Honolulu Fire Capt. Terry Seelig said Wednesday the fire was set inside a large trash bin next to the iconic Moana Surfrider Hotel. No one was injured.
Seelig says the flames rose six stories to the roof of a wing added to the hotel in 1918. The blaze broke some first- and second-floor windows.
About 30 firefighters responded shortly before 3 a.m. Starwood Hotels spokeswoman Marsha Wienert says over 1,200 guests evacuated.
The fire never spread inside the building. But sprinklers inside a first-floor coffee shop were activated and caused some water damage.
Honolulu police are opening a first-degree arson investigation.
The landmark hotel opened in 1901.