In the late 1890s Waikiki was a quiet backwater area, surrounded by swamps, taro fields and duck ponds, but was also home to a beautiful beach. Waikiki was the site of homes of Hawaiian royalty and wealthy kamaainas including the magnificent home of W.C. Peacock, who became the Moana Hotel's owner in 1901.
Visitors to the island at this time had to stay in Honolulu and venture out to the beaches of Waikiki daily as there were few accommodations in the beach area. With more visitors arriving to the islands by steamship, Walter C. Peacock proposed to build Waikiki's first real hotel in Waikiki as a solution to the area's main drawback - the lack of suitable accommodations on the beach.
Opening on March 11, 1901, the Moana, which means "broad expanse of ocean," was one of Oahu's tallest and most elaborate buildings at the time. Each guest room had a telephone and private bath, true innovations at the time, as well as the Territory's first electric-powered elevator and ice machines on each floor.
The hotel's first guests in 1901 were a group of 114 Shriners, hosted by the local Aloha Temple Shriners. They paid a pricey $1.50 per night for their sophisticated rooms.
In 1905, Peacock sold the Moana Hotel to Alexander Young, a prominent Honolulu businessman with other hotel interests. After Young's death in 1910, his estate continued to operate the Moana until Matson Navigation Company purchased it in 1932.
The Moana became the center of Waikiki's growing popularity in the early 1900s. By 1918, Hawaii welcomed 8,000 visitors annually and, responding to this growth in visitors, a massive addition to the Moana Hotel was built. Two floors were added along with concrete wings on each side designed in the Italian Renaissance style. This more than doubled the size of the hotel and created the distinctive "H" shape it has today. The large Banyan tree behind the hotel separated the two wings and became the famous Banyan Courtyard with lanais on its three sides.
In the 1920s, Matson Navigation Company ships were bringing growing numbers of wealthy visitors to the islands. The construction of the Ala Wai Canal brought an end to the swamps in the area. The opening of The Royal Hawaiian in 1927, just a few blocks from the Moana, helped alleviate the shortage of rooms in Waikiki. Both hotels attracted the well-traveled and well-heeled, celebrating Waikiki as a luxury destination of choice.
In 1932, the Matson Steamship Company, Hawai'i's predominant passenger carrier, purchased the Moana for $1.6 million. They had constructed the premier hotel in Hawaii at the time, The Royal Hawaiian, in 1927.
"From the Banyan Court of the Moana Hotel overlooking bee-you-tiful Waikiki Beach, its…Hawaii Calls!" These words were first broadcast to 20 West Coast radio stations on July 3, 1935. For forty years, Hawaii's most famous radio show brought Hawaiian music to listeners around the world.
By the end of 1935 the show, emceed by Webley Edwards, had gone national and at every broadcast an assistant would run out to the shoreline with a microphone to send the "sounds of the waves of Waikiki" to its listeners. At its peak of popularity in the 1950s, the show was carried by 750 stations worldwide.
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, all of Hawaii was on a war footing. Barbed wire stretched across the beaches and blackout restrictions were enforced as preventative measures.
The Moana remained open as a guest hotel, but was filled with servicemen and defense-related personnel. Matson's other property, The Royal Hawaiian, was leased to the US Navy as a rest and relaxation center, mainly for submarine personnel.
The Moana weathered the war years without too many changes. It was always full although it was hard to keep liquor stocked and to obtain certain food items because of shortages and rationing.
The war years ended and Hawaii tourism developed at a phenomenal rate. By 1950, Matson decided to build a brand new hotel adjacent to its existing structures, as both the Moana and the Royal Hawaiian were operating at capacity. An eight-story hotel plan was created and the Surfrider Hotel, currently known as the Diamond Wing, opened in 1952.
In 1964, Japanese hotelman Kenji Osano purchased the adjacent property for $65 a square foot to build a 21-story, 436-room addition. In 1969, the new Surfrider Hotel on the Honolulu (Ewa) side of the Moana opened. The entire wing had 430 guest rooms, as well as penthouses, a restaurant (Ship's Tavern), café, lounge and banquet facilities.
The desire to return the resort to its classic 1918 appearance began as a simple plan in 1983 to update the lobby and public areas, and eventually evolved into a master plan to restore the entire resort. A $50 million, 20-month historic restoration resulted in a gala re-opening in March of 1989.
The original 1915 drawings of the Moana's wing additions were discovered at the Royal Hawaiian. These, along with period photographs, provided details on the reconstruction of the original porte cochere.
In recognition of its extensive historic restoration project, the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa, has received numerous local and national awards, including the National Preservation Honor Award, the Hawaii Renaissance Award and the Restaurant/Hotel Design International 7th Annual Design Award.
The Moana Surfrider was re-branded from a Sheraton to a Westin in June 2007 after receiving a $30 million transformation and enhancement of its guest rooms and public areas. Along with the Westin re-branding, the Moana Surfrider welcomed a signature restaurant, beachhouse at the moana, which opened its doors in November 2007 in the extremely popular area of the resort known as the Grand Salon ballroom.
The following year, the Moana Lani Spa, A Heavenly Spa by Westin debuted as Oahu’s first beachfront spa. The majestic "First Lady of Waikiki" officially began operation under its new name, Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa, as of October 1, 2008.
By 2013, Moana had completed the "Timeless Revitalized" refresh of all guestrooms and suites in the Tower and Diamond Wings. Renovation of the 21st floor of the Tower Wing unveiled "Penthouse at the Moana". In addition, the Beach Club guest facility opened to cater to the needs of discerning guests seeking the ultimate resort hospitality experience. Offering light and flavorful island-style refreshments that rejuvenate the body, mind and spirit, the Beach Club provides indoor seating and an outdoor lanai area with sweeping views of Moana Beach and the tranquil Pacific Ocean.