The Royal Hawaiian

photo by: The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort

June 15, 2017

Ocean Views and Tropical Drinks at The Royal Hawaiian's Mai Tai Bar

In 1953, Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron took his classic Mai Tai recipe—rum, Curacao, orgeat syrup, and lime juice—and he swapped out the lime juice for fresh-squeezed orange and pineapple juice. The Royal Mai Tai was born.

It was a drink he created specifically for The Royal Hawaiian, a luxury hotel on Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach. And today, it’s one of the seven varieties of Mai Tais you can order at the hotel’s Mai Tai Bar.

Located just steps from the sand, the Mai Tai Bar has long been popular among the rich and famous. It’s a favorite hangout among locals and hotel guests, too. Grab a table and take in views of the ocean, with Diamond Head in the distance. Don’t worry—there are plenty of umbrellas to shield you from the sun. You can also reserve a private cabana. There’s a full menu of food and drinks. And there’s live entertainment most nights, featuring local musicians.

The Royal Hawaiian first opened its doors on February 1, 1927 with a black tie gala. It’s said that its opening was the start of a new era of luxury travel to Hawaii, and the sprawling six-story, Spanish-Moorish-style hotel quickly gained the nickname “the Pink Palace of the Pacific.”

During World War II, the hotel was leased exclusively to the U.S. Navy as a place for the Pacific Fleet to rest and recover. It reopened to the public in 1947.

Today, the 528-room hotel—a member of Historic Hotels of America—balances historic charm and ultra-modernity, thanks, in part, to an extensive renovation completed in 2009.

You can read more about The Royal Hawaiian and another Waikiki Beach landmark, the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium (a National Treasure of the National Trust), in the Summer 2017 issue of Preservation magazine—not that you need any convincing to visit our 50th state.

Here’s what you need to know before you head to the bar:

Location: 2259 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, HI 96815

Hours: 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. (last call)

You’re Having: A Royal Mai Tai, of course. And for a snack, try the crispy Thai calamari and oysters, or the ever-popular brewer's cheese fondue.

Best Yelp Review: “Perfect place with the one of the best views in Waikiki for outdoor lunch, dinner, or just a drink. … Service was really good, live music, and the most magical view from patio. We were seated right next to beach. It was mind blowing experience. One of the best sunset spots in Hawaii.”

Royal Mai Tai

photo by: The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort

A Royal Mai Tai.

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Lauren Walser headshot

Lauren Walser served as the Los Angeles-based field editor of Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about art, architecture, and public space, and hopes to one day restore her very own Arts and Crafts-style bungalow.

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