Moana Surfrider: the 1st Lady of Waikiki

Waking up to this delightful view of Waikiki Beach is an obvious reason to enjoy a stay at the historic Westin Moana Surfrider Hotel. But there are many more.


Our room was technically called a “city view” but we were thrilled with being able to see the beach from our lanai in the Tower Wing of the Moana Surfrider.

I’d stayed at the Moana about 20 years ago and loved the blend of old and new. It is a perfect place to stay in Waikiki if you are a lover of luxury travel.

The hotel was branded a Sheraton back then, and with an expansion and the addition of a full-service spa, the Moana–although still part of the Starwood family of properties–was then branded as a Westin Resort & Spa and consists of three buildings that are so perfectly blended together, you never really know when you’ve left one and entered another. As a result of the recent integration of Starwood properties into Marriott Hotels International, the Moana Surfrider is now a Marriott Hotel.

The original hotel is now referred to as the Banyan Wing and was built in 1901, with a perfectly central location on Waikiki Beach and regal architecture to warrant the name “First Lady of Waikiki.” The two newer towers recently underwent a $20-million renovation and offer modern elegance blended with Hawaiian charm. We stayed in the Tower Wing and where pleased with our five-night stay, although the noise that accompanies a bustling beach area like Waikiki reminds you that you are indeed within a big city (Honolulu) and not on a remote idyllic beach somewhere in the South Pacific.

The Moana Surfrider Hotel fronts onto Kalakaua Avenue.

The Moana Surfrider Hotel fronts onto Kalakaua Avenue.

The Moana features a days-gone-by street-front veranda where you can sit and watch the bustling world go by, and a beach-side set of rocking chairs where you can soak in the beach-front entertainment, admire the massive banyan tree, or the activities going on in the inviting swimming pool.


The interior architecture of the hotel boasts beautiful pillars and a winding staircase where many brides and grooms have wedding pictures taken. And as a guest of the hotel, you, too, can have a complimentary photo shoot and purchase photos of yourself and companion(s) taken throughout the hotel and on the Moana’s strip of Waikiki Beach.

But this chocolate writer was also drawn to the fact that the Moana has its own custom brand of chocolates made by a local chocolatier. I can think of no better place to enjoy Waikiki with chocolate on my mind.


The Moana Surfrider has its own custom brand of chocolates featuring local flavours of Lilikoi (passionfruit), Hawaiian sea salt, macadamia nuts, and Kona coffee.

Have you stayed at the Moana Surfrider? Do you enjoy staying at historic hotels? There are many around the world to enhance your travel memories when choosing a destination. Some of my favourites include La Mansion in San Antonio, Texas, Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada, and The Fort Garry Hotel in my hometown of Winnipeg. Do you have a historic property you’d like to recommend to the rest of us? I’m all ears.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I researched and wrote Volume I of Chocolatour that won a Readers' favourite Award in 2014. Always enjoy experiencing new destinations and flavours.

53 Responses

  1. Kassie Swint says:

    Thank you, Doreen. Your posts are always so well written and informative.

  2. Beverly says:

    Wow! What a breathtaking hotel the Moana Surfrider is! I love historic places and would like to read more about historic hotels in your future blogs.

    • Thanks so much, Bev. Glad you enjoyed my post about the Moana. Have you stayed at any of the Fairmont Hotels in Canada? Most of them used to be CP Hotels, and they are oozing with history. The Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, Banff Springs Hotel, Chateau Lake Louise, Algonquin in St. Andrews, NB, Chateau Laurier in Ottawa and Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. And the Hotel Fort Garry in Wpg which is not a Fairmont, but is still a very grand historic hotel and former CP hotel as is the Delta Bessborough in Saskatoon. Have stayed at them all over the years and each is magnificent in its own way. Here’s the link to my post about the Delta Bessborough: I hope you’ll check it out.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…Teuchitlan: a trip to authentic MexicoMy Profile

  3. March 11, 2016, marks the 115th anniversary of the Moana Surfrider Hotel on Waikiki Beach. Happy Anniversary to a grand old and very elegant property.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…Teuchitlan: a trip to authentic MexicoMy Profile

  4. georgina says:

    You could certainly see your enthusiasm in the articles you write.
    The world hopes for more passionate writers such as you who are not
    afraid to say how they believe. All the time follow your heart.

  5. Karla Hunt says:

    Thank you Doreen for your update of the beautiful Moana Hotel. Truly the Queen of Waikiki. I am so pleased to hear that she has retained some of the charm of yesteryear.

    My Hubby and I have had health issues of late but The Lord willing perhaps we can return again to enjoy the new Moana hotel. Again , thank you for responding to my comments………Blessings to you and yours………. Karla And Veryle Hunt

  6. Karla Hunt says:

    My Husband and I spent 4 glorious days in Nov. 1979 celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. In the Grand old Moana Hotel on Waikiki. We have made several return trips to Hawaii but none can compare with that trip. There was something about that beautiful old hotel. She seamed to have a life of her own and it was like stepping back into a quieter more gentle time. The hotel was delightful in its simple but elegant style.. I have dreamed of returning there but realize that the hotel has been resold and changed over time. At that time I don’t believe that it was even air conditioned. Each suite of rooms had double entry doors. One solid and the other open louvres so that one could get the soft ocean breezes without sacrificing your security. It’s a different world today. I just wanted to add my perspective. She was a Grand Old Lady. it’s a pity that she couldn’t have retained some of that charm. We had promised each other that we would return but each time we thought about it was under construction of some sort. this is a lesson to everyone to not let too much time go by to follow your dreams…

    With happy memories of a “GRAND OLD LADY”

    • Doreen says:

      Thanks so much for sharing your memories of the Moana with us, Karla. I did stay at the Moana back in 1986, and must tell you that our stay in 2014 was just as enjoyable. Yes, it’s changed and grown with new room towers, but the main building is still lovely, with the rocking chairs on front and beachfront verandas. In today’s modern world of hustle and bustle in Waikiki, the Moana is about as nostalgic as you can get.
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  7. Waikiki Beach is such a paradise. Love it!

  8. Such beautiful shots. I love the majesty of the Moana Surfrider Hotel (outside and in).
    Debra Yearwood recently posted…Lean Back, Do The Job You’re Capable of DoingMy Profile

  9. Such lovely blues in that first photo! My visit to Moana Surfrider was restricted to the back patio cocktail lounge, but I was plenty happy with that.
    Kristin Henning recently posted…New in Las Vegas: The LinqMy Profile

  10. Tim says:

    Doesn’t everyone love chocolate. As for gorgeous historic hotels you are right. There is nothing like relaxing in a by-gone era. I have stayed at Raffles in Singapore, the Majapahit in Surabaya, and the FCC in Phnom Pehn. All experiences to savor!
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  11. Linda Bibb says:

    I adore historic hotels, they always have a certain air of “luxury” about them. We stayed at three luxurious hotels in southeast Ireland last summer that have totally spoiled me: Dunbrody House (Wexford), Lyrath Estate Hotel (Kilkenny) and the Granville Hotel (Waterford). Large hotel chains have lost their appeal.
    Linda Bibb recently posted…21 Tips for First Time CruisersMy Profile

    • Doreen says:

      Welcome to the blog, Linda, and thanks for your comment. You’ve certainly whet my appetite for Ireland. I’ve always wanted to go, and to stay in memorable historic hotels would be wonderful. I’d like t challenge you on your last point, though. I know of a lot of hotels, including the Moana, that are historic, memorable, luxurious, and part of a large chain. So I wouldn’t rule out chain hotels as quite often, you’ll find a real gem among them. Cheers!
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  12. Doreen says:

    Hi Christine and thanks for your comment. The Moana does fill up quickly. I think mainly because it is part of the Starwood global family of properties. I believe they do a remarkable job in marketing to Japan, as I recall being at other Starwood properties around the world and seeing quite a few Japanese travellers. Yes, location and ambiance play a big role as well. But it is definitely pricey. We would not have been able to stay there had we not rec’d a good break on the rate. I am truly grateful for that because when you only have a short time to explore an area and be away from the harshness of winter, being in the heart of the action and right on the beach are 2 big pluses. Cheers!

  13. I love staying in places that have some history to them. Although the “chains” may offer better rates at times, it’s these other non-chain places that are so much more interesting. B&B’s may offer some history and charm because they may be converted older homes.
    We’ve stayed at the LHC Hotels in NYC, and although the decor was not to our taste at the Elysee, it was neat to learn that a lot of writers had stayed there, including Truman Capote. The other three “boutique” hotels in this group each have their own charm and history, so although they are part of a hotel group, they are not a chain and each one is unique. I much prefer that kind of accommodation.
    I’ve never been to Hawaii, but if I ever go, I’d be sure to check this place for availability. I imagine it fills up quickly–because of its beauty–and its chocolate.

  14. Doreen,
    I love chocolate, especially dark chocolate. That was a magnificent photo of their branded “Moana Chocolates”. Made me want to run right out and satisfy my craving. I am sure, but I am guessing you have been to a Cacao plantation. I had the luxury of touring one last year in Ecuador. The fruit of the Cacao seed pod is divine! Now I am hungry! Thanks for sharing the Surfrider’s update and for making my chocolate desires go through the roof! Safe Travels.

    • Doreen says:

      Hi Mike and welcome to the blog! Yes, I have been to cacao plantations/orchards/farms on Dominican Republic, St. Lucia, Peru, Ecuador, and now, Hawaii. It’s funny you should mention about the fruit/pulp of the cacao seed pod. I just finished eating a chocolate bar made by Madre Chocolate of Oahu, HI. They are the only chocolate maker I have found to date that is actually putting pieces of the pulp into the magnificent Triple Cacao bar. I brought 3 home with me. Foolishly gave one away, shared one with friends, and now … have wolfed down the remaining bar because I had a chocolate craving and knew it would best do the job. What I have learned thru my chocolate travels is that chocolate is different from country to country, chocolate maker to chocolate maker and bar to bar. It is SO very much like the nuances of fine wine production. Cheers!
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  15. What a beautiful hotel to lounge around eating local chocolates and watching the world go by (sigh). I’m curious if the brides try to get non-local flowers that would be unique, since that’s the land of abundant flowers!
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    • Doreen says:

      Hi Neva and welcome to the blog! I hope you’ll subscribe and stick around with us, as there will lots more posts on Hawaii coming up!

      Re the bridal bouquets: We saw many different floral arrangements. I think the tropical ones that include Hawaii’s dramatic flowers such as Bird of Paradise, orchids, and plumeria are favourites. Sure wish I was back there now lounging in the beautifully warm sun.
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  16. I must say that you and Suzanne Boles looked mighty relaxed when I met you at the beach bar in the Moana Surfrider. I’ve also seen the photos of what the snow around your house looks like now in Manitoba. It must have given you climate whiplash to have landed back there after your visits to Oahu and the Big Island. We also like to stay at historic properties, usually at B and B’s, however.
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    • Doreen says:

      It was indeed great meeting you in HI, Suzanne. Yes, we really enjoyed our stay — and the break from the harsh Canadian winter. It was still -24C overnight last night! Spring had better hurry up and find us!

  17. Josie says:

    Hi Doreen,
    Yes, a lovely lady indeed. And what a lucky person you are to be in warm weather, especially during this particularly snowy winter. Your sunny-day photos are so inviting.
    I enjoyed reading about other grand places around the world — in the comments — so I’ll add mine.
    Having grown up on Long Island, we went shopping or sight-seeing in Manhattan and I remember the Waldorf-Astoria lobby. My mother just wanted to show us kids the architecture and grandeur. I remember feeling the ceiling was a mile away and people bustling everywhere. To my 10-year-old self, it was like a magical wonderland.
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  18. We love historic hotels and opt for those over new modern ones every chance we get. We’ve got some lovely ones in the Pacific Northwest like the Fairmont Empress that overlooks Victoria’s Inner Harbour and the Fairmont Olympic in downtown Seattle. The Union Club, across the street from the Empress, has opened its doors to the public and also offers an elegant historic accommodation. Great post!
    Jackie Smith recently posted…Lana’i: Laid-Back LuxuryMy Profile

    • Doreen says:

      Hi Jackie and thanks for your comment.

      Yes, you can’t go wrong with the Fairmont properties. The Empress is a lovely historic hotel in Canada’s loveliest city. It doesn’t get any better than that. Except of course for the historic hotels in tropical paradises like Hawaii! 🙂

  19. How beautiful! The color of the water rattles my teeth~
    Irene S. Levine recently posted…Book Review – Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the LineMy Profile

    • Doreen says:

      Better get some Polident to hold down those teeth, Irene! In all seriousness, I hear you. The water really is a beautiful blend of shades. I didn’t touch that pic up at all. That’s exactly as it appears. How I long to go back! Thanks for dropping into the blog.

  20. The hotel looks fabulous. I haven’t stayed in a lot of historic hotels, but the ones I have been at have been memorable. The Palace Hotel in Port Townsend, Washington was built in 1889 and spent part of its live as a brothel. One room is reputed to be haunted. The Hermitage on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean was once a plantation. Rhinefield House in the New Forest area of England is a manor estate built in the 1880s that is now part timeshare and part luxury hotel.
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    • Doreen says:

      Thanks for your comment, Donna, and for the recommendations! Yes, I’ve heard that a room in the Fort Garry Hotel is haunted, too. Sounds like a good book topic for someone to research! I bet many of the old hotels have spirits that refuse to leave!

  21. The “First Lady of Waikiki” looks like the perfect blend of city excitement and natural countryside. I’d love to go to Hawaii some day and will definitely add this hotel to my list!
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  22. Cheryl says:

    Your photos are making me drool… so amazingly attractive. So glad you had a good time!
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    • Doreen says:

      Thanks so much, Cheryl! Hawaii really is a paradise destination. I can’t believe how many Americans we met there who had relocated from other states. You folks are fortunate to be in the “union” and able to relocate to whatever state you’d like to call home.

  23. Patti says:

    Thanks for the flashback memory, we lived in Honolulu in 1977/78 and any place with custom label chocolate is okay in my book!
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  24. I was a guest at an Aikido anniversary celebration at the Moana Surfrider last July. What an absolutely stunning hotel! I wasn’t staying there, but I’d definitely like to next time.
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  25. Nancie says:

    There is just so much ambience. Walking in the door, I’m sure I would feel like a queen! 🙂
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  26. Viv says:

    Haven’t been to Oahu in 20+ years, but fondly remember visiting this hotel then and thinking it would be the place to stay next visit. The time has arrived and this year it’s on my travel list. Looks fabulous!
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    • Doreen says:

      Fantastic, Viv! Let me know how you like it. The hotel really has a nice vibe. It’s not pretentious and the beachside spa looks amazing. I didn’t have a chance to try any of the spa services, but it really looked lovely.

  27. We stayed at the Von Trapp family lodge on a Porter Airlines package to Vermont a couple of weeks ago. I was a afraid it would be gimmicky, and it was just a little, but mostly it was just a beautiful old hotel reverberating with the rich history of Von Trapps past. And as you experienced at the Moana, it would difficult for a new hotel to acquire land that would offer such a beautiful setting & views. The hills were alive.

    Another gem is the Pfister hotel in Milwaukee (Pfister was – you guessed it – a brewing baron), which has the largest collection of Victorian art of any hotel in the world. The Americans really knew how to build ’em in their glory days.

    • Doreen says:

      Hi Virginia and thanks for your comment. Thx for those recommendations. I think we’re going to have quite a list by the time we’re said and done.

      Yes, the massive and stately hotels built during the golden glory days really do have that special ambiance that newer properties just can’t capture or replicate. I wonder if there was a chain of them built across the US, just as we have in Canada (the old CP Hotels, which are mainly now Fairmonts?) Does anyone know if a US railway (Amtrak or its predecessor) built any of these glorious stately hotels along the railway line?

  28. Such beautiful images…I want to go!!

  29. Catarina says:

    Would love to be at The Moana Surfrider right now! Makes me think of The Oriental Hotel in Bangkok where I have stayed frequently. Having five-o-clock tea there is a delight that makes you think you have switched time back to the British empire. They also had their own chocolate.
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    • Doreen says:

      Thanks for the tip, Catarina! I will have to check out the Oriental Hotel when I do my Chocolatour of Asia. And, yes. It is quite common for those old stately hotels to do a 5 o’clock high tea. One of the best for that in Canada is the old Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia. It’s a beautiful historic hotel that celebrates western culture.
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  30. Jeri says:

    How lovely! I haven’t stayed in too many historic hotels mainly because our travel points apply to Marriotts. When I worked in Yellowstone, I loved visiting Lake Hotel and Old Faithful Inn. I make a point to visit the historic inns in every national park I visit. I love the stories behind the buildings. The Davenport in Spokane, Washington is worth a look and the restoration amazing. I keep meaning to stay at the Geyser Grand in Oregon, but have yet to do so.
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    • Doreen says:

      Thx for your comment, Jeri. Yes, historic hotels can really add to the pleasure when exploring a region. And in Canada, we have the old Canadian Pacific Hotels that were built by the national railway in all the best places across the country! They’re no longer CP hotels, but the Fairmont Corp has taken many of them under their wing. And several are in National Parks.
      Doreen recently posted…Moana Surfrider: the 1st Lady of Waikiki My Profile

  31. Yes, I’ve been there…with you on our trip. It was indeed a lovely hotel. It was very busy and beautiful. I really loved the rocking chairs. I’m happy to say I got a chance to sit in one and enjoy the view of the beach from the back veranda. I felt like Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. It was absolutely charming. Thanks for allowing me to be part of your journey.

    • Doreen says:

      Thanks so much for joining me on the trip, Suzanne. We might be back in the land of snow, but we’ve got these warm memories and gorgeous pics to preserve them.

  32. Debbie says:

    That’s a million dollar view! The hotel really looks nice, hope you had a good stay there and it didn’t rain.

  33. Doreen says:

    Hi Jeannette, and thanks for being the first to comment on this post.

    Yes, I tried the chocolate covered macadamia nuts that Moana offers and they were divine. Some of those accompanied by a glass of wine or two out on the seaside veranda made for a lovely evening. 🙂

  34. Hi Doreen — I’m so jealous I could die! What a fabulous view and I love verandas where you can sit and rock and watch the passing crowd. I’ve never been to Hawaii and would love to visit. You didn’t say if you tasted the Moana chocolate. Was it good?
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