Outrageous rates of $1.50 per night were the talk of the town when the "First Lady of Waikiki" opened her doors in 1901; today, this historic beauty—the oldest hotel in Waikiki—is still a wedding and honeymoon favorite with a sweeping main staircase and period furnishings in its historic Moana Wing. In the late 1950s, the hotel's Diamond Head Tower was built. In the '70s, the Surfrider hotel went up next door. All three merged into one hotel in the 1980s. The refurbished Surfrider has oceanfront suites with two separate lanai, one for sunrise and another for sunset viewing. Relax on the private beach or in a cabana by the pool, or indulge in a spa treatment at the 18,000-square-foot Moana Lani Spa. Enjoy live music and hula at the Banyan Court each evening or dine at the oceanfront Beachhouse at the Moana. Make sure to check out the banyan tree, the hotel's prize landmark, said to date back to the hotel's early days. Consider afternoon tea at the Veranda, the way it was done decades ago—the Hawaii Calls radio program was broadcast here during the 1940s and '50s. The hefty resort fee includes cultural activities, yoga classes, and Wi-Fi.
There are more than 20 different combinations of room configurations, views, and location to choose from. Standard rooms in the historic wing are rather small, though there are larger rooms available in the historic wing and in the tower. Decor and linens are fairly simple, with lots of earth tones throughout.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The Moana doesn’t seem to allow the same upgrade privileges to Starwood Preferred members as most hotels in the Westin/Marriott family, so don’t expect to get a better room or perks than what you paid for.
Bathrooms differ based on the room and location, some have standing showers only, others have tub/shower combos. In general, the bathrooms are fairly small, with very little vanity space.
The expansive lobby at Moana Surfrider features large columns and lovely tiled floors. There are multiple seating areas for guests to relax.
The square-shaped Moana Pool is not too large, but the palm trees, ocean views, nearby cafe, and comfy loungers make it a nice place to hang out. The pool is open daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
At Moana Lani Spa, A Heavenly Spa by Westin, guests can choose from a range of oceanside treatments and services including facials, eye treatments, massages, steam room, scalp treatments, and makeup services.
The WestinWORKOUT® Fitness Studio is open 24/7 and includes LifeFitness and TRX machines, a variety of cardio and weight machines and free weights, in a spacious room.
Breakfast and lunch can be a special treat when dining at the Veranda at the Beachhouse, with views of the hotel’s banyan tree and the sounds of the waves. Afternoon tea is also a delightful option here. Guests can take meals to go thanks to Surfrider Cafe, open for breakfast and lunch with coffee and healthy meals. Dinner at Beachhouse at the Moana includes oceanfront dining with a steak and seafood-focused menu.
At the Beach Bar guests can enjoy ocean views while sipping a cocktail and enjoying an appetizer and live entertainment. Vintage 1901 has an exquisite view of the hotel’s courtyard banyan tree to go along with its incredible wine collection (along with beer and a signature sangria) as well as small bites in the evening.
Waikiki and surrounding areas are easily reachable from the airport by cab or rideshare. There is plenty to do in these areas without ever leaving (walking, biking, taking the bus, or hailing a car), so a rental car is only necessary if you want to explore other parts of the island.
You may find the staple Hawaiian food poi cooked many different ways during your travels, but you’ll rarely find it in as intriguing and utterly satisfying a form as in the donuts at Liliha Bakery ( 17-min drive). Sadly, once you try them, you’ll regret every morning that you don’t wake up to these chewy, sweet purple treats. If you’re in the mood for something besides donuts for some reason, find some incredible offerings for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at their coffee shops. Pro tip: Grab a dozen poi donuts to take home – one of the locations is between Waikiki and the airport.
Venture outside of your ramen comfort zone at Agu Ramen (2-min drive) by adding their signature “hot mess” (a heavy dose of parmesan) to your bowl. No really, it works! Their offerings include classic ramen bowls, options for vegans and vegetarians, and a ridiculously unctuous curry that will have you thinking about it for days. They also have a great happy hour at their multiple locations that includes 50% off appetizers and draft beers.
Even if you’re not staying at The Modern, you’ll want to sneak behind the bookcases in their lobby to grab a drink at The Study (5-min drive). It may look small from the outside, but this bar with yummy cocktails, incredible live music that gives way to a DJ, and diverse crowd is large and inviting. Alas, you will definitely not get any studying done.
House Without a Key (5-min drive) inside Halekulani Hotel provides some true upscale island ambiance along with its dinner and cocktails. The restaurant has a dedicated portion of its service area for those looking to enjoy a drink and an appetizer along with their nightly music and hula performances. Their signature drink is the mai tai but take our advice and try the off-menu “Lost Passion,” a tequila/passionfruit/champagne concoction that will get you in the island spirit.
WHY WE LIKE IT
The history of this beautiful hotel makes a visit a special treat. The banyan tree in the courtyard and the architecture of the building stand out as unique amongst others in Waikiki. The amenities are also nice, as are the dining options.