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If you have ever been to the Waikiki area of Honolulu, you know that it is busy, and but for a beautiful beach, much of the area looks like you are in any other big city with Starbucks, the Cheesecake Factory, and high end retail stores such as Coach, Tiffany’s and more dominating the landscape. Oh, and there are a lot of hotels. Big, tall, nondescript hotels. I love Hawaii, and I love the history of Waikiki, but it is hard to find a piece of that history these days. However, if you are lucky enough to stay at the beachfront Westin Moana Surfrider that has been around on Waikiki since 1901, then you can experience the beauty, convenience, and history of Waikiki at the same time. The Moana has come a long way from the 75 rooms it offered in 1901, to the close to 800 it now boasts, but there is still something magical and timeless about this property.
To follow along with the rest of this trip to Hawaii:
Like many hotels in Hawaii, this hotel has an open air lobby that draws you in while at the same time encourages you to keep on walking right through to the ocean.
Once you walk through the very large and beautiful open-air lobby, the check-in desk is to your right. There was not much of a line when we arrived to check-in, but there were several times when we walked by later that the line was very, very long. We were quite thankful to have access to the SPG Gold/Platinum line that was much shorter and located to the left of the main line.
I had tried to arrange for a suite since this was part of our anniversary trip, but the hotel was oversold the night we were there, so we were unable to get a suite on this stay. However, we were able to use my husband’s Platinum status to get a very nice ocean view room. We were booked on a cash and points rate from before the cash and points chart changed, and before the hotel went up a category. This means our room was just $90 + 4,800 SPG points per night, which was a great deal that is no longer available for this property. I will cover currently available options at the end of the post.
We were told the room was not going to be ready until the standard check-in time of 3PM, and we were told we would be called when the room was ready. We did not receive a call letting us know the room was read, but instead we eventually just went back to the check-in desk to check and were told it was ready to go. We were also informed that the $31 per day resort fee would get us internet, self parking (we took a cab), two glasses of wine in Bin 1901, free dining for children 5 and under (our kid was not with us on the anniversary trip), and cultural and historic tours and activities. In our case, the $31 resort fee essentially got us two glasses of wine (choice of one red blend or one white blend), but if you drove, brought your kids, and took advantage of some of the on-site offerings you could get some more value out of the daily fee.
We had a deluxe ocean-view king room on the 8th floor in the Tower Wing. The room was a pretty good size, and the Heavenly bed was extremely comfortable, as usual.
The real highlight of this room was the view of the ocean. The patio had two chairs and an outstanding view.
If you are going to come all the way to Hawaii, you might as well be able to look out at the ocean. We also enjoyed opening the door and just listening to the waves. Do be aware that the AC seems to not work when the door is open (intentionally), so you have one or the other at a time.
While we waited for our room to become available, we spent some time outside at the Beach Bar. Not surprisingly, it is a bar that is located just off the beach. However, the highlight of the bar for us was not actually the beach, but rather sitting under the amazing banyan tree! They served beers, tropical mixed drinks, and snacks/lunch items while we were there. I didn’t partake, but some of the tropical drinks and huge plates of nachos I saw walk by looked delicious!
The SPG Platinum breakfast was offered in the Veranda which offered both indoors and outdoors seating starting at 6AM. I highly recommend sitting outside, and try to get the tables closest to the beach for an amazing view to go along with your morning coffee. Waikiki before 8AM is my favorite as that is when it is still mostly empty, but beautiful.
The restaurant has a menu as well as a buffet option. You could pay $25 per person to upgrade to the buffet from the SPG Platinum Continental breakfast, but I’m actually pretty cheap at heart, so I stuck with the free breakfast. I did take a peek at the buffet though, and it was pretty substantial.
My husband upgraded his free breakfast to a breakfast wrap served with greens and potatoes.
I am terribly spoiled with Hyatt’s Diamond breakfast benefit, but I really had to chuckle at the Platinum breakfast here. The pastries and fruit were totally fine, but the cup of Yoplait yogurt just looked really silly. If it was at least served in a dish it might have looked less funny. Regardless, coffee and fresh pineapple, orange, or guava juice were also included, and those were quite tasty. I was able to get hydrated and full without spending a lot of cash. Leveraging elite benefits for savings on our family trips is a part of our travel strategy.
For my husband’s entree, the hotel discounted $15 that he would have gotten from the continental breakfast. However, the coffee and juice were no longer included so decide for yourself which is the better value if you also have SPG Platinum status.
The hotel has one pool located a few yards from the beach. While I think you are making an error if you come to Hawaii just to lay in the pool, having just one small pool can be a bit of a drawback compared to some other properties. The pool was pretty busy and lively a little later in the day, but it was a very peaceful and picturesque spot early in the morning.
The hotel is truly beach-front on a very beautiful and swim-friendly beach. The hotel does offer chairs and umbrellas to guests for a fee. To get towels, you need to provide your hotel key card and sign out the towels. There is a $10 fee if they are not returned. However, they did not enforce this with us and did not require us to sign out the towels. We did return them, but I was glad that the very formal process may not always be utilized.
While we were staying at the Moana, we booked some semi-private surf lessons on Waikiki with Gone Surfing Hawaii. Semi-private just meant it was myself and my husband, which was pretty great. It was located by the Outrigger Reef Hotel about a 10-15 minute walk from the Moana. Both Josh and I were brand new to surfing in the ocean (we love wakesurfing), and we both were able to learn how to get up on the board and catch a few waves in no time at all. These surf lessons were booked independently of the hotel, but I wanted to mention them in this review in case anyone else was looking for good surf lessons near the Moana.
Paddling out was quite the workout! We were pooped a few minutes before our session ended! It was a really fun experience that was made pretty easy thanks to the easy waves on Waikiki.
In case you prefer to get your workout in a more traditional atmosphere, the hotel does have a very nice gym that overlooks the street in front of the hotel.
Overall I thought the Moana Surfrider was a beautiful and comfortable hotel. With close to 800 rooms, they see a bunch of guests, and from the looks of things, many of them on tour packages from Japan. With such a large number of rooms and guests, there are some service-oriented things that aren’t perfect, but still the stay was quite enjoyable. I mentioned we stayed on a very good cash and points rate that is no longer available due to the award chart changing. If you would like to stay at the Moana using SPG points going forward, you now need 20,000 – 25,000 SPG points per night as this is now a Category 6 hotel. If you are able to secure cash and points availability it will cost you 10,000 SPG points + $180 per night. This is a far cry from the 4,800 SPG points + $90 per night we paid before the changes were implemented.
I value SPG points around at least 2.5 cents per point, so the rate would have to be close to $500 per night for me to feel points were now a good use at this hotel. Rates are sometimes under $300 per night, so I would not discount this hotel as it truly is magnificent and in a prime location, but the rise to a Category 6 does make it tough to justify spending that many points per night.
However, if you are going to be on Waikiki, I would absolutely consider this hotel. I know I will remember the beautiful view for quite a long time to come.
If you have stayed here, I’d love to know what you thought of the Moana Surfrider!