The Royal Hawaiian Hotel

Helen G. Chapin, Courtesy of the Hawaiian Historical Society


Photo by Jonathan Radke, courtesy of Historic Hawai'i Foundation

Long before Waikiki was developed as a tourist destination, it was a favorite residence and recreational center for Hawaiian kings and chiefs. Its cool coconut groves bordering on white sand beaches, its surfing and swimming in temperate waters, made it a most inviting place.
Foreign visitors began to visit Waikiki in the 1830s. A road was constructed in the 1860s, and a tramway and tramcars were introduced in the late 1880s. After annexation, and in anticipation of an increase in visitors, the Moana Hotel was opened in 1901.
Simultaneously, the territorial government in 1907, under what it called the "Waikiki Reclamation Commission," planned for greater commercial and tourism development by widening streets, building bridges, and draining the duck ponds, rice paddies, and taro patches that formed Waikiki’s aquaculture. Development accelerated after World War I.
The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, a $4 million investment by the Matson Navigation Co. opened on February 1, 1927. Built on 15 acres of beautiful beach frontage, the luxurious hotel, with its distinctive Moorish-style architecture painted pink, was promoted world-wide as a premier visitor destination. Elaborate opening ceremonies and festivities included dinner and dancing, a concert, and a pageant. What made Waikiki so attractive in the past contributed to making the "Pink Palace" a favorite of both visitors and local residents for decades, or until statehood and the rapid expansion of hotels in the 1960s and 1970s.

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