What could be sweeter than savouring a blissful night or two in the flamingo-pink embrace of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki on a winter-busting escape? It’s a starry-eyed sanctuary, pitch-perfect if you want a languid sojourn in the lap of heritage luxury, before or after a big Trans-Pacific flight. Tucked away among blooming, fragrant gardens and strung along 14 acres of prime Waikiki Beach, this beloved old-school symbol of romantic holiday luxury can’t stop captivating the world’s imagination. I adore its Spanish-Moorish architecture, its retro rosy façade, stately stucco archways, vaulted ceilings, pink-and-gold pineapple wallpaper, patterned floor tiles and vibrant exoticism.
Taking a stroll across its manicured lawns accentuates the unmistakeable sense of prized tranquillity, given it rubs noses with Waikiki’s sprawling concrete jungle. You’ll effortlessly slip into the Slip into the hotel’s rhythm, whether you decide to lounge in side-by-side rocking chairs on the lanai overlooking a coconut grove, or slip into your pink-striped Frette bathrobe and take a snooze under the pink umbrellas fringing the circular main pool. Ever since the Royal Hawaiian opened in 1927, the hotel has wooed the world’s discerning pleasure-seekers, plus ample star-power. I always enjoy staking out the memorabilia sprinkled throughout the hotel, from the vintage island maps to the feature photos of notable guests in residence like Amelia Earhart, the Kennedys, and Marilyn Monroe.
Shirley Temple created a stir by strumming the ukulele on Waikiki Beach when she visited the Royal Hawaiian in the 1930s, setting the stage for the creation of the Shirley Temple cocktail. And how could you possibly not partake in a tipple or two, while drinking in the sunset, at the Mai Tai Bar? Served from the alfresco round bar made of koa wood, fruit-centric cocktails rule the roost including no less than 8 different mai-tais. Last year, 92,000 Royal Mai Tai cocktails were freshly served here, from then bar that made the Mai Tai globally famous, first served here in 1958. Few beaches are more coveted than glorious Waikiki, where gentle sea breezes caress the waving palms and powder soft sand.
Soundtracked by breaking waves, definitely splurge on a brag-worthy oceanview room, for dreamy shoreline views all the way to Diamond Head. Accommodations are available in the iconic historic building or the adjoining tower. If you prefer indulgence of the ultra-contemporary kind, the Mailani Tower will hold stronger appeal where accommodations are distinctly light and breezy, with a beach-inspired vibe and chic touches. I plumped for old-school romance, opting for a Historic Ocean Deluxe room, exuding a contemporary take on sophisticated glamour of the late 1920’s, with a 9 foot ceiling, carved wooden doors, four-poster canopy bed, flowered wallpaper, ornate paddle ceiling fan and period furniture. The colour motifs range from soft mauve to soothing sea foam. Crisp snow-white bedding and heavenly boudoir pillows lulled me into a contended sleep.
Peckish? The Azure restaurant is lauded for its locally-caught seafood in a chic, airy Moroccan-inspired setting. New at the restaurant, a monthly late-night lounge event in the upper deck of Azure. Raising the Bar features top industry professionals, provocative beverages, after-dinner appetisers and live music, on the third Friday of every month. Discover new beverages from around the world, under the colourful command of the Royal Hawaiian’s resident Sommelier Micah Suderman. I headed to Surf Lanai for a cracking breakfast buffet, laden with goodness and decadence in equal measure.
Don’t miss the Pipikaula Sandwiches, similar to salted beef jerky and loved by Hawaiian cowboys. And how could you possibly say no to the Pink Palace pancakes, off the a la carte menu? Opened to celebrate its 90th anniversary, the Royal Hawaiian Bakery fast became my glorified neighbourhood cafe. Located on the resort’s Coconut Lanai offering everything from The Royal Hawaiian’s fiendishly good banana bread and classic freshly baked desserts to custom-created cakes. Kiwis are particularly discerning about the quality of their coffee-fix and this bakery pleasingly hits the spot! Whether you’re staying in-house or not, take part in a free historical tour of the hotel, every Tuesday and Thursday. You’ll be enchanted by the rich history of the Pink Palace of the Pacific and hear evocative stories from the property’s long and lustrous past.
Also worth a perusal is the current exhibition, underway in the Coronet Lounge, which is complimentary for the public. Matson Navigation Company built The Royal Hawaiian in 1927 and shares treasures from its archives in curated exhibitions. The latest production pays homage to fashion from the 1920s – 1960s at the hotel, running the gamut from cruise attire and bathing suits to cocktail dresses and Hawaiian holoku. This legacy Waikiki landmark is absolutely a destination unto itself. www.royal-hawaiian.com
Whatever your travel plans are in the Hawaiian islands, the official website is a trusty port of call, fizzing with trip inspiration. www.gohawaii.com/nz
Hawaii’s acclaimed flag-carrier, Hawaiian Airlines, has a proud and illustrious back-story to match the Royal Hawaiian’s heritage credentials. One of the Pacific’s pioneering carriers, the airline is currently in its 90th year of continuous operation, beginning life as Inter-Island Airways. One of its first aircraft was a Bellanca monoplane, deployed for $5 sightseeing flights. For its 80th anniversary, the airline re-acquired and fully restored its original Bellanca, with the vintage aircraft is now housed in a Honolulu hangar. Nowadays, the airline has a fleet of 65 aircraft, criss-crossing the Pacific and whisking you to every pocket of the island chain.
Hawaiian Airlines operates new 278-seat, Airbus A330-200 aircraft and flies up to five times weekly from Auckland to Honolulu and on to 13 U.S. Mainland cities, with Boston being the latest destination. If you’re flying to Auckland, Jetstar offers an interline partnership with Hawaiian Airlines, for more seamless connections. Extra Comfort: For just NZD$139 per person per sector, you can treat yourself to Hawaiian Airlines’ Extra Comfort Economy Seats and enjoy five or more inches of legroom, priority boarding, personal electronic power outlet and amenity kit.
All fares and classes include excellent meals and beverages, on-demand seat-back entertainment and a generous 64kg free checked baggage allowance. (2 bags x 32kg per piece.) Be sure to order up the carrier’s signature complimentary cocktail, a Rum Punch. One of the best drinks in the sky. Happy 90th birthday! https://www.hawaiianairlines.co.nz
Start and end your waltz with Waikiki in style. Dustin Kalei and his winning team of drivers will deliver a smooth transfer between the hotel and airport, in addition to offer private and customised tours of wonderful Oahu. For full details head to Executive Chauffeur Hawaii at https://echawaii.com
Mike Yardley is our Travel Correspondent on Jack Tame Saturday Mornings.