Review: The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort, Waikiki – Historic Garden Suite, Honolulu, USA
After several visits, we’d get the opportunity to test out one of the most historic hotels in Waikiki Beach: The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort. The Royal Hawaiian has been an anchor on the Waikiki Beach since 1927, and many who have visited the beach have seen it’s pink structure leading it to it’s nickname of “The Pink Palace”. On this visit, we would have a great suite upgrade courtesy of the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program that accented our stay.
This post is one chapter on our trip during the pandemic to Honolulu Oahu, Hawaii, United States. This trip was redeemed through Marriott Bonvoy and further enhanced through Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.
Read more from this trip:
- Introduction: Honolulu, Hawaii, USA via United Airlines Business Class
- Coronavirus Testing for Travel: Getting Tested for Hawaii
- Fairmont Vancouver Airport, Canada
- United Airlines Business Class: Vancouver – San Francisco
- United Club Lounge San Francisco – “F” Rotunda, USA
- United Airlines First Class: San Francisco – Honolulu
- The Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, Honolulu, USA
- Tips for Walking Diamond Head, Oahu, Hawaii, USA
- Roy’s Waikiki Restaurant, Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, USA
- On the Locals Beach at Waimea Bay Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii, USA
- Snorkelling at Hanauma Bay, Oahu, Hawaii, USA
- Circling the East Coast to Waimanalo Bay Beach, Oahu, Hawaii, USA
- How to Save on Hotel Parking in Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, USA
- Marakume Udon, Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, USA
- The Sheraton Waikiki – Kai Suite, Honolulu, USA
- The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort – Waikiki, Historic Garden Suite, Honolulu, USA
- United Club Lounge Honolulu, USA
- United Airlines First Class: Honolulu – San Francisco
- United Club Lounge San Francisco – “G” International Terminal, USA
- United Club Lounge San Francisco – “E” Concourse, USA
- United Airlines Business Class: San Francisco – Vancouver
Review: The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort, Waikiki – Historic Garden Suite, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States of America.
“Waikiki Beach’s historic luxury option, The Royal Hawaiian offered peaceful old world luxury in a tranquil setting, at a substantially increased price point in exchange for personal space”
This review is of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, a Luxury Collection Resort – Waikiki. For other nearby hotel reviews, please see our review of the The Moana Surfrider by Westin, The Sheraton Waikiki and the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani.
Booking the Royal Hawaiian:
We booked the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, a Luxury Collection Resort, property to test it out because it was always sitting there on Waikiki Beach. It has a giant imposing pink 1920’s structure between all of the nineteen seventies mis mash of skyscraper towers. My acupuncturist, a Hawaii Travel Fanatic and a recent Marriott Bonvoy Platinum convert, always raved about this place; calling it her favourite hotel in Hawaii.
The Royal Hawaiian Resort operates under the Luxury Collection banner of the Marriott Bonvoy franchise. It is priced accordingly. It is typically among the most expensive of the Marriott Bonvoy hotels in Waikiki, behind the Ritz Carlton Residences Waikiki Beach.
Like many Marriott Bonvoy hotels in Hawaii, the Royal Hawaiian Waikiki remains a terrible value on a Marriott Bonvoy Points redemption as a Category 8. A standard night during our January stay was over 60,000 points for a base level Historic Room King. . As a result, we opted for a paid cash rate. The best rate we could locate for our stay at the Royal Hawaiian Resort was for $369 USD under Marriott Rewards flexible rate category.
As Marriott Bonvoy Titanium level members, we would also be entitled to the best available room, including select suites, courtesy access outside of the terms and conditions to the Mailani Tower Executive Lounge (when open), and a welcome amenity including breakfast, additional Marriott Bonvoy points or a local welcome gift.
The hotel has a number of Suites in the Marriott Suite Night Award program. During our visit the hotel offered Historic Garden Suites and a Historic Garden Junior Suite available in the Suite Night Award inventory pool. There were no rooms available in the newer Mailani Tower categories.
We would end up redeeming Marriott Bonvoy Suite Night Awards against a Historic Garden Suite, which cleared and was confirmed at the 5 day mark. This was a great deal and a fantastic way of turning a $369 USD room into a $754 USD room for free.
It’s always a great feeling getting a great value out of any loyalty program and this was no exemption.
Getting to the Royal Hawaiian:
The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort is located located in central Waikiki in the centre of Waikiki Beach. Among Marriott properties, it’s sandwiched between The Moana Surfrider by Westin, and The Sheraton Waikiki at the other end of the beach.
As with the Sheraton Waikiki, the hotel couldn’t be any more convenient for spending a few days within Waikiki Beach and it’s probably the most convenient hotel property for those looking for a short stay in Waikiki Beach. About the only thing the hotel isn’t conveniently located near to is an area to park your car for free; something that can be said of almost every Waikiki Beach hotel.
In our case, we walked over with our luggage from The Sheraton Waikiki hotel where we had just spent the last four days. We had no issues navigating between the two properties, since they are immediately next to each other.
Checking into the Royal Hawaiian Hotel:
We rolled ourselves and our luggage over from the Sheraton Waikiki. We arrived at about 4:15 PM; the peak of hotel check in times. We were met at the porte cochère with out bags (all 8 of them) and they were promptly tagged by the bell staff prior to being transferred to the room.
We were also offered and received a carved bead lei, which was a nice luxury oriented touch that’s been absent from many of my recent Hawaii hotel visits. The last time we received a lei was at the Fairmont Kea Lani on Maui, Hawaii.
We walked up into the main lobby area of the hotel. The Royal Hawaiian lobby is a large open air space with older but elegant spaces. As a hotel that was designed in the late 1920’s, it has a unique feel to it unlike the institutional lobbies of many modern resort and business hotels.
After walking up the arrival stairs and found the check in. There were only two check in agents working, but we were handled promptly. The check in spaces were cleaned by the agents between guests. Consistent with the timings of our stay, we had our vaccination status through the Safe Travels Hawaii App verified to confirm our exemption from quarantine status.
We had a very friendly and proficient check in. As Marriott Bonvoy Titanium level members, we were offered breakfast as our complimentary welcome elite amenity.
During check in, we were also offered a choice of rooms. Our confirmed Marriott Bnvoy Suite Night Award had cleared us in to a Historic Garden Suite. We were offered choice to a regular Historic Room Ocean View, a slight downgrade at $345 USD a night, or sticking with our $754 USD suite which had no ocean view. We ended up sticking with our Historic Garden Suite. While it is such a small step to ask the guest if they have a preference in rooms, it’s easily my most favourite way of making a stay better.
We were also given a coupon for Royal Hawaiian Bakery; stamped as “Bonvoy Elite” that offered us a greater selection of goods than the average guest. During the check in process, we were asked if we were celebrating anything, we volunteered that it was in honour of our anniversary. On mention of this, we were promptly offered a coupon for a champagne at the Mai Bar, which was a nice touch.
Lastly, in order to accomodate a late evening departure, we were also provided a 4 PM Titanium Late Check out with out any haggling, courtesy of Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Status. It is always appreciated to get a late checkout at a resort property, and the Royal Hawaiian is to be commended for accommodating this, without making any excuses about why they can’t deliver on a promised benefit.
The Room: A Historic Garden Suite
Suite, 1 King, Garden view, Historic Wing
We found our way up to room #363, the Queen Ka’polani Suite. The first thing that we noticed was that the doors to the hotel were intricately carved. It was a pretty neat feature to a hotel and something that I haven’t ever seen before outside of the doors of the Old Town of Zanzibar.
Immediately upon entering the Queen Kapi’olani Suite, there was a small hallway that led to an hexagon entry room. The entry way had dark hardwood floors. There was a small ensuite bathroom off the main hexagon entry way.
Immediately off the entrance way was an ensuite bathroom. It’s always nice to have a second bathroom, even if it is only a half powder bathroom.
Living / Dining Room:
One part of the room led to the formal living parlour. The living room contained a sofa, two occasional chairs and a dining table for 4 persons.
The living room parlour offered a combination living room and dining area. The dining area offered an old school round dining table with appropriately pink chairs.
The sitting area offered a large couch with two occassional chairs and an oval coffee table.
The sitting area was accented by a large television screen that was likely at least 60inches.
Surprisingly, there was also no real working wifi in the living room of the suite with a signal of less than 1 bar; a bit shocking when you’re paying a $42 Resort Fee on top of a room worth more than $750 USD a night. The situation was a a little better in the dining area of the living room parlour, with 2 out of 4 bars showing.
Also in the living area, there was also a small closet that offered a Keurig coffee maker; . The Keurig was a welcome change from the regular drip coffee machines we had found in the Sheraton Princess Kahulani and the Sheraton Waikiki. There was also a working fridge.
In the bedroom, the room was surprisingly pink, as might be expected. The room was anchored with a king size bed with a pink patterned wallpaper.
I made the mistake of leaving the air conditioner on throughout the night and I woke up at about 6:30 AM when it’s constant whirring noise became too much for me. I got up to switch it off and didn’t get back to sleep with it. It’s worth noting that the air condition was much louder than the variety in the Sheraton Waikiki where we left the AC on all the time and slept through it without any incident. If you like a quiet room like I do, make sure you allow some time for the AC to cool the room before you go to bed and switch the AC off.
There was a small desk with charging ports. This ended up being more of a cellphone, computer dump zone since it was more comfortable to work and spread out on the dining room table in the other room.
In terms of sleep quality, the sleep was good with Fette of India Sheets. The bedding was of really high quality for a hotel, and the mattress was comfortable.
In terms of room / hallway noise, it was pretty quiet. It was the most tranquil of our various hotel stays in Waikiki. However, I made the mistake of leaving the air conditioner on throughout the night and I woke up at about 6:30 AM when it’s constant whirring noise became too much for me.
I got up to switch it off and didn’t get back to sleep with it. It’s worth noting that the air condition was much louder than the variety in the Sheraton Waikiki where we left the AC on all the time and slept through it without any incident. If you like a quiet room like I do, make sure you allow some time for the AC to cool the room before you go to bed and switch the AC off.
Off the bedroom, there was an en suite bathroom. Given it’s era, it was historic in size. The tiny space offered a shower and a WC. Given the size of the bathroom, it wasn’t an area that we tended to spend a lot of time in.
The hotel has a bit of an odd layout. Most of the rooms face the gardens, with only the rooms in the top “L” facing the water. As a result, if you’re staying in the Historic Hotel, changes are you’ll have an garden facing view.
A Room with a View:
Most of the rooms in the historic wing of the hotel offer garden views that face into the courtyard. The view from the room was into the courtyard of the Royal Hawaiian Gardens. It was a nice view by Hawaii standards. There was no ocean view from this room, rather it was a view of greenery and green space which was a nice, if not tranquil, change
While I enjoyed the room and it’s spacious size, I did struggle a little bit to find a lot of value from the hotel and the higher price point. The hotel does offer accommodations at a much higher price point than it’s nearby competitors; generally by several hundred dollars per night.
In exchange for the higher price point, you get a lower overall volume and a quieter resort experience. It takes a dignified guest in order to appreciate this solitude. Dependent on what kind of consumer you are, will depend on whether this value is worth the extra dollars. Based on spending some time around the property, the Royal Hawaiian attracts a much older and wealthier clientele than the other Marriott properties in the area.
Around the Resort Property:
Outdoor Hotel Grounds:
The Royal Hawaiian has among the most beautiful and peaceful hotel grounds in Honolulu, Hawaii. When the sun it out, it is among the most peaceful places in Waikiki Beach. The grounds have palm trees located around well manicured lawns. When the sun is shining, it’s an absolute pleasure to be able to wander through these peaceful green spaces.
The gardens are an impressive part of the Royal Hawaiian hotel, adding a lot of feeling and soul to the property.
The Outdoor Pool:
The Outdoor Pool is accessed off the main lobby through an outdoor passageway. The passageway leads to a small sun deck area that was often within shade during our visit.
The outdoor pool and on property deck area at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel is among the smallest pools between the Moana Surfrider, Sheraton Waikiki and the Marriott Princess Kahulani. It was more of a plunge pool rather than a pool that was more suited to proper swimming.
While I always found the seating here to be quite occupied and full, the space didn’t have any outstanding views or other inspirational features to it. It’s primary quality was that it was steps from the hotel, and immediately adjacent to Waikiki Beach.
Although the pool is a needed feature of the hotel, it wasn’t a super inspiring location to spend a day hanging out in or around. Accordingly, we didn’t end up spending any time at the resort pool.
The Bathers Elevator:
Once of the most unique features of the property is the Bathers Elevator.
The Royal Hawaiian Hotel was built in the late 1920’s. The public hallways used to be full of guests in the finest cocktail wear and suits. The Bathers Elevator was a way for guests to travel to and from the beach areas of the hotel without adorning themselves in formal attire.
It’s always unique to seem some of these features from years past. It is probably the only hotel that I’ve ever been in that has it’s own elevator for the bathing area. History is always fascinating and the Bather’s Elevator is one of those features you don’t find in modern hotels.
The Waikiki Beach at The Royal Hawaiian:
The Royal Hawaiian sits on a commanding stretch of the Waikiki Beach. Given that there is less attraction to the pool space, this stretch of Waikiki Beach becomes the main attraction.
The Royal Hawaiian offered paid lounge chairs immediately along the strip next to the hotel property. These chairs were attended to, and it seemed fairly easy to get a chair without an advance reservation.
We ended up just bringing our own folding lawn chairs from earlier in the trip and stacking them onto the beach for our own enjoyment.
This strip of Waikiki Beach remains slightly less busy than the other portions as a result of having no immediate road or foot access. There is still quite a few resort goers from the neighbouring Sheraton Waikiki and the Outrigger by Aston that enjoy this stretch, which is especially popular at sunset.
Food and Beverage:
Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Breakfast:
We enjoyed a breakfast at the hotels Surf Lanai restaurant. The restaurant also doubles as the Azure night time fine dining restaurant. The Surf Lanai restaurant location is outdoors and on the beach and arguably occupies the most outdoor space of breakfast dining of any Marriott Hotel in Waikiki Beach.
On arrival for breakfast, we were led through the interior dining room to a covered table area outside on a very long lanai that stretched a good portion of the hotel waterfront.
We had selected a Marriott Bonvoy Platinum / Titanium / Ambassador breakfast as our Marriott Bonvoy Elite welcome amenity. The continental breakfast amenity was included, with the option to upgrade to a larger breakfast for a small charge.
I find this to be the easiest way to get the most out of any breakfast benefit, aside from perhaps being able to get the breakfast for free. While, I long for the old glory days of the Starwood Preferred Guest program where full breakfast was included at most locations, the ability to upgrade at cost is probably the best of both worlds.
In addition to a printed menu, the breakfast and drink menu’s were also available on line through scanning of a QR code on your smartphone.
I enjoyed the Royal Hawaiian Palace pink pancakes, which was fabulous and a must try serving when staying at the Royal Hawaiian. The pink pancakes at the Royal Hawaiian are a social media sensation and, admittedly, look attractive and appealing to eat. I also enjoyed a morning coffee to wake me up.
MrsWT73 had the continental breakfast, which was fully included in the Marriott Bonvoy program. The continental breakfast included fruit, yoghurt and baked good with granola on the side. She enjoyed this with a breakfast champagne.
The coffee refills didn’t come all to quickly, nor did the usual 3 minute quality check. I suspect the hotel was short staffed. However, staff weren’t too far off if you needed them, which I suppose was better than being completely absent.
The Royal Hawaiian Bakery:
After breakfast, we went to the Royal Hawaiian Bakery. The Royal Hawaiian Bakery is located on the resort’s Coconut lanai overlooking the gardens of the hotel.
The Royal Hawaiian Bakery offered a number of exciting baked items that were available for take away. These included fresh baked banana bread, baked desserts and custom cakes.
The Royal Hawaiian Bakery was only open between the morning hours of 6 AM – 12 PM. As a result, in order to visit the bakery, you needed to visit in the morning. There wasn’t the ability to redeem your check in coupon in the evening for light snacks before dinner.
On arrival to the resort, we had received a coupon for a “special amenity” for redemption at the Royal Hawaiian bakery. The coupon was presented along with our welcome letter to the resort that described all of the hotel amenities.
Upon redeeming the coupon at the Royal Hawaiian Bakery, we were offered 3 items of any of the items to take away. This represented a maximum value of $18 USD. We ended up with two Ham and Cheese Croissants ($ 6 USD each) and one Blueberry Muffin ($2.50 each) for a value of $14.50 USD. The Hawaiian Bakery was essentially a free picnic lunch, provided you attended at the right time in the morning.
Mai Tai Bar:
When we arrived to the resort, we were asked if we were celebrating anything related to our stay. Although it was a little assembly line in nature, we did reactively volunteer that it was our wedding anniversary two weeks earlier. As a result, we were offered a coupon for the late celebration of our anniversary during our check in.
As a result, we would end up redeeming the coupon at the Mai Tai bar, which is located in an ocean front location next to the Surf Lanai restaurant.
The Mai Tai Bar offered outdoor seating along an outside bar. The outside bar was mostly institutional as opposed to exotic in nature. The menu of drinks was identical to that of Surf Lani / Azure Restaurant.
We ended up at the bar for a cocktail & champagne drink before we headed off down the road for dinner.
Mailani Tower Executive Lounge:
During normal times, there is an executive lounge in the lobby of the Mailani Tower. The Mailani Tower was an addition to the historic Royal Hawaiian property and is situated closer to the pool area. As expected, the rooms are at a slightly higher price point than the historic wing.
During our visit, the Executive Lounge that is typically at this location was closed as a result of the pandemic. While Marriott Bonvoy Elites were traditionally offered access to this space, it is not clear whether this will continue if and when they decide to reopen.
The usual terms and conditions of the Marriott Bonvoy program offer lounge access privileges for Marriott Elites to Sheratons and Marriott properties. It’s not clear whether Marriott Bonvoy Elite members will continue to be able to access this space through their elite privileges in the future.
If you are requiring lounge access privileges, it’s best to inquire with the hotel directly to see if lounge access is being offered or whether booking a Mailani Tower room is the best way to get access.
After our stay, we ended up heading home on United Airlines First Class Honolulu – San Francisco.
The Bottom Line: The Royal Hawaiian
The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, a Luxury Collection Resort, offered old world luxury in spacious historic surroundings. While this had the most spacious feel to our resort stays on Oahu, it also offered the highest price point. The hotel tries much harder than it’s competitors to offer an interactive experience, although I’m not sure whether it’s worth the higher price point in my humble view. I’m just as happy next door at the newer Sheraton Waikiki that delivered almost as much resort experience with slightly more people and noise. I don’t expect to return to this property unless a great rate presents itself or I happen to be in my sixties and seriously seeking solitude.