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The Enduring Allure Of Historic Pink Hotels

Historic pink hotels have never really paled. But like rosé wines, they seem to be enjoying a renaissance. According to Dak Kopec, a psychologist and professor of architecture at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, pink hotels came into prominence first in the 1920s and then again in the 1950s. Now many are gravitating to these historic properties for their vintage appeal. Specifically, the architecture styles associated with these two major waves of pink hotels—art deco and mid-century—are reminscent of a distant time of glitz and glamour. 

But the question remains: Why pink?

Dr. Kopec notes that hotels are pink for a variety of reasons. “The Royal Hawaiian, one of the most famous, was pink because the architect was from Portugal,” he says. “Typically, you see pink hotels in places that feature warm climates—like Portugal, the Caribbean, Florida, Hawaii, and so on.”

“In Florida, pink is a popular color for hotels because they use coral to construct them. In places like California or Nevada, the sun will fade red coloring to pink so they paint them pink to begin with,” he adds. 

Of the five iconic luxury hotels highlighted by Forbes, three are members of Historic Hotels of America. Emblematic of vintage glamour and allure, these pink paradises boast intriguing backstories that are sure to transport guests of all ages to another era.  

The Don CeSar
The legendary Don CeSar, located on Florida’s Gulf Coast, first opened in 1928. The opulent hotel was built by real estate scion Thomas Rowe during the Gatsby era, as a tribute to his lost love, and soon became a favorite of socialites and celebrities of the silver screen. After Rowe tragically suffered a heart attack and died in the lobby, the Don CeSar was inherited by his estranged wife. During WWII, the U.S. Army used it as a hospital, after which it served as a convalescent center for returning airmen. Spurred by local citizens, a new owner led the effort to preserve the hotel and restore it to its former glory. Also dubbed a “Pink Palace,” Don Cesar is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The hotel offers 241 modern guest rooms and 36 suites with luxurious amenities, an expansive seaside spa, two heated pools, an award-winning fine dining restaurant and a beach in its backyard. St. Petersburg has long been a warm-weather mecca; the city lays claim to the most days of consecutive sunshine, 768 days. 

Read more about the history of The Don CeSar here.

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, a Luxury Collection Resort
Long before it attracted tourists, Waikiki was the haunt of Hawaiian royalty: The residence of King Kamehameha occupied the beachfront property where The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, a Luxury Collection Resort sits today. (Queen Kaahumanu’s summer palace was sited on what is now the resort’s Coconut Grove). In 1927, with an investment of $4 million, the Matson Navigation Co. opened the Moorish-style hotel with a pink stucco facade as a luxury resort for its steamship passengers. It was quickly dubbed “The Pink Palace of the Pacific.” After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the Navy leased it as a rest and relaxation center for their personnel. In 1947, the resort was restored to its pre-war elegance followed by a number of transitions in ownership and management.

A new 17-story Mailani Tower opened in 2015 expanding the iconic resort to 528 modern rooms and 34 suites. In addition to its excellent location on Waikiki, the property has a fitness center, spa, on-site bakery, two outdoor pools, and an exclusive guest area on the beach.

Discover the history of The Royal Hawaiian here.

La Valencia Hotel
This charter member of the Historic Hotels of America first opened in 1926. When first built at a cost of $200,000, it served as an apartment hotel. During WWII, it housed young officers heading overseas and their brides could rent inexpensive units in the hotel or nearby cottages to wait for their return. An ocean-view pool, gym, sauna, putting green and shuffleboard court were added In the 1950s. Referred to as “The Pink Lady of La Jolla,” over the years the  Mediterranean-style La Valencia Hotel became a magnet for luxury travelers and hideaway for Hollywood celebrities. 

Since 2010, Pacifica Host Hotels has overseen the operations of 114 elegant rooms, suites and villas at La Valencia, striving to enhance the property while preserving its vintage ambiance. Sitting on a bluff above La Jolla Beach, the landmark hotel offers commanding views of the southern California coastline and the Pacific Ocean.  

Dive into the history of La Valencia Hotel here.

About Historic Hotels of America®
Historic Hotels of America is the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for recognizing, celebrating, and promoting the finest historic hotels. Each fascinating place has been inducted into this distinguished program based upon noteworthy standards, including quality of accommodations, historic significance, record of preserving authenticity, sense of place and architectural integrity.