Waikiki's First Lady
I love Hawaii, and specifically Honolulu thanks to my parents. Without them, it may have taken me many more years to discover this island paradise. This year's family trip to the Island of Oahu was in honor of my father's 70th birthday. How better to celebrate a big family birthday than by meeting up at the hotel that my parents have been returning to for nearly twenty years - the Moana Surfrider - otherwise known as the First Lady of Waikīkī.
When you arrive at the Moana, in the heart of bustling Waikiki, you're immediately overwhelmed by its stark white colonial-style facade. The hotel's elegance almost seems out of place, but then you notice the rockers lined up under the arches and hotel guests of all ages happily sitting back and enjoying the sidewalk show. We're always lucky enough to be there for a parade. Before you have time to look around one of the staff will have placed an orchid lei around your neck. Welcome to Waikiki!
Be active...or not!
I'm not sure whether it was the 12-hour time difference between Rome and Honolulu or the lapping of the waves, but my husband and I were wide awake by 5:30 most mornings, after falling asleep each night to the sound of the Moana's live entertainment. One week in paradise allowed us to relax and enjoy everything the hotel has to offer. For someone like me who lives in chaotic Rome, early morning yoga by the beach is such a luxury! So, wearing New Balance from head to toe (provided by the hotel for only $5), I practiced yoga once and two other mornings I joined the runWESTIN program, led by Jen, who also takes the hotel's Sunday morning yoga class. She also happens to be a marine biologist, so if you can run and talk at the same time, ask her some questions about the local fish and bird-life. At least it might slow her down for a minute!
After getting in my exercise early, I happily spent most days lying guilt-free on the beach, broken up by the occasional dip in the sea. It's one of the only places in the world I feel completely safe swimming out a mile. Please, no one destroy that for me! The water is the perfect temperature in October, but Lee at the pool desk tells me that's the case most of the year. He also thinks my father is really funny, but I'll choose to believe him this time!
Eat and Drink
No visit to Honolulu is complete without experiencing lunch or afternoon tea on the veranda at the Beach House. The crab cakes could be the best I've ever had, especially when coupled with a glass of crisp rosé. I'm sorry I waited until the last day of our holiday to try them, but glad I took our friendly server's advice to follow them with the ahi salad. Thanks Douglas! And yes, the desserts are for sharing. I know my husband would return to the Beach House just for the rich carrot cake (and the tomahawk steak of course).
Tip: Take up the Beach Club access for the duration of your stay. I was expecting to find a continental breakfast and it was anything but! My daily ritual was two oceanfront breakfasts. Post-run or yoga: scrambled eggs and tomato on a toasted bagel with green tea. Second breakfast: delicious banana bread and a caffè latte. I admit the oats and fresh fruits were amazing too. What can I say... breakfast is my favorite meal of the day! If you're more of an evening person, the Beach Club has you covered with complimentary beer, wine and appetizers. Sweet Noelani will keep coming around, offering to fill up your wine glass. If you have a big lunch, that's dinner taken care of! We ran in and out all day picking up coffee, water and juice.
Whatever you do while you're in Waikiki, don't forget to take a pic under the Moana's iconic Banyan Tree, which has been there even longer than the hotel. It's a bit like mistletoe at Christmas... you just have to kiss underneath it!