Westin Moana Surfrider Honululu : Tragedy on Waikiki Beach

This summer it’s in Hawaii that the TravelGuys roads crossed, and more precisely at the Westin Moana Surfrider on Waikiki Beach. If these are names that make you dream, this brief stay is proof that there are sometimes significant gaps between the reputation of a destination and its reality.

Online booking and “Best Rate Guarantee”.

We made our reservations in the middle of winter for an early August stay. Hawaii is an expensive destination and it’s no surprise that we found entry-level prices for this Westin around 400 euros per night. Price to which it will be advisable to add the various taxes which are never included in the nominal rate proposed by the American hotels.

The advantage of always making your reservation online on the hotelier’s website and not on an online agency is that you can make the competition work over time. In the middle of May we found on another site a more competitive price of a few dozen euros. By virtue of the advantages promised by Starwood to customers booking directly on their site,we therefore made a claim and obtained a price 20% lower than that of the competing agency. Promise kept.

So here we are at a little less than 300 euros excluding taxes per night. Renowned hotel, dream location, everything was ready for a pleasant stay.

Westin Moana Surfrider: a historic hotel in a great location.

As advertised the hotel is impeccably located right on the beach in Waikiki beach. This is worth mentioning because you will realize over time that very few hotels have direct access to the beach in the center of the Hawaiian capital.

It is a century-old building that is impressive, in the purest architectural tradition of the time.

Westin Moana Surfrider

 

We arrived late in Honolulu, our respective flights from Vancouver and Seattle landing late in the evening. The checkin could not be smoother.

The friendly staff takes care of the formalities. The benefits of the loyalty program are spelled out without much expectation: the hotel is full, the chances of being upgraded are zero.

Mais l’hôtel a fait ce qu’il a pu. Our basic rooms have been moved from the street to the inner garden for more tranquility for me and Olivier inherits a beach view from a wing of the hotel.

Super small Room in Waikiki

I go to my room. Without much personality, it does not stand out for its size either. It’s clean…and that’s it.

Like many US hotels, this one adopts a half-antique, half-modern style that in the end results in absolutely nothing.

Westin Moana Sorfrider - Chambre Banyan Classic

Westin Moana Sorfrider - Chambre Banyan Classic

The bathroom is one of the smallest I’ve seen in a hotel in recent years. Even Ibis usually does better.

Westin Moana Sorfrider - Chambre Banyan Classic

I thank the hotel for sparing me a room with a view of the noisy street. But with this window near a corner, high up, and inaccessible because of the bench seat, I won’t enjoy the view.

In the end I will use the panoramic function…the only one that allows me a complete view given the lack of distance.

Westin Moana Sorfrider - Chambre Banyan Classic

Westin Moana Sorfrider - Chambre Banyan Classic

 

And I will complement it with a video visit.

So it’s not the kind of room where you’ll like to loiter and take your time. It’s a pity but finally, in Hawaii, it’s the outside that counts, right?

To go outside, let’s take a look at the common areas. The entire building exudes a more than century-old standing. This is perhaps the only thing that will remind us that we are in a 5 stars hotel.

IMG_0474

Westin Moana Surfrider - lobby et espaces communs

Westin Moana Surfrider - lobby et espaces communs

 

Westin Moana Surfrider - lobby et espaces communs

Beach and pool : “for your eyes only”

If Hawaii has, in my memory, never been the scene of 007’s adventures, the Westin Moana Surfrider makes us a reprise of “just for your eyes” when it comes to enjoying its beach and its pool. No, it wasn’t a Carole Bouquet lookalike who came to take orders by the pool, it was simply that it was much easier to look at the hotel’s facilities than to use them.

Let’s start with the pool. The chairs are so close together that you would think you were in the subway during rush hour. When after a long wait you manage to get a deckchair you quickly realize that not only is it impossible to swim or to find a quiet area in the pool, but you also have to try to avoid the children’s games.

Westin Moana Surfrider - Piscine et plage

You are not dreaming. You have a hotel with several hundred rooms and this is the one and only pool offered to guests. In a “Resort” which is even more surprising (but we will come back to this detail later).

On the beach side now. Two rows of deckchairs only. Do you want one? You book and pay by the day. But we already paid a resort fee for it? Yes, but this is not included.

Westin Moana Surfrider - Piscine et plage

Fortunately there are plenty of things to visit and walks to do…and beautiful beaches nearby because as you have understood, we did not make an intensive use of the hotel’s facilities.

You can eat well at the Moana Surfrider, provided you have a seat.

One of us being SPG platinum we both enjoyed the club lounge for breakfast.

The place is nice with a nice terrace (unusable unless you want the birds to eat your breakfast for you) and, without being exceptional, the offer was substantial.

Westin Moana Surfrider - club lounge

Westin Moana Surfrider - club lounge

Westin Moana Surfrider - club lounge

Westin Moana Surfrider - club lounge

Westin Moana Surfrider - club lounge

A pleasant setting for the club lounge.

Westin Moana Surfrider - club lounge

 

Westin Moana Surfrider - club lounge

The “aperitif” service in the evening was a bit more ordinary but at least we had space and we could seat as we wished.

This platinum status has really “saved our lives” thanks to the lounge access. Because when it came to testing the “real” breakfast in the hotel restaurant it was simply impossible. Or to be honest, if you wait at least half an hour. Such a long wait to have your breakfast in a hotel of this standing is simply unacceptable.

The hotel also has a beach bar. Rather large, one can manage to find a seat there. On the other hand given the attendance we will avoid being demanding on the service.

Westin Moana Surfrider - Beach bar

The hotel finally has a restaurant (you know, the one where we didn’t have breakfast).

We tried it twice. Once at lunch where I had a crab club sandwich, once at dinner for a more elaborate menu. The result was always as expected…or even better.

Westin Moana Surfrider - Beach House restaurant

Westin Moana Surfrider - Beach House restaurant

 

Westin Moana Surfrider - Beach House restaurant

For our other attempts we were always told that the restaurant was full or that the waiting time would be too long. But we’ll talk about that at the end of this review.

Fitness OK, Spa KO

Among the satisfactions the gym, large and very well equipped.

Westin Moana Surfrider - Fitness club

Westin Moana Surfrider - Fitness club

When it comes to the Spa…. Again, it’s a good thing that Olivier’s platinum status allowed us to access it for free because its quality is irrelevant to the price. As if we had gathered 4 or 5 rooms, installed a hammam and a jacuzzi, cobbled two rest rooms…

Smooth check out

The departure was smooth. Fortunately, we had access to the “fast” lanes of the members of the loyalty program because the counters were often overwhelmed at the time of the crossroads.

Departure which was done with a certain pleasure. One had to go back to Chicago for professional reasons and the other (me in this case), who had 2 days left to spend, decided to change hotel to leave Honolulu with a better impression.

Now it’s time for the debriefing…

The “resort fee” in question

Among our greatest sources of frustration – and we’ll come back to this in a dedicated article later – was the existence of a “resort fee”. This common practice – well, especially in the US – allows a hotel to charge a daily fee for facilities such as the pool and beach. But you will tell me that some hotels do not…and you will be right. This is at the discretion of the hotelier. But the practice continues as consumers increasingly speak out against what looks like a mandatory tax.

Moreover this compulsory “resort fee” was like a scam since you had to pay extra to reserve a deckchair or even a simple mattress on the beach.

When this is added to a posted price of 400 euros per night excluding various taxes for a basic room for the overall service we had, it is a case of organized theft.

The Westin Moana Surfrider: the frog that wanted to be bigger than the ox

What a pity to waste such a hotel potential you will tell me. In fact, after having considered the problem from every angle, the causes of the problem seemed obvious to us and everything followed from them. Don’t blame the staff, they suffer as much as the customers. On the other hand, the management.

In the early 1900s the hotel opened with the only central and historic building, and in its middle the bar/pool area. Totally adapted.

Then in the late 1990s and 2000s, two buildings were added on either side of the historic building, adding several hundred rooms in total. The following drawing shows the small historic building framed by a taller, more modern one to the right and, worse, a tower to its left.

In short, the Westin Moana Surfrider now has 791 rooms with facilities designed for 200 rooms maximum. The disaster in terms of guest experience was predictable and it happened. Remember the pictures of the pool and the two rows of deck chairs on the beach? You have understood the problem. With only one restaurant the service can’t keep up either. Inevitable.

During busy periods this hotel cannot keep its promise. It would have been smart to size the equipment as rooms were added, but the focus was certainly on the profitability of each square meter rather than the customer experience.

The Westin Moana Surfrider: an industrial disaster

As you can guess, for once, we completely messed up on a hotel choice.

In fact, in its original configuration the Westin must have been a high-class hotel. And I have no doubt that in the off-season it’s getting closer to something more suitable in terms of experience. But for many of the reasons mentioned above and at this price it is simply unacceptable. Training or adding staff will not change anything, that is not the question: it is the whole “structural” conception of the hotel that needs to be reviewed if we want to serve 791 rooms today as well as 200 in the past.

Too expensive, too crowded, too noisy, undersized infrastructures… this is our experience in a nutshell. The metro at peak times sold for the price of a TGV in 1st class.

In short…we do not recommend you to go there. At this price you can have infinitely better in Thailand or Indonesia.

To know if a change of hotel saved the week…. read the report of my stay at the Royal Hawaiian…

The entire photo album is available here.

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.
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