A Time Warp Where SPG Still Exists: A Review of the Westin Moana Surfrider in Honolulu, Hawaii

May 4, 2019

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To The Point

Like stepping back into time, this hotel actually seems to exist in a decade where SPG is still a thing. And I loved that. Pros: Good food, attentive service, great location. Cons: Humdrum rooms, bad Wi-Fi, no Coca-Cola.

When you work at The Points Guy, you might find yourself halfway across the world for a few hours at a time. So when I was asked to go cover the inaugural Southwest Airlines flight from Oakland, California, to Honolulu on social media and stay in Hawaii for a few days, I knew I had to say yes. I had never been to Hawaii before and was really excited to get some much-needed Vitamin D and time on the beach.

But where to stay?

We landed on the Westin-Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort & Spa in Waikiki Beach. Spoiler alert: I did not actually go surfing, but I may or may not have stepped into a time warp to where SPG still exists. Allow me to explain …

In This Post

Booking

This property is a Category 7 in Marriott’s Bonvoy program, meaning a free night will cost you 60,000 points. If you’re going to pay cash for your stay, you can expect to pay anywhere from just under $300 per night to about $600 per night at peak times.

If you are looking for some credit cards to help you earn enough Marriott points to cover a stay at the Moana Surfrider, here are our suggestions.

Westin Moana Surfrider (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Westin Moana Surfrider (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

Location

The Moana Surfrider is about a 20-minute cab ride from Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), right on Waikiki Beach. I don’t know about you, but I love knowing that my hotel is a quick cab ride away from the airport, especially before and after a long flight from Oakland (OAK). The hotel was also smack dab in the middle of the touristy part of Waikiki, with plenty of high-end shops and cool restaurants. Though pretty much everything here was expensive, I really liked the convenience of the location, as it had the perfect balance of beach and city life.

Check-in

Check-in was an absolute breeze, which was exactly what I was hoping for after the long flight. The desk agent was friendly and acknowledged my SPG Platinum status while, in the same breath, telling me the words that every traveler wants to hear: “You’ve been upgraded.” He also gave me leaflets with ongoing promotions and such, including one that mentioned a Starwood Preferred Guest package for 35% off.

Wait, what? Did they not get the memo about the merger? I know Hawaii is pretty far, but … hello?!

Not that I’m complaining — SPG was beloved by many of its members, and the post-merger, well, merge between Marriott and SPG has been a headache and a half, to say the least.

I smiled and thanked him for his help and for being so friendly, and walked over to the tower wing to take the elevator up to my room. Added bonus: The lobby smelled amazing, and I’m a sucker for a good hotel smell. It was a huge space with a bunch of different desks for the concierge, check-in and activities, with plenty of seating areas.

Room

My room was on the fifth floor and had a balcony that overlooked the ocean, providing prime content to make all of my Instagram followers jealous. (Don’t worry, guys, I was still working for most of the trip!).

The balcony was without a doubt the highlight of this room — it felt pretty bland. I really didn’t mind in this situation, though. After all, you’re there to spend time on the beach and eat so much poke that you swear you’ll never eat again. Hopefully, you’re not spending too much of your time in Hawaii cooped up in a hotel room.

Since my room was actually a suite, there was also a little nook with a small chair and footrest. It fit the overall vibe of the room — they were clearly not trying to make a splash here.

The bathroom was really where things got interesting. The shower looked like something out of a Courtyard Marriott rather than a four-star Westin resort, but, again, with that balcony I didn’t care all that much. Though you’d think that there’d be more of an effort to spruce up these rooms to match the unparalleled setting of the hotel.

The hotel provided a few basic toiletries. Nothing like the Asprey you’ll find at Ritz-Carlton hotels or trendy products like Aesop or Malin+Goetz. I usually bring my own hair products, but this time I tried out the body wash, and it did the trick.

My favorite part, though, was the fact that a bidet existed. And that’s all I’ll say on that subject.

Was it the most luxurious room I’ve ever stayed in? No. Was it clean with easy access to the beach, pool and other hotel amenities? Yup. If this hotel had been in a less-amazing spot, I would have been a little more critical, but the main attraction was, after all, the outdoors, so I really was fine with my room.

Food and Beverage

Now, before I delve into this section, I want you to brace yourselves. If you’re on a budget, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Like I said, you’ve been warned.

So, let me start off by saying that the food was good — and if you know anything about me, the biggest marker of whether or not I enjoyed any given trip or activity depends on how good the food was. But those prices?! Painful. I met up with Assistant News Editor Jess Puckett for breakfast one morning and ordered an egg-white omelet. Any guesses to how much it cost?

If you guessed $23, you’re correct. And that’s in addition to the side of blueberries and raspberries, which cost an additional $12, plus the $5 coffee. Thankfully, it was free due to my status, but it’s something to keep in mind if you don’t have it.

The service not only at the restaurant but the hotel itself was friendly and attentive. They constantly refilled my water, which I really appreciated in the 80-degree weather. I ended up eating most of my meals at the hotel, since a) I was working and didn’t want to waste time, and b) all of the restaurants that I did research on ahead of time were closed on the one full day I had there. Because of course. The menu featured a mix of traditional American cuisine like burgers and fries and Hawaiian favorites such as poke.

Also, and I I hate to be the bearer of bad news for all the Coke fans out there, but this is a Pepsi hotel. Prepare yourselves accordingly.

I heard through the grapevine (also known as my Uber driver) that the hotel is known for a great afternoon tea, but I didn’t have time to check it out. Guess that just means I’ll have to plan a trip back, stat!

Amenities

If you thought the food prices were insane, just wait until I tell you that I had to pay $60 for an umbrella on the beach … in addition to the $39 resort fee on your final bill. Oh, and that most of the umbrellas were booked a day in advance at the desk by the pool. May the odds be ever in your favor — they were in mine.

That said, not a bad office for the day, right?

There was also a nice pool area, filled with families and small children. There were very few solo travelers there, and I noticed that most guests were either couples or big groups.

Lounge chairs filled up early. I would recommend getting there by 9am or so, especially if you’re trying to grab a bunch of them.

My biggest complaint other than the exorbitant prices was the Wi-Fi. Since I was working for the majority of my trip, I needed my Wi-Fi to be stable and fast. No matter where I was in the hotel, it seemed to randomly cut out, and there were times that Slack wouldn’t load. Frustrating, to say the least.

I did get a chance to check out the lounge reserved for top-tier elite members, and it was, well, a lounge reserved for top-tier elite members.

It felt a bit like an airport lounge, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There were plenty of seating areas and TVs, although power outlets were few and far between. Here’s a full review of the Moana Surfrider Club Lounge.

Because it was Hawaii, there were also plenty of outdoor tables and chairs where you could get work done while overlooking the beach. I could definitely get used to this.

Overall Impression

The Westin Moana Surfrider is definitely worth looking into if you’re looking for a points hotel on Waikiki Beach. It’s not the most luxurious hotel you’ll stay at, and those prices are nothing to scoff at, but it’s right on the beach and the staff was superb. Maybe don’t utter the words “Marriott” around here, either — something tells me they’re holding onto their beloved SPG for dear life.

All photos by the author.

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