Review of Westin Moana Surfrider in Waikiki

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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:

Planning an Anniversary Trip to Hawaii

Flying to Hawaii in United Business Class

Westin Moana Surfrider in Waikiki

Flying Hawaiian Airlines from Honolulu to Maui

Review of a Room and a Suite at the Andaz Maui at Wailea

The Pools at the Andaz Maui at Wailea

On-site Restaurants at the Andaz Maui

The ‘Awili Spa at the Andaz Maui at Wailea

Exploring Maui Beyond the Andaz Maui (Little Beach, Monkeypod, and More)

 

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Historic photo from moana-surfrider.com

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.

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20130910-105923.jpgCheck-in:

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.

20130910-105941.jpgI 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.

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The Room:

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.

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20130910-110012.jpgThe bathroom was fine but nothing to write home about, but there were two robes which is always a plus so you don’t have to fight over who gets to use the one robe that many hotels offer.

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The real highlight of this room was the view of the ocean.  The patio had two chairs and an outstanding view.

20130910-110042.jpgIf 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.

20130910-110056.jpgOn-site restaurants:

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!

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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.

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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.

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My husband upgraded his free breakfast to a breakfast wrap served with greens and potatoes.

20130910-110252.jpgI 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.

20130910-110304.jpgFor 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.

20130910-110314.jpgThe Pool and Oceanside Amenities:

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.

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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.

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20130910-110456.jpgWhile 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.

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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.

20130910-110633.jpgOverall Impressions:

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.

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If you have stayed here, I’d love to know what you thought of the Moana Surfrider!

Comments

  1. Really like this hotel, largely for the historical classiness of it which is tough to find in a place like Waikiki. It is smack dab in the middle of a ton of shopping, has a great beach, and a very nice staff. Plus the patios at night are really nice. It is really pricey though, but its Hawaii so its not at all surprising and can be loud if you are in a city view room.

  2. did they offer an alternate amenity in lieu of internet for the resort fee? Since you are a platinum and get internet anyways, the hotel has to offer you something to replace that aspect of the resort fee. just curious if they did indeed do this, and if so what they offered. Thanks!

  3. The current points and cash&points rates you mention suggest a valuation closer to 1.2 to 1.5 cents per points – at least if Hawaii is your intended destination. I’m sure it’s possible to get higher valuations elsewhere but I’m guessing it’s not that easy and you will have to pass and pay cash a few times before the opportunity to redeem at a good value shows up.

  4. I’m glad you had a nice experience at this hotel. My wife and I sure didn’t have a good experience for our two nights there in April. Most–not all–of the hotel facilities were very lovely. It was the service and one horribly outdated wing that were a nightmare. I apologize for the lengthy comment, but for the short story, read just the next paragraph.

    For anybody considering a stay at the Moana Surfrider: DO NOT stay in the Diamond wing of the hotel unless you are 100% certain that the entire wing has been renovated since April 2013. It was awful and very much not up to Westin brand standards. It was more like old run-down Motel 6 standards–sorry Motel 6–except on a beach. The bathroom looked like a circa 1970 dorm bathroom, the furniture was falling apart, and the A/C barely worked and sounded like a jet engine. The Banyan Wing and Tower Wing both seemed in much better shape.

    It started with check-in. Even though there was only one person in line at the main desk and nobody at the SPG Gold/Diamond priority desk–I have Gold status–it still took us over 15 minutes to check in. Once that was finally done, we were taken up to our room, which was a beautiful partial ocean-view room in the Banyan Wing. The room was small because it’s one of the older rooms in the hotel, but it was renovated very nicely and was exactly what I had expected. But… there were ants all over the bathroom. The bellman arrived in the room with our luggage. He tried to call the front desk to get someone to deal with the ants. He let the phone ring for a good couple minutes while we chatted. It probably rang 20-25 times. Nobody ever answered. We went down to the front desk ourselves. There were 2 people in line. It took about 10 minutes for us to get to talk to someone. Mind you, this was late afternoon, which should be a time of day they expect a lot of check-in traffic and should be well staffed. They were not.

    So we asked if they could do something about the ants. They pretty much blew my wife off, saying that it had rained a lot, it’s an old building, and they get ants when it rains. After some pushing, and several trips by the desk agent into the manager’s office, they finally huffed and puffed about how all the rooms in the booked category were already occupied and how they were going to be soooo generous and give us a category upgrade to a full ocean-view room with balcony on a higher floor in the Diamond Wing. We said it sounded great, thanked the desk agent, took our keys, and headed off to the new room in the Diamond Wing. See above for what we thought of that room. We decided if the A/C worked, even if it was loud, we’d stick with the room, despite how sad it was, because we were both exhausted at the end of the trip. We headed down to walk along the beach and through some of the shops in the area. Had dinner. Got back to the room. Even after running at the coolest setting possible for a few hours, the room was still humid and warm. It was much cooler outside at that point. That wasn’t going to be acceptable. So we went back down to the front desk. Again, there was a line.

    Thankfully there was a different desk agent there this time. We started explaining what we had already transpired with our room situation. I was very clear that we were not looking for an upgrade of any kind, and that at that point, I would happily take a city-view room facing the rather loud street if that’s what it took to get a clean room with functioning A/C. He started looking through their inventory and was having trouble.** Another desk agent tried to help. Neither of them could find anything within even a few categories of our booked room. They went into the manager’s office for a few minutes. Finally they re-emerged and said they had found a lower-level room exactly like the one mommypoints had. They gave us keys so we could go check out the room without officially moving us, in case there was a problem there too. The room was perfect, so we stopped by the front desk on the way to get our luggage from the awful room. They changed us in the system, and off we went to the new room and to bed!

    In spite of all the trouble and time we spent at the front desk–it was over an hour total that day–we did not once see the actual manager, we did not get any sort of follow-up communication asking if everything was ok with the room, and we continuously felt unwelcome in the hotel. Even the concierge was rude when we asked if she had a map of the area so we could drive to Pearl Harbor the next day. For the first couple weeks after the trip, I kept going back and forth on whether we were expecting too much and whether I should feel guilty about “forcing” them to give us an upgraded room beyond what we were technically entitled-to. But at the end of it all, I don’t feel guilty. We were never rude and never demanded any specific resolution to the issues we raised. If they had adequately responded to our concerns about the ants, we wouldn’t have even started down the path of changing rooms. Aside from the bellman and the last desk agent, nobody seemed interested in actually helping us in any way or making sure we had a nice stay. It was a huge mark against the Westin brand, which I had generally held in high regard before.

    **One major problem with this hotel, based on what I gathered from one of the desk agents, is that they use a revenue management system that seems to sell a large block of rooms to JALPAK, which is a Japanese consolidator/vacation package seller. That system, from what we could tell, actually hands control of many of the rooms to JALPAK, so the front desk doesn’t actually know whether certain rooms are occupied or not. Which of course means that the hotel itself doesn’t have as much flexibility in moving people to other rooms or in giving upgrades.

  5. I absolutely love this hotel (stayed there on my honeymoon a few years ago)! Unfortunately, now that it’s a category 6, I don’t know that the value is there for me any more (same goes for the St. Regis Princeville as a cat 7)

  6. trajan, thanks for sharing!
    CaroleZoom, bummer about the city view rooms, but the ocean view rooms really do have a great view and we didn’t have any noise issues.
    Donnie, how exciting! Glad to hear you like them. More to come!
    Jay, not that I remember. Our Platinum choices were breakfast or I think 500 points.
    Nick, I do think that some/many of the SPG Hawaii properties are over-priced on points. Sometimes the selling price might be high enough where using points is a good idea, but with this particular hotel I would rather use cash if the price was fair since that is way too many points per night for my taste here.
    Autolycus, thanks for sharing! Good to know and I do believe rooms in different parts of the hotel are not all the same. Hopefully they get them all up to par soon.
    Food, Wine, and Miles, glad to hear you like it, too! Agree that there isn’t too much value on points left here.

    • Debbie, not a lefty but I wakeboard, wakesurf, snowboard, surf, etc all goofy. ;).
      Jay, I was truthfully just happy they switched out my husbands SPG number for mine so we could get his bennies. Since I had booked an old cash and points rate I couldn’t get SPG to do it, but the hotel was helpful at check-in. I agree it is frustrating to not get all the benefits you are allowed tho!

  7. that infuriates me. theres a long thread on FT about how per corporate, hotels that offer a gaurenteed platinum benefit (like internet) as part as a mandatory resort fee have to offer an additional amenity to platinum guests since they are paying for something they should get free anyways. the hawaiian hotels seem to have the hardest part following this rule. anyhow, something to be aware of going forward so you don’t miss out on what you deserve. Always ask what the “alternate platinum amenity” is when the resort fee has internet

  8. My wife loved it here during our anniversary about 7 years ago. We stayed in one of the Banyan rooms over looking the Banyan tree. Hope you got one of the Mai Tai’s from the bar by the tree in one of the freshly carved out pineapple’s served with the freshly cut pineapple. It is a drink and a snack all in one.

  9. We sort of enjoyed this hotel (last Oct) for it’s location on the beach and in the city. Used points only for our room for five nights. But we thought it was very overrun with bridal parties and guests in general. Staff was pretty much non-existent outside of the restaurants. Our (very) small room overlooking the street had the most comfortable bed we’ve ever slept in and thanks to our busy days, the street noise did not keep us awake. Strongly recommend going to Duke’s next door for a much more enjoyable (affordable) breakfast. Self-parking was a bit of a hassle. When we return, we will be looking for a different place to stay. Something less crowded for sure.

  10. MP., We see how much points and miles you use for your hotels and flight. But would be a be more help if you can add a Data point: as to how you got those points and which card you use.

    I notice that most miles/points blogger don’t disclose how many cards, when they cancel, total annual fee they paying. But only disclose what they have apply for.

    Just seem like all bloggers have lots of cards on hand and hardly ever cancel. That must add up to lots of annual fee 2nd time around. And all have tons and tons of miles and points. MMS would disclose his app-o-rama, but never his close-o-rama. A single year he and his partner must have 12 cards+ a year. But haven’t mention closing much.

    With a family of 4, been doing this for 2 year and only been able to gain enough points for one Asia trip. 260k miles/points.

    Thats was with:
    2x Chase united (55k) =2k spending (112k)
    1x Sapphire (40k)+5k spending (45k)
    1x Ink Plus (50k)+5k spending (55k)
    1x Freddom (10k)+ past spending (58k)
    ————- All this was for our Asia trip air tix
    1x IHG (80k)hotel
    1x Amex Hilton (80k) hotel
    ————- most was used up for Asia trip also

    1x Citi AA (50k)+3k
    1x US air (30k)+3k

    just got
    2x Ink Bold (60k)+ 5k (130k) still pending just meet min spending

    and most was done with AP, VR, and normal spending. And that is only one major trip and a few local hotel stay vacation via driving.

    Planning a trip to Hawaii for 4 and will be looking at your post for the lowest way there.

    I understand you must of have Tons of points earn and some given, but sometime it would help if you disclose like:

    – 2x ink bold for airline tix to hawaii
    – 1x hyatt card and spending for hyatt stay

    and on your next (ex) Denver ski trip

    – points left over UR from ink bold to BA for cheap short haul flight.
    – UR points to hyatt for hotel.

    something to kinda guide some of us avg or less then avg miles/points chaser.

  11. John, thanks for the info on the self-parking and Duke’s! No question it is a very large hotel with many guests.
    Tom, I like the idea, but I’m not sure I am organized enough to give accurate data on where the points for a trip came from on an ongoing basis, as they come from many sources. Best guess on this one were the SPG points were largely from a SPG biz card sign-up last summer. The Hyatt points for the Andaz stay were from my husband’s account, so likely from his work trips. We bought the plane tickets on a sale and applied upgrade certs earned via my United elite status. The Hawaiian miles for the flight from HNL – OGG were from the Hawaiian card sign-up.

    I do have a fair number of cards that I keep, but some that I cancel. For example, I just cancelled my Amex SPG personal card as I don’t need both that and the biz card. Perhaps I will be able to get it again one day… I have had the CSP for a few years. Had Ink cards for a while now, but will be dropping one soon as I don’t need both.

    I think tracking exactly where they came from is easier when it is for a big trip where you got cards for that purpose, than it is some other trips where points and miles are just coming from balances you accumulated over time.

    Will give it some thought, though!

    • Ken, at the resorts and some restaurants, yes. Some less expensive local joints can be found, but Hawaii on the whole is not cheap.

  12. Since you value SPG points at at least 2.5 cents each, would you or anyone like to buy my 50k points for $1,200? You would be instantly making at least $50

    • Cogswell, what I value something at isn’t necessarily what I would buy it at. That would then be a neutral exchange, or even a loss if I can earn them cheaper and easier elsewhere. However, if anyone is not getting close to 2.5 cents when they go to redeem their SPG points then they are doing it wrong. Of course, if I was out of SPG points and had a specific redemption in mind then I would actually consider that offer as I have gotten north of 5 cents in value from SPG points.

  13. Mommypoints – well it’s a bit of a logical fallacy saying “I value something at $100 but I wouldn’t pay $90 for it”. As you are often posting ways to save $5 or $10, I would assume that instantly saving $50 would be a great deal (and far from a neutral exchange).

    These blogs are flooded with credit card offers proclaiming that signup bonuses like 25k SPG points are worth $625 or more! But if you wouldn’t buy the points directly for anything close to that price, then it’s illogical (and misleading) to say the points are worth that.

  14. Cogswell, I disagree. It might be worth that much, but if you can get it for so much less doing what we do then why pay for it? Also, it may be worth that amount but that doesn’t mean you need it right now. I actually think there could be a situation where I was out of SPG points, needed them to redeem, and would pay that as it would save me money over the going rate. I do think they are worth that, but doesn’t mean I am a buyer now. I think the house down the street is worth 250,000, but that doesn’t mean I am a buyer even if they were selling for 240,000. Doesn’t change what it is worth.

  15. Yes with an underpriced house you might not need it right now, but people on these boards are always scrambling to get points, trying to find every way to accumulate as many points as possible – so clearly they do want and need the points. So it’s illogical to not *both* signup for a credit card to get 25k points and *also* to take my $50 off offer.

    The point is that the hotel can set whatever price they want for a room – and they set the prices so absurdly high that it looks like you are getting an amazing deal. If you redeem 10k points for a room which the hotel charges $1000 for, but you value at, and would only pay $100 for  – did you get 10cpm or 1cpm?

  16. We have stayed at most of the SPG/Hyatt/Hilton properties in Waikiki and have to say that most of them are overpriced and offer not a real lot to the consumer.

    Much better options are available. For example our last stay we went to the Aqua Lotus which was just over $200 and the room was superior to what was offered at the major chains. Spacious and clean, this property used to be the W about 5 years ago. Much better location as it is away from the traffic noise. Free internet for everyone, wine at a reception in the lobby in the arvo for all customers.

    We are currently in Honolulu for 2 months staying in a condo on the Gold Coast. Offers much better value with the ability to have breakfast at home and no need to worry about laundry as there is one in our condo. For what you pay for a week at the Moana you could have a month in a condo.

  17. Thx MP. Hope we could see the point data in the future. Might be more work for you to gather data. But I think It would come in handy for some of us. Half way to our Hawaii trip

  18. Hi!
    I actually just stumbled across your blog and find it very helpful! Thanks!!! I am planning my families first visit to Hawaii (July 2016). I’m learning the importance of planning and booking early. It will be myself, my husband and our ten year old. I noticed that you have a couple of posts on hotels in Hawaii from two islands. Can you please tell me which of the islands you recommend as family friendly, nice beach and great overall experience? I appreciate any advice!
    Thanks again for your posts!
    Take care,
    Barb

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