Friday, November 27, 2015         


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Pagoda a peaceful standby for families, organizations

By Lee Cataluna


When it was announced last week that the Pagoda Hotel is being sold, the first statement from the new owner were words of reassurance. Local developer Peter Savio let everyone know that though he's planning improvements, he won't go nuts and change the place into something unrecognizable.

Savio said he knows generations of families have fond memories of the Pagoda, and he vowed to retain the property's "distinct charm."

That's one way to put it.

One of the things that defines the Pagoda's "distinct charm" is its hardiness. That place has survived countless visiting baseball teams, thousands of drunken uncles stumbling around wedding receptions, hundreds of little kids who got too excited watching the fish and tumbled into the koi pond in their nice party clothes. It is advertised as a peaceful oasis in the middle of the bustle of Honolulu's shopping district, and that description is apt. It's not peaceful like Lanai's Koele Lodge, but for the Keeaumoku/Kaheka area, with its many cars and characters and sirens, it's pretty serene.

For kids from the neighbor islands, a stay at the Pagoda is a rite of passage, part of the eighth-grade trip to Honolulu to tour the state Capitol, see the zoo and shop at Ala Moana. Four kids to a room plus a chaperone, taking up two floors of the terrace on the makai side of the property, getting ice in plastic buckets for no reason other than an ice machine is an amazing thing -- and then laughing about all the shenanigans of that trip years later at the 20th high school reunion; what would a neighbor-island childhood be without the Pagoda?

It's the place to stay when you're termite-tenting your home (even though Daddy gets sent out in the middle of the night to check that nobody is stealing stuff from the house).

It's the place to hold middle-school end-of-the-year award banquets and 50th high school reunions (usually a luncheon, since those guys don't like to drive at night). Tossed salad, teri chicken, steamed mahi, soba noodles, white cake with guava frosting ... That stuff will get you through the long speeches.

The Pagoda has been like a Ronald McDonald house for neighbor-island families with relatives staying in Honolulu hospitals. People who have come to Oahu for medical tests have weighed the results, or lack thereof, on those aloha-print bedspreads and rattan chairs.

Fancy? No. But reliable. A place where you know you can bring the kids, grab some sleep and get a good meal, like staying at a relative's house without the yippy dog that jealously guards the couch and the chickens crowing in the back yard.

And who needs room service when Like Like Drive Inn is within walking distance?

Lee Cataluna can be reached at


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