For nearly a century, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel has been a dream getaway destination for Oahu visitors. The beachfront location, distinctive pink paint, and elegant architectural design combine to make the Royal Hawaiian one of the most recognizable locations in Waikiki. Frequent depictions in movies and television have also added to the legendary status of the iconic pink hotel.
Celebrities including Jon Hamm and Adam Sandler have filmed at the Royal Hawaiian, but being a celebrity is not a requirement to afford a night there. If you go at the right time, rooms at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel go for less than $500 a night.
The Royal Hawaiian is a frequent pop culture setting
The story of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel begins almost a century ago, as the Royal Hawaiian’s history section states that the hotel opened to the public in 1927. When the hotel opened, Waikiki was already a popular spot for Oahu locals and visitors alike, and this only became more true as tourism to Hawaii increased.
Over time, other luxury hotels and resorts opened near the Royal Hawaiian, but the pink palace has maintained its status as the premier Waikiki hotel. Because of this glamorous reputation and its unique aesthetic, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel has also been a frequent setting for movies and TV shows.
IMDb reports 17 titles that have been filmed at the Royal Hawaiian. The first on-screen appearance of the Royal Hawaiian came just four years after it opened with the 1931 mystery film The Black Camel.
When a show or movie has an episode in Hawaii, it isn’t uncommon for the Royal Hawaiian to make an appearance. This is the case for the 1967 I Dream of Jeannie episode “Jeannie Goes to Honolulu” and the 1977 Charlie’s Angels episode “Angels in Paradise.”
Fans of the Adam Sandler classic Punch-Drunk Love might also recognize the iconic lobby arch of the Royal Hawaiian. PopSugar states that in addition to being featured in the movie, the Royal Hawaiian was also in the Punch-Drunk Love poster.
Mad Men fans might also recognize the Royal Hawaiian as a setting featured in the show’s sixth season premiere. Don Draper has a drink at a gorgeous koa wood bar that was made specifically for the scene, and according to Honolulu Magazine, the hotel attempted to purchase the bar and make it a permanent addition. They were unfortunately unsuccessful.
At the right time of year, the Royal Hawaiian is not too expensive
Even though you can’t drink at the same bar as Don Draper, you can still stay at the Royal Hawaiian, and if you go at the right time of the year, it might even be somewhat affordable — for a luxury hotel. Booking a standard room during the summer will typically cost somewhere between $500 and $600 per night.
Every season is tourism season in Hawaii, but if you want to stay at the Royal Hawaiian for under $500, traveling during months like November or February could be your best bet.
More economical rooms can be found in the Mailani Tower, which is the more recent add-on to the Royal Hawaiian. For the true classic luxury experience, though, look for rooms and suites in the Historic Wing. This section is costlier, though.
Other Hawaiian hotels have been featured in movies and TV
The Royal Hawaiian might be the most iconic hotel in Hawaii, but it isn’t the only Hawaiian resort to appear in film or TV. Another Hawaiian resort that has gained recent fame on the screen is the Four Seasons Resort on Maui, which was the backdrop for the 2021 breakout series The White Lotus.
According to Architectural Digest, the resort was closed during filming due to coronavirus (COVID-19), and this gave the crew a great deal of freedom to move things around and redecorate as needed. The only stipulation was that the crew had to leave the headboards and paint as they were.
Much like the Royal Hawaiian on Oahu, fans of The White Lotus can book a room at the Four Seasons for a vacation themed after their favorite show.