My Travels: Royal Hawaiian in Laguna Beach

Plaque at the Royal Hawaiian in Laguna Beach
Plaque at the Royal Hawaiian
in Laguna Beach

As part of our trip, we paid a visit to the Royal Hawaiian in Laguna Beach; like Tonga Hut, I’d only been there once a few years ago, and Hanford had not been before. My previous trip had been during the day, which is never the best time to see a tiki bar. This time, it was dark outside, and the restaurant was pretty much deserted — we had the place to ourselves, which allowed us to do a lot of exploring and picture taking.

The place is lovely, far lovelier than I’d remembered. There is a lot of thatch and bamboo and sea grass matting, and many beautiful oil paintings and lamps. What really struck us was the music — it was about as perfect as I’ve ever heard in a tiki place. It was old Hawaiian music, like you can hear on old LPs brought back from Hawaiian vacations in the ’50s and ’60s. The bar was another story — modern pop/hip-hop music was blaring — but we couldn’t hear it from our table in the restaurant. It was so relaxing. It’s truly a shame that it’s going away — if we had a place like this in our neck of the woods, we’d make heavy use of it. You just can’t build history into a place.

On our way out we spoke with some of the waitstaff, and they confirmed that they know nothing about what the new owner intends to do — whether the building will stand or be destroyed in favor of a new building. They did say that escrow has been pushed back several times, and they don’t know exactly when they’ll close. They will definitely be open until at least June 11, which is significantly later than I’d last heard.

If you have any chance at all, be sure to pop into the Royal Hawaiian before it closes forever!

One thought on “My Travels: Royal Hawaiian in Laguna Beach

  1. Update on the Royal Hawaiian in Laguna Beach:
    My wife and I have been there two times since the new owners took over. Both our families have been regular visitors to the RH for fifty years. JR and his sister (the old owners whose parents started the restaurant) are sorely missed.
    Only one half of the restaurant is now open (the side with the bar), the other side is closed for renovations. The atmosphere is ruined; from the street it looks like heck, but since we are old friends we had to go check it out. On Sunday, April 22 (our anniversary) we went and were much disappointed. The price of the signature ribs dinner is so high now that our two meals, with a bread basket but no appetizers or alcohol, topped out at fifty dollars. Service was lousy, I couldn’t find anyone when it was time to pay the bill. No Hawaiian music, no island-style interior, and it looks like they have made zero progress on the remodel since last summer. We won’t be going back. ~sigh~ Now I know why JR sold the place.


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