to anything you want to do in downtown Honolulu.
Highlights of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel
Pools in Waikiki can be hit or miss. They’re usually very small or very crowded (or both). The Royal Hawaiian isn’t a hotel I’d stay at just for the pool, but they do offer a nice kids pool experience that most other Waikiki hotels don’t provide.
There are two pools to choose from when you stay at the Royal Hawaiian:
- Malulani Pool: This is a small and quiet pool located on property at the Royal Hawaiian. You can reserve a cabana or use the pool chairs available.
- Helumoa Playground: This is a shared pool for the Royal Hawaiian and Sheraton guests and is perfect for kids. There are two pools, a waterslide, and a fountain area. While the pool chairs can get crowded, this is a fun place to spend the day.
There are two wings to the hotel: the historic wing and the Mailani Tower.
Mailani Tower: rooms in the Mailani Tower are newer and come with private lanais. The rooms have great ocean views, are slightly larger than the rooms you’ll find in the historic wing, and are also a bit more expensive.
Historic wing: in the historic wing you’ll find smaller rooms which can be either ocean view or garden view. The rooms can be a little smaller and they do feel older, but there is a charm to staying in the historic wing. These rooms do not have private lanais.
Watch a compilation of a couple of our stays and a tour of the Royal Hawaiian below.
There are a number of restaurants on-site. But while we will occasionally make use of the on-site dining, what’s even better is how close you are to some great places to eat in Waikiki. If you’re not interested in venturing off-site, you can choose from:
- Mai Tai Bar: casual outdoor dining. We love making at least one stop here to enjoy live music and the sunset.
- Azure restaurant and bar: upscale dining available for dinner
- Surfside lanai: a beachside restaurant open for breakfast
- Royal Hawaiian bakery: pastries and coffee are on the menu every morning here
Included as part of your resort fee are a few activities you may want to make use of:
- GoPro Hero 5 rental
- Morning yoga
- Daily cultural activities including Ukulele Lessons, Beginners Hula, Ribbon Lei Making, Shell/Kukui Nut Lei Bracelet Making, Lauhala Weaving, Haku Bracelet Making, Flower Lei Making
While there are activities included as part of your resort charge, that’s just scratching the surface of what you can do while you’re on vacation. We’ve highlighted all of our favorite Oahu activities in our Tours & Activities section, but some not too far from the hotel include:
- Surf lessons in Waikiki
- A honolulu helicopter ride
- A luau located right in Waikiki
- A whale watching tour that leaves from just outside Waikiki
Royal Hawaiian Hotel Review: why we love it
We have stayed at upwards of 15 Waikiki hotels or vacation rentals and we consistently go back to the Royal Hawaiian. In fact, I used to stay here for 6+ weeks at a time when traveling for work, so this hotel can sometimes feel like a home away from home. While there are drawbacks (covered in the next section), whenever we plan a trip back to Waikiki, this is the first hotel I check for pricing and availability. Here’s why:
- Historic feel: Heading to the Royal Hawaiian is like stepping back in time. The hotel opened in 1927 and was built in the Spanish-Moorish style. When you walk through the historic wing, you’ll appreciate the hand carved wood doors, the high ceilings, and the spacious grounds that are missing from many of the newer Waikiki hotels. It is a beautiful and unique hotel.
- Location: If you want to experience Waikiki, the Royal Hawaiian is in the prime location. Here you’re on the beach and you’re also just a few steps away from the Royal Hawaiian Center, where you’ll find plenty of dining options. You can also walk Kalakaua Avenue to head out shopping or to a number of other restaurants (try Maui Brew Co just across the street).
- Minimal crowds: I don’t know why, but the Royal Hawaiian never feels crowded. Unlike the rest of Waikiki, which is bustling, the Royal Hawaiian feels serene. It’s one of the things that we appreciate so much about staying here. We can enjoy the hustle and excitement of Waikiki and then retreat to our own escape.
- Helumoa Playground: While this is a shared access pool for the Royal Hawaiian and the Sheraton, I appreciate it! Many hotels in Waikiki don’t offer fun kids pools and the one that does, is not a hotel we often choose to stay at. Having access to a great family pool while still staying at a nice hotel is such a plus for us.
Things to Know Before Booking the Royal Hawaiian Hotel
- Parking and resort fee: resort fees are fairly standard at Hawaii hotels. The Royal Hawaiian charges a $42 per night resort fee, which is not included in the published room rate. The self-parking fee is $45 per night and the valet parking fee is $55 per night. (Fees are accurate as of December 2022).
- Beach chairs are available for an extra charge: one of the things I really dislike is when I’m staying at a nicer hotel and everything is an additional charge. While many hotels offer beach chairs for an extra charge, it still never feels quite right when a luxury hotel is charging you for a chair on the beach. The Royal Hawaiian charges $60 per day for two beach chairs and one umbrella.
- Lanai only available in the tower: we love staying in the historic wing and always choose to stay there. But the drawback is that if you want a lanai off your room, that’s only available in the Mailani Tower.
- Dated feeling: The hotel is historic (and that’s why I love it) but it can also feel dated and I understand why it’s not the right spot for everyone. Things are old and it is due for a room refresh soon as it was last updated over 10 years ago.
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