Royal Hawaiian Center
|Address||2201 Kalakaua Avenue|
Royal Hawaiian Center, formerly Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, is a four-level, open-air commercial retail complex located near the center of Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii. At present, Royal Hawaiian Center occupies more than 310,000 square feet (29,000 m2) and extends across three blocks of Kalakaua Avenue. In July 2005, on the eve of its 25th year in operation, work began on an extensive $115 million renovation program. By June 2008, renovation and expansion work were declared complete. In addition to renovation work on the physical structure, Royal Hawaiian Center has also undergone significant changes in its identity. Since completion of renovation, Royal Hawaiian Center has begun to emphasize its role as a gathering place for both visitors and local residents alike, not merely for its commercial appeal, but also its notable cultural features and historical significance.  At the heart of the complex, Royal Hawaiian Center has a 30,000-square-foot (2,800 m2), ethno-botanically landscaped garden called The Royal Grove, a feature inspired by Waikiki’s historical Helumoa coconut grove, which once had more than 10,000 coconut trees. Royal Hawaiian Center regularly hosts performances of Hawaiian story-telling, dance and music in The Royal Grove.
According to the Royal Hawaiian Center website, the complex houses the largest concentration of flagship stores in Hawaii including Cartier, Hermes, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bvlgari, bebe, LeSportsac, Rolex Kaimama Kea, Kate spade, Tourneau, Juicy Couture, and Fendi. Altogether, Royal Hawaiian Center has 110 shops and restaurants, including local and specialty retail establishments, ten anchor restaurants, several casual food eateries, and Waikiki nei, a permanent theatrical venue.
The Royal Hawaiian Center property is owned by Kamehameha Schools, and is currently the largest real estate asset of the Kamehameha Schools trust. As of 22 October 2013, KS announced it will be selling the buildings of Royal Hawaiian Center, while keeping ownership of the lands under it (Helumoa). This will prove a recipe for disaster as in the past structure owners have successfully sued landowners (particularly KS) to force a sale of underlying lands, often at terms or timing not conducive to the land owner.
The land on which Royal Hawaiian Center now sits was once known as Helumoa. Helumoa is a Hawaiian word meaning chicken scratch. This is believed to refer to a sixteenth-century Hawaiian legend. In Waikiki: Nine Walks Through Time, the legend is briefly related: According to one legend, Kakuhihewa, chief of O’ahu in the sixteenth century, was playing Hawaiian games [there] one day when a legendary phantom rooster, Ka’auhelemoa, suddenly landed in front of him and began to scratch the earth. Just as suddenly, the rooster disappeared. Kakuhihewa directed his men to plant a coconut in the exact spot where Ka‘auhelemoa had scratched. This coconut came to be known as Helumoa and, in turn, supported a grove of several thousand coconut trees.
Helumoa has been the site of several different royal Hawaiian homes. King Kamehameha I resided at Helumoa periodically from 1795 to 1809. King Kamehameha III lived at Helumoa during the 1830s. King Kamehameha V also lived at Helumoa, retaining a summer residence in which he periodically lived. Historically, Helumoa has also been referred to as the King’s Park and Grove.  Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop penned the final codicil of her will at Helumoa, in which she bequeathed her land to the Bishop Estate for the establishment of the Kamehameha Schools.
Over the decades, and especially during the mid-twentieth century, Waikiki underwent dramatic changes. In a concerted effort to restore part of Helumoa to its original character, Kamehameha schools has devoted more than 30,000 square feet (2,800 m2) of the Royal Hawaiian Center property as The Royal Grove, where coconut palm trees and other native Hawaiian flora are cultivated in an ethno-botanical garden.
In 1979, the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center was built upon the area that was once known as the Royal Grove. In 2007 the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center underwent major renovation to add new and upscale tenants, open views to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and reflect the former Royal Grove and Hawaiian culture.
Flagship Retail and Entertainment Stores
- 7 For all Mankind
- Apple Store
- Hilo Hattie
- Juicy Couture
- Kate spade
- Rolex Kaimana Kea
- Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club 
- Salvatore Ferragamo
- Legends In Concert
- The Cheesecake Factory
- Beijing Chinese Restaurant
- Doraku Sushi
- Okonomiyaki Chibo
- Paradiso Seafood and Grill
- P.F. Chang’s China Bistro
- Senor Frog’s Restaurant & Bar
- Villa Paradiso
- Wolfgang’s Steakhouse
Layout and Design
The Royal Hawaiian Center complex has undergone a dramatic change in character since its 2005-2008 renovation and expansion project. Its dominant unifying theme is its widespread use of decorative coconut-frond motifs, chosen in honor of Helumoa Grove. Another unifying architectural theme is the extensive and dynamic interaction between man-made construction and the cultivated organic landscaping elements, notably coconut palm trees and other indigenous plants of Hawaii.
Royal Hawaiian Center has highlighted a number of specific architectural and landscaping features of the complex and its immediate surroundings. According to the Royal Hawaiian Center website, these are as follows:
- The removal of three substantial cross-building bridges, supplanted by a single, less imposing footbridge on the third level. This footbridge is promoted for its elevated view of The Royal Grove.
- Following renovation and expansion, the complex now has the capacity for two-story street-level retail spaces which face Kalakaua Avenue and Lewers Street.
- The renovated complex now uses an open-air design, notably through the sweeping lanai (verandas) and open-air windows.
- The demolition and removal of large concrete walls to create retail arcade at the makai (or ocean-facing) entrance, which faces Royal Hawaiian Hotel and Sheraton Waikiki Hotel.
- The repositioning of elevators and escalators to evoke a more welcoming entryway and open up greater areas of the complex to viewing from inside of outside, as well as create a more natural and practical dynamic for visitor foot traffic.
- The re-development of the interior courtyard, formerly paved, to feature a 30,000-square-foot (2,800 m2) ethno-botanically landscaped garden under the name, “The Royal Grove.” This landscaped area of Royal Hawaiian Center contains coconut palm trees, indigenous Hawaiian plants, performance areas, visitor seating, water features, cultural “point of interest” markers, and a bronze statue of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.
- Flagstone sidewalks and additional landscaping elements are now used in all areas surrounding the complex, as well as within three separate central atriums.
Three principal architects were involved in the redesign of the Royal Hawaiian Center complex: Callison Architecture, of Seattle, Architects Hawaii Ltd., of Honolulu, and Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo, also of Honolulu.
Since its renovation, Royal Hawaiian Center has made a considerable effort towards developing cultural features intended to appeal to both visitors and local residents alike. The Center has added an area known as Kaulani Heritage Room, where visitors may learn more about Hawaiians, Hawaiian culture, Hawaii’s history, and the role which Royal Hawaiian Center plays in its support of its owner, Kamehameha Schools. There are three multimedia presentations which cover the aforementioned topics.
Visitors may also participate in cultural classes such as hula dancing, Lauhala weaving, lei making, lomilomi (massage), ukulele playing and Hawaiian quilt making. These cultural classes are gratis and free of charge. Royal Hawaiian Center ordinarily schedules live music and hula performances throughout the week. The Center also features a life-size bronze effigy of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, in addition to other cultural murals, all of which were commissioned by local Hawaiian artists.
Royal Hawaiian Center has, since renovation, been promoting itself as a gathering place for not only out-of-state visitors, but local Hawaii residents as well. The principal attraction for this new market is the Center’s special cultural events and its entertainment venue, in particular LEVEL4 showroom, nightclub, and ultra lounge.
Royal Hawaiian Center is located on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii, between Lewers Street and Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach, an adjacent hotel.
- 20 July 2005 press release
- News article in the 13 December 2006 edition of the Star Bulletin
- News article in the 20 December 2007 edition of the Honolulu Advertiser
- Acson, V: Waikiki: Nine Walks through Time, page 32. Island Heritage Publishing, 2003.
- Grant, G: Waikiki Yesterday, Mutual Publishing, 1996.