Dining at neighboring sister resorts is chargeable back to rooms
Boutiques and shops on-site for souvenirs and sundries
Water sports and other activities are available
Wi-Fi is included with resort fees
Rooms are smaller than most in Waikiki
Hotel grounds are often extremely crowded, including the beach
Pricey food and beverages at pool and restaurant
Only one pool for a resort with close to 800 rooms
Mandatory daily resort fee providing Wi-Fi access
Steep fees for parking
Originally opened in 1901, the beachfront Moana Surfrider has a historic atmosphere that's blended with royal Hawaiian charm, though there are some flaws in the four-pearl package. The beach is gorgeous, but crowded, and there's only one pool for nearly 800 rooms, but the hotel has one of the nicest spas in Waikiki as well as a decent gym and several boutiques and shops. The compact rooms include features like small flat-screen TVs, excellent beds, and mini-fridges, and some have gorgeous ocean views. Wi-Fi is provided through the mandatory resort fee. Like most neighboring resorts, there's nightly entertainment and food is good, but expect to pay a premium. For something a little sharper, The Modern Honolulu has a nice handful of features, though it's not directly on the beach.
Waikiki Beach’s oldest resort provides genuine Hawaiian style with historic atmosphere, though it's always crowded
There's a lot of modern Hawaiian history at the Moana Surfrider, as it's the oldest resort in the Waikiki area. Originally founded in 1901, the resort has a grand plantation-like layout, evident as soon as you arrive, from the wide lawns to soaring classic architecture. The Moana’s design was influenced by European styles popular at the time, with tall columns and intricate woodwork found throughout public interiors. Design features of the original building are still in place, including extra-high ceilings to allow cross-ventilation breezes, and the classic vibe here is convincing rather than dated (as can be the case at so many neighboring properties).
In the center of the resort sits a large banyan tree that was originally planted in 1904, when it was only seven feet tall. Currently, the historic tree is 75 feet tall and covers the hotel's courtyard, providing shade to the hotel’s Beach Bar restaurant. It's also the site of nightly Hawaiian entertainment. Don't come here expecting quiet, tropical getaways, though, as the hotel's public spaces are literally buzzing with both hotel guests and those accessing the beach throughout much of the day and into the evening. In fact, you're unlikely to snag a chair by the pool or a beach umbrella due to the sheer size of the property. It's also a wildly popular venue for weddings. The resort draws a mix of international guests, families, and honeymooning couples seeking a classy beachfront escape. Families seeking an all-around better value might consider the Sheraton Waikiki instead, which has a similar beachfront location and larger rooms, plus a more kid-friendly pool featuring slides and fountains.
Right in the heart of one of the most famous beach destinations in the world
With a grand entrance along Kalakua Avenue and the rear of the resort backing right onto the sands of the beach, this resort is right in the center of Waikiki's infamous scene. Unfortunately, that location is both a blessing and a curse. While it means that everything in town is within an easy walk, it also translates to crowds. The hotel does attempt to rope off areas for Moana's own guests, but non-resort tourists are still able to access its restaurants, lounge area, courtyard, and the surrounding beach -- so the whole property often feels busy.
The Moana’s central location puts a mile-long stretch of restaurants and shops within walking distance of the hotel. Waikiki is home to high-end retailers and nearly every chain-restaurant imaginable, all of which are just outside the hotel's front door. The famous statue of surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku is only a two-minute walk north of the hotel, while Kuhio Beach's protected swimming area if just south of the hotel in case swells are large on a given day. A 10-minute walk south leads to Queens Beach, the Honolulu Zoo, and Sans Sourci State Recreational Park. Iconic Diamond Head State Park can be reached in 10 minutes by car. Budget 30 minutes to reach historic Pearl Harbor by car, featuring the iconic USS Arizona WWII Memorial.
The birthplace of modern-day surfing is on the island's famous North Shore is about an hour north by car. If you’re only staying in Waikiki for a short period of time, consider taking a taxi or shuttle to your hotel, as the Moana Surfrider and most hotels in Waikiki charge a premium for parking. It’s 25 minutes by car to Honolulu International Airport.
Handsome and classic, but compact, with mini-fridges, small TVs, and Wi-Fi -- some featuring ocean views
To be fair, rooms here are smaller than many found in the Waikiki area, though they have a handsome and classic style that makes them a bit more pleasant than some of the more dated competition. Additionally, many (but not all) offer stunning beach and ocean views. They don't quite have the same Hawaiian charm found in the resort's public areas, but the handsome sage green and blue palette found in the Banyan Wing, plus an abundance of handsome hardwood details and pleasing art do give these rooms a sharp finish. The rooms in the Tower Wing have a more typically tropical look -- furniture has woven bamboo paneling and rounded lines that can appear a bit dated. It's also worth noting that rooms facing the courtyard may be noisier than those overlooking the beach, in large part due to nightly dining and entertainment in the courtyard. Also note that rooms in the Tower Wing are more spacious than those in the Banyan Wing, making them the better option for families who need room for extra beds.
Features are fairly generous, even when compared to other upscale properties along Waikiki's beach. All rooms have small flat-screen TVs, air-conditioning, mini-fridges, free tea and coffee, safes, and Wi-Fi that's included in the resort's mandatory fees (hotspots can also be provided on request). An iPad in each room provides access to resort amenities including room service, activities, excursions, and shopping options. The Moana also offerss electronic access to over 5,000 newspapers and magazines.
Westin’s signature Heavenly beds live up to the hype, featuring pillow-top mattress, goose-down pillows, and nightly turndown service. Bathrobes and slippers are also available. For families, free cribs can be arranged upon request. Bathrooms feature either walk-in showers with rainfall showerheads in the Banyan Wing, or shower/tub combos in the Tower Wing. There's a decent amount of counter space and toiletries are provided.
Lively bar and restaurant options plus nightly entertainment and easy access to busy Waikiki Beach
Despite its massive size, things here can feel a bit overrun, and there are some surprising shortcomings. For starters, you'll be hard-pressed to find an umbrella on the beach or a chair by the pool. Why is that? Well, the beach in Waikiki is open to the public and gets packed, as guests at all of the other massive properties here (and staying elsewhere in Honolulu) arrive to soak up the sun. There is beachside service for Moana guests who manage to score seating in the resort's private seating area. The pool is undeniably tiny for a resort with nearly 800 rooms. Despite one-hour limits on saving chairs, there are only a handful around the pool, meaning it's rare to score a poolside spot.
The Moana offers a blend of casual and more formal dining options, including the Beach Bar adjacent to the pool, and indoor-outdoor Veranda, which turns into the Beachhouse at the Moana by night. The Beach Bar offers an ideal place for guests to grab a cocktail and less-expensive lunch while relaxing beneath the hotel’s historic banyan tree. The Beachhouse at the Moana can be pricey, but there are plenty of additional chain and fine-dining restaurant options near the hotel in case you’re looking to save few bucks. A Honolulu Coffee outlet is conveniently connected to the resort's main entrance. Additionally, guests are able to charge meals at nearby sister resorts -- like the Sheraton -- back to their rooms. Nightly entertainment takes place under the historic banyan tree in the resort's courtyard.
Opening its doors in 2008 as Waikiki’s first and only beachfront spa, the Moana Lani Spa offers features 14 treatment rooms and is by far one one of the best in town. Spa options range from couples massages and facials to body treatments. Facilities include a whirlpool, sauna, steam room and relaxation lounge, though there is a fee for access. The hotel also offers several boutique shops.
Wedding packages for up to 260 guests are available, and the resort can host up to three weddings daily. Historic tours of the grounds are also available several times a week. Other cultural courses include bracelet making, keiki crafts, and hula, plus lei making and Polynesian tattoo art. For travelers seeking to escape the hustle of Waikiki, the Surfrider’s activity concierge can arrange most activities, including golfing, luaus and shows, sailing, snorkeling, cruises, surf lessons, and sightseeing tours. Keep in mind that the daily resort fee includes things like Wi-Fi, but on-site parking will come with steep fees.
Large, modern gym plus free daily yoga and other classes
Access to the fitness center -- which is open 24/7 -- is included in hotel rates. It's a spacious gym, and there's even New Balance gear that can be borrowed in case you leave your gym shoes at home. There's a good amount of equipment available, including cardio options, resistance machines, and a small selection of free weights. Guests preferring to enjoy Oahu’s idyllic weather can opt for great trail running paths just south of the Surfrider. The resort can point you to trails around Kapiolani Park (three miles) or looping around Diamond Head State Monument (a five-mile route). Aquacise classes also take place in the resort's pool. There is a daily one-hour Ki Kilo Lani Yoga that's free for hotel guests. Once a month, the Surfrider offers a two-hour Vino & Vinyasa class that's open to the public and includes a glass of wine. This monthly event also features local vendors and crafts.
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