Pink Palace of the Pacific Offers Classic Hawaiian Ambience

Travel Weekly managing editor Donna Tunney recently paid her first visit to Hawaii.

HONOLULU -- An educated guess is that virtually every travel agent in the U.S. has visited Hawaii at least once.

So in case it is old hat to some, here is a new way to position the destination for a sale: If clients are looking for Old World charm, they don't necessarily have to cross the Atlantic.

On the Hawaiian island of Oahu, which was the only island I visited during a brief stay this winter, clients will find a different kind of Old World but one that will prove as rewarding as the traditional.

Although there is a diverse assortment of very fine accommodations from which to choose, those looking for the epitome of "classic Hawaiian" should be pointed toward the Royal Hawaiian, also known, I was told, as the Pink Palace of the Pacific.

This gracious property is located on the beach at Waikiki, dwarfed by the high-rise hotels surrounding it and therefore claiming the title of "most noticeable."

It was here that Shirley Temple strummed a ukulele in the 1930s, where U.S. servicemen took leave for R&R during World War II and where John, Paul, George and Ringo created chaos when they visited in the 1960s.

At the Royal Hawaiian, every guest receives a lei greeting on arrival, there are on-site demonstrations and exhibits of local crafts and, at dusk, folks gather at the beachside Mai Tai Bar to listen to a trio play Hawaiian melodies as well as popular tunes from years gone by.

During my stay, there were more than a fair number of older guests, meaning people who know the words to those songs, remember World War II and are enjoying their retirement years in style.

There were younger guests, too, but only a handful of families that I noticed.

It was difficult to notice much about my fellow guests with Diamond Head looming just to the east of Waikiki Beach and tending to command my attention from most vantage points at the hotel and the beach.

Diamond Head was especially lush during my visit, locals said, because of the rainy winter season Oahu had just experienced. When I grew tired of looking at that, which was rare, I shifted my gaze to the water, the waves and the surfers.

Clients with children are certain to love Waikiki Beach. It often has a sandbar that keeps the water only waist deep, in some spots ankle deep, far out into the ocean.

Back inside the property, visitors will find Moorish-Mediterranean architecture throughout; rooms that are spacious and appear more so thanks to high ceilings and lots of windows; a business center; the Surf Room restaurant, serving three meals daily plus seafood buffets on Fridays and a special Sunday brunch; a traditional luau every Monday night on the Ocean Lawn, which is a sweeping expanse of green adjacent to the beach, and the Beach Club Cafe, serving light meals all day and complimentary tea and coffee each morning.

The Royal Hawaiian recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of its reopening in 1947.

It was closed to the public during the war and, in fact, protected with barbed wire during those dangerous days in the central Pacific when the U.S. Navy leased it as a place of refuge for servicemen.

The reopening was celebrated with -- what else? -- the playing of big-band music, the draping of a huge lei from the oceanside bell tower and a pink anniversary cake sporting 50 candles.

I found there were three ways to view the Royal Hawaiian:

* From its elegant interior, which motivates one to send a telegram home requesting permanent possessions.

* From the top of Diamond Head, where a sweeping view of most of Oahu can be had.

* From the water, specifically from an outrigger canoe, in which you ride the Waikiki waves to shore. These are piloted by native Hawaiians, who know full well that they are in paradise.

The 349-room Royal Hawaiian is managed by ITT Sheraton and is a member of its Luxury Collection.

Rack rates are from $290 to $540 per room, per night; suites, from $475 to $3,000.

Reservations can be made by calling (800) 782-9488.

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