Dressed in pinks and starchy white-linen tablecloths, the Monarch Room is one of the loveliest, open-air dining rooms in Hawaii. It has a '30s and '40s ambience that harks back to a time of Sunday tea dances and Big Band music. If you're already too stuffed to eat another big meal, each evening also offers a cocktail show, so you can enjoy the choir's Christmas program. But when I called the Royal Hawaiian, a young woman said, "Oh, sir, they've been sold out for weeks. You should have made your reservations in November."
Ah, well, I thought. There goes our Christmas.
"But why don't you try our buffet on the beach?" she said helpfully. "In the Surf Room."
So we did. The Surf Room is just steps from the ocean and we could hear the harmonies of the Honolulu Boy Choir wafting along the beach from the Monarch Room, which was just across a courtyard. My wife, who had finished her work in Honolulu, met us at our table and we discovered a table of friends sitting nearby.
We ate a huge Christmas buffet that went on and on--and to which we went back and back. The presents were unwrapped as a trio of Hawaiian musicians sang such songs as "Hamau e Na Kanaka" ("It Came Upon a Midnight Clear").
When we finally left, after more than three hours of munching and singing and talking and mingling and caroling, we were tired, stuffed, happy and ready for bed.
As we walked in the warm December night beneath a clear "hula" moon, my daughter said, "What more would you want for a Mele Kalikimaka (Merry Christmas)?"
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GUIDEBOOK: Wreath Around Waikiki
Getting there: United, Northwest, Continental, Hawaiian Air, Delta, American, American Trans Air all offer nonstop flights from LAX to Honolulu. Restricted advance-purchase fares start at $368 round trip.
Holiday meals in Waikiki: Halekulani, 2199 Kali Road. Orchids Restaurant features dinner menus from six islands. Dec. 1-Jan. 7; 6-10 p.m. Each menu around $50 per person. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day brunch, $37. Telephone (808) 923-2311.
Sheraton Moana Surfrider, 2365 Kalakaua Ave. Banyan Veranda offers a Christmas Eve menu, 5-9 p.m., $42 adults, $21 children, and a Christmas Day brunch, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., $33 adults, $16.50 children; The Ship's Tavern offers a Christmas Day dinner, 5:30-10 p.m., $68 per person; W.C. Peacock & Co. Ltd., has Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners, 5-10 p.m., $35 adults, $17.50 children. Tel. (808) 922-3111.
Royal Hawaiian, 2259 Kalakaua Ave. Surf Room offers a Christmas Eve Champagne Brunch, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., $22.50 adults, $16.25 children; the Christmas Eve Surf Room dinner buffet, 5:30-10 p.m., $39.95 adults, $26.75 children. Christmas Day Surf Room Champagne Brunch, 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m., $36 adults, $23 children; Christmas Day Surf Room dinner, 5:30-10 p.m., $39.95 adults, $26.75 children. The Monarch Room presents the Honolulu Boy Choir, Dec. 24 and 25; dinner package, $65 adults, $46 children; 6:30-8:30 p.m.; cocktail package, $36 adults, $18 children, from 8 p.m. Tel. (808) 931-7194.
Hilton Hawaiian Village, 2005 Kalia Road. Bali-by-the-Sea offers Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners, 6-10 p.m., $80 per person. Tel. (808) 949-4321, Ext. 43.
Hyatt Regency Waikiki, 2424 Kalakaua Ave. "Turkey to Go" holiday meal for 4-6, ready for heating, around $65. Pick up at Hyatt, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Tel. (808) 923-1234.