With over a century of sophistication under its belt, Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa, Waikiki Beach is living proof that some legacies continue to get better with time. And we don’t use the word “legacy” lightly.
As the first hotel built on Waikiki Beach in 1901, the lavish retreat ushered the birth of tourism for an area that had previously only occupied summer homes for Hawaiian royalty and wealthy residents. But being the “First Lady of Waikiki” was not the only aspect that had lines of guests in mule-drawn trolleys longing for a room. With its elegant, colonial-style architecture and innovative accommodations for its time (we’re talking guest rooms with private bathrooms and telephones), it was the most elaborate – and therefore, most expensive – hotel in all of Hawaii. And it had a guest list to match. On top of the hundreds of elite visitors from near and far who frequented the resort, it was the Prince of Wales, who would later become King Edward VIII, who loved to gallivant around the property and dive in the ocean from the private pier.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, martial law was declared on all of Hawaii, covering its sun-kissed beaches with barbed wire and enforcing blackout restrictions. While Moana Surfrider remained open as a guest hotel, it was frequently filled with servicemen and defense-related personnel during the war.
The decade wasn’t all gloom though. With the emergence of regularly scheduled airline services from the West Coast and tourism booming in the late 1940s and 1950s, the Waikiki Beach resort transformed into the mecca of Honolulu society. This was enhanced even further in 1959 when Hawaii became the 50th state and witnessed the first year of jet service to the islands.
Despite its expansions, extensive renovations and ownership changes over the years, the resort has managed to keep much of its original architectural elegance intact. Today, it remains one of the country’s leading hotels, with its original Banyan Wing listed in the National Register of Historic Places. As a testament to its rich roots, the resort offers a complimentary historical tour at 11 a.m. Monday and Wednesday, allowing guests to explore the second floor of the Banyan Wing and its very own historical room, displaying memorabilia dating back to the early 1900s.
Speaking of history, there’s another iconic aspect that the Waikiki Beach resort is still known for today: the banyan tree. Originally planted at the resort in 1904 at just 7 feet tall, the impressive tree was selected by the Board of Trustees of the America the Beautiful Fund as the site for a Hawaii Millennium Landmark Tree designation, which selects one historic tree in every state to be protected in the new millennium. It now stands 75 feet high and spans 150 feet across the courtyard, and guests are invited to participate in a special tree ceremony nightly at 7:30 p.m.
History is not the only element of excitement. From sunrise to sunset, the resort continues to celebrate the spirit of Hawaii through a variety of activities and services. Guests can begin their day with a refreshing yoga class on the beach, then break for the waves with a surfing lesson. Tropical tranquility can be achieved at the first-class spa, followed by a mouthwatering meal at one of the resort’s five dining outlets overlooking the ocean. For off-site exploration, travelers will love the resort’s central Waikiki location, just steps from the area’s array of shopping, dining and entertainment.
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