When I posted a photo on Facebook of my son and I sitting in in a hotel room wearing pink dressing gowns I had a bit of explaining to do. But people who knew where we were staying at the time got it.
We were in the pink because we were luxuriating at The Royal Hawaiian, dubbed The Pink Palace of the Pacific because this hotel is, well, pink. Built in a Spanish-Moorish style and opened in 1927 it is one of those iconic hotels in the tradition of, say, Raffles in Singapore - the sort of place that makes you want to don a Panama hat (and there just happens to be a Panama hat shop attached to the hotel).
This hotel, on Waikiki Beach, is a destination in its own right, where you can spend your holiday just soaking up the ambience of your beachside digs. And what a beach it is, with white sand and impossibly clear blue water, worthy of every tourist brochure cliche. The waves are gentle but fun and you can hire a surfboard out front, take a ride on a catamaran or just loll in a deck chair. Bliss.
The Royal Hawaiian consists of the historic wing (a 400- room pleasure palace) and the modern and equally luxurious Mailani Tower where we stayed. Our room, which was a couple of floors up had a picture postcard view: the beach, the sea and the extinct volcano Diamond Head presiding over the scenery.
Waikiki is busy and commercial, but underlying is that aloha mystique. Aloha is a spirit and philosophy, as well as a greeting. You can feel that aloha spirit at The Royal Hawaiian, one of two historic beachfront hotels. Next door is Moana Surfrider, which was built in 1901, so it predates The Pink Palace. But The Pink Palace is special, born of an age of grace and luxury.
There are history tours, or you can grab a copy of Stan Cohen's written history. His book is pink, by the way, as so many things are at The Pink Palace. Something I love about a hotel such as this is stories of the people who made it famous, people such as Hawaiian Olympic swimmer and surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku (the bloke credited with bringing surfing to Australia) who made it his home away from home. It was also the stomping ground of his famous posse, The Waikiki Beach Boys. Over the years The Royal Hawaiian has hosted presidents, royalty, movie stars and pretty well anybody who was ever anybody. Names on the register back in the day included the likes of Clark Gable and Al Jolson. Child star Shirley Temple made headlines when she stayed at the hotel in the 1930s, and The Shirley Temple mocktail is a favourite drink at the hotel.
I recommend A Royal Hawaiian Luau, Aha Aina. It's a Hawaiian feast with cultural activities and is a great introduction to local history and culture. Touristy, yes, but just go with it.
The hotel has excellent restaurants and there's the famous Mai Tai Bar where you sit and sip your cocktail (or in my case, mocktail) at sunset with one of the best views in the world.
Waikiki is a happening place with great shopping and food yet it manages to somehow be laid back too. Laid back enough so that after a day of sun and fun you can recline in your pink dressing gown without a care in the world.
THE ROYAL HAWAIIAN, Honolulu, Hawaii, rooms from $450 per night. royal-hawaiian.com. Hawaiian Airlines flies from Brisbane to Honolulu every Tue, Thu, Sat and Sun. hawaiianairlines.com.au.
Copyright © Phil Brown