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Food & Wine

Royal Hawaiian Hotel still reigns over Waikiki

 Image from article Royal Hawaiian Hotel still reigns over Waikiki
Special to the Town Crier
The pink walls of the Royal Hawaiian are a Waikiki landmark.

The world has many great hotels. Throughout the Pacific Basin there are famous and historical establishments such as the Manila Hotel in the Philippines, the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Raffles in Singapore and the Royal Hawaiian in Honolulu. All were built during a time of opulence and craftsmanship. Guests came by steamship and stayed for a month, along with their servants.

Today, the Royal's lovely setting on Waikiki Beach has been overshadowed by a multitude of high-rise hotels, but the style and reputation of the "Pink Palace" remain. Built in 1925, the Royal still has lovely gardens, and my favorite place to dine is under the Banyan tree on the beach. It's worth going into the lobby and up to the first floor to see the historic photos of the hotel and the display of china and old menus.

The era of opulence came to an abrupt end for the Royal Hawaiian on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was bombed. The Navy took over the hotel and leased it for four years to house the submariners who spent many months on war patrols all over the Pacific. Sailors averaged 10-day stays at the hotel. Officers paid $1 a day and enlisted men 25 cents. Before the Navy moved in, the hotel manager had a wall built to hide the wine cellar in the basement. You can imagine his delight when four years later the hotel management knocked the wall down and discovered all the wine and liquor still intact.

I stayed there recently for a conference, and the food and entertainment were truly outstanding. At dinner one night, the head of the Hawaiian Visitors Bureau told me that more than 1,000 truckloads of sand would be delivered to enlarge the beach area. The hotel has done a wonderful job putting in a new promenade at Waikiki, and the shuttle bus that comes by every 10 minutes takes you around town and to the Ala Moana shopping mall.

The Royal Hawaiian hosts 30 wedding ceremonies a week. Destination weddings are big business in Honolulu, with the Royal and the neighboring Moana Hotel each doing an excellent job. Their beautiful lawns provide a fantastic reception venue where guests can relax and listen to the surf.

After visiting the Royal, we went to Kauai and played golf for a few days at Princeville, on the north end of the island, an hour's drive from Lihue airport. The four courses there are superb, and we had no trouble scheduling tee times. We like the Makai course the best. We haven't taken our golf clubs on our past few trips; instead, we rented them there, which is an easy option.

There are several great restaurants in Hanalei and Prince- ville. Our favorites are the Blue Dolphin and C.J's Steak House. Lunch at the Prince golf course is outstanding, and their spa is worth a visit.

The Sheraton Hotel at Prince- ville has a lovely location; every room boasts a view. Sunsets are spectacular, and the luau on the beach is worth attending - it sometimes features wonderful concerts by the islanders.

"Aloha" and "mahalo" are two words I love to hear.

Maureen Jones is president of Los Altos-based All Horizons Travel. For more information, call 941-5810.

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