Long a somewhat shabby hotel in a premium setting—in front of King Kamehameha's royal compound on Kailua Bay, Kamakahonu Beach, and Kailua Pier—King Kam is shabby no more. Rooms and public spaces have been revitalized with flatscreen TVs, new bathrooms, and modern furnishings but have also been imbued with a new sense of history and place. Subtle patterns in the stylish guest rooms reflect lava, native plants, and traditional tattoo designs, while colors suggest sand, coffee, and rainforest ferns. The high-ceilinged, bright-toned lobby is home to a gallery of royal portraits and Hawaiian cultural scenes by the late Herb Kawainui Kane, a revered artist. And when the March 2011 tsunami sent saltwater coursing through the pool bar and ground floor, management quickly restored the public areas—including the infinity-edge pool overlooking the bay—yet again. More recently, the hotel restored its two tennis courts and pro shop, and expanded the food offerings and music (including sushi and jazz) at Honu’s on the Beach, its popular indoor/outdoor restaurant.

Note: For a week or so in early October, this is Ironman central, full of buff bodies, many belonging to international triathletes, all abuzz about the world championship that starts and ends just outside the "King Kam's" door.