“When are we going to the beach?” asks the kid passing through customs at Honolulu’s international airport. Looking at the child’s arrivals card, the customs officer answers: “If you’re staying at the Moana Surfrider, you’ll never be off it.” He’s not wrong. This grand establishment in the heart of Waikiki actually meets the sand, which sums up the Moana Surfrider perfectly: as the first resort hotel to ever have opened in the city (in 1901), it boasts Beaux-Arts style architecture and Ionic columns – yet thongs and reef-shoes are the go.
About a 30-minute cab ride from the airport, the Moana Surfrider fronts Waikiki’s premier strip. Aside from having the beach at your back door, you’re just a few minutes walk from designer boutiques and department stores. Public transport and shuttles are easily accessed a few metres away, and can take you to the shopping mecca of Ala Moana Center.
The hotel has been built in stages, with the Diamond and Tower wings following the historic Banyan wing. This latter wing is arguably the pick of the bunch, with its cool, retro leaf-print carpeting and halls in mint tones with wainscot panelling. The spacious one-bedroom ocean-view suites feature white plantation shutters and gorgeous arched windows that look right out to the big blue. Or, more accurately, the stunning turquoise. Noise from the courtyard below does carry at night – mostly, you’ll hear relaxing live musical performances – but the sound of the ocean drowns much of that out.
Food and drink
All the dining options here are designed to maximise the spectacular views. Start your day at the Veranda at the Beachhouse, which offers a buffet or à la carte menu (and the coffee is good). The beachhouse also serves lunch and dinner – the lobster bisque is a must. For more casual bites, there’s The Beach Bar or Surfrider Cafe – the former sits under a banyan tree that’s more than a century old while the latter has pole position by the pool. And swing by Vintage1901 – a wine bar also situated on the veranda – before calling it a night.
For business travellers
Just by the grand staircase, find two desktop Macs as well as scanning, faxing and copying facilities.
For wellness travellers
Open 24 hours, this hotel gym has what many lack: windows to the world. And you’ll have all the motivation you need to go hard – there’s a Haagen-Dazs across the street to keep your eyes on. There are also Peloton bikes and TRX equipment. The oceanfront Moana Lani Spa, open until 9pm every night, goes beyond the usual hotel offering to include three different kinds of HydraFacial, popular with the A-list.
The fab factor
The hotel runs regular tours that trace the history of the Moana. If a hotel tour sounds a little ho-hum, get this: it’s said that the Moana is haunted by the ghost of Jane Stamford, co-founder of the US university, who died here in 1905. But it’s no nefarious Poltergeist situation – she’s just looking for her room.
Best for: Beach lovers
Number of rooms: 749 rooms and 42 suites
From: US$339 per night
Wi-fi: US$42.53 per day
Parking: US$35 per day (self parking); US$45 per day (valet parking)
Address: 2365 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu
Telephone: +1 808 922 3111