The Moana Surfrider Hotel on the island of Oahu is also known as the First Lady of Waikîki. This grand hotel on Kalâkaua Avenue is a historic spot registered on the National Register of Historic Places.
The hotel was built in the late 19th century and was the first hotel in Waikiki. The doors opened in 1901 and the tourist rush of Hawaii had begun.
The Moana's architecture was influenced by European style. Large Ionic columns dominate the front of the hotel along with its large veranda. When the hoel was built it was considered the high end of luxury due to its in room telephones, private bathrooms, and electric powered elevator.
In the center of the Moana Surfrider's courtyard stands a majestic Banyan tree. The Indian Banyan tree was planted in 1904 by Jared Smith, Director of the Department of Agriculture Experiment Station. When planted the tree was nearly seven feet tall and about seven years old. It now stands 75 feet high and spans 150 feet across the courtyard. The hotel is still beautiful after several renovations and keeps its old world charm.
The lareg Banyan tree on the property has been listed on Hawaii's Rare and Exceptional Tree List. It has also been selected by the Board of Trustees of America the Beautiful Fund as the site for a Hawaii Millennium Landmark Tree designation, which selects one historic tree in each state for protection in the new millennium.
Famous people such as King Edward VIII and Duke Kahanamoku have graced the halls of this hotel.
Because of its beauty and history my wife and I chose to stay here during our latest visit to Hawaii.
The Royal Hawaiian is one of the two Iconic Hotels of Oahu; the other being the Moana Surfrider. The Royal Hawaiian is also known as the "Pink Palace" due to its colorful pink exterior. The hotel opened in 1927 and is still one of the leading hotels in the area for tourism.
The property is very beautiful with lush foliage that is impeccably maintained. The interior was redone in 2008; so we were fortunate to see it in its new state when we last visited Oahu.
The Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center is just another one of the many shopping centers in Honolulu. Whenever my wife and I are on vacation we enjoy a bit of retail therapy so to speak. What I enjoyed most about the Royal Hawaiian was the Ferrari Store; since I'm a huge Formula One fan this was heaven to me.
The Mall has a large variety of shops from everyday items to high end stores such as Rolex, Hermes and Cartier. Some chain restaurants are on site: P.F. Chang's, Cheesecake Factory and Senor Frog's to name a few.
This was the best spontaneous activity! As I sat and enjoyed a burger on the beach (after a morning of surfing) This catamaran pulled up on the beach.... for $15.00 you get more than an hour of sailing off the shore of Waikiki - I reccommend sitting on the net to stay cool and have a fun ride! (but you will get wet!)
Kalakua Avenue is a major thoroughfare. Pedestrian traffic can make the sidewalks very crowded especially during prime shopping times. The shops lining the street draws people in and there are plenty of places to grab a snack, meal or refreshing drink. My favorite time to walk this avenue was in the early morning as the sun rose in the sky; the street was quiet and we felt totally alone. It also helped us to a litle uninterrupted window shopping so we could return later when the stores had opened.
The Royal Grove of the Royal Hawaiian Center is a large garden area in the middle of the shopping area. There are sevral coconut trees as wel as grass and benches to sit. Cultural displays, exhibits and activities occur daily here. Liz and I watched a dance exhibition along with some traditional Polynesian music.
In the center of the Grove is the bronze statue of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop who was the great-granddaughter of King Kamehameha. In her will she established the Kamehameha Schools for Hawaii's children. The statue depicts the Princess sitting with a child on a bench reading. The Royal Hawaiian Center is the Schools’ largest real estate asset, generating revenue to continue providing education for Hawaiian children.
The Royal Hawaiian Center is a large plaza of shopping, dining and entertainment. The food options range from Cookies, Starbucks, P.F. Chang's, Senor Froggs and The Cheesecake Factory. Shopping here you can find "everything". They have ABC stores, jewelry, clothing, perfume, souvenir and specialty stores. I loved the Ferrari Store although they don't allow pictures in the store except for the model car; quite dissapointing. Liz liked that there was a Hermes store as well as a White House/Black Market and a swimwear store.
The stores Liz and I enjoyed strolling through the many shops and even catching a cultural show in the Royal Grove.
We visited this church (pic 1) one Sunday morning because we saw a leaflet that was saying that they had gospel songs during the mass and I never had the chance to see one live. We watched the Sunday worship (usually starts at 10.30am), it was kind of weird for us with all the people there smiling to each other and then singing all these songs about jesus with the keyboard based music on the background. So we just listen for some minutes and we left without destracting them.
Before we take the bus again we visited the statue (pic 2) of king David Kalakaua (1836-1991) the last king of the Hawaii. He is known as conservative monarch (really? How come?), he travelled a lot and wanted to brought hula, hawaiian music and surfing out to the world. He built the Iolani palace. He lost most of his power after 1887 when he was forced to sign a new constitution. Three years later he was very ill to rule and his sister Liliuokalani took his place on the throne not for too long though as the overthrow of Hawaiian kingdom came two years after.
St Augustine church is a weird roman catholic church in neo gothic style that we saw among the high rise buildings of Waikiki. We saw it next to the beach as we were walking along Kalakaua avenue. We went inside where there are some nice big stained glass windows. The local parish established in 1854 after the arrival in Hawaii from France of the priests that belong to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. From 1831 to 1839 hawaiian catholics were denied their religious rights. The first chapel on this spot was built with coconut fronds and wood from wrecks on the shore!
The church that we see today was built in 1901 upon the old chapel of the parish. It was named after the great doctor of the church Saint Augustine of Hippo. Prince David and princess Abigail Kawanakoa baptized their daughter Kapiolani here and gave as a gift the baptismal font. The church was renovated in 1910 and then again in 1925.
If you want to attend a mass here’s the schedule:
Monday to Friday 7.00, 17.00
Sunday 6.30, 8.00, 10.00, 17,00
Father Damien museum is located right behind the church.
Some years before VT and internet, for me Waikiki was something like the ideal exotic vacation, a tropical resort full of coconut trees and girls that put flower lei around your neck. Ha! The aloha spirit is only a motto written on cheap shirts now, the beaches are packed with tourists so if you want something more into the romance side you have to choose another island (we went to Kauai for that). Now, and having said all that you may think that this is a place to avoid. If you have only a week to spend in Hawaii yes but if you have more time Waikiki will be your base for the island.
The choices of the hotels are countless here and you can catch many buses to explore other areas of the island that are more remote, so let’s stop complain :)
Waikiki (spouting water in hawaiian) extends from Ala Wai Canal on the WN to Diamond Head on the east. Ala Wai canal (pic 4) is located just a few blocks away from the beach of Waikiki and it is more quiet, a less touristic corner. We walked a bit along the canal watching the canoes that were running there. It was in 1922 when this canal was dug to stop overflow of Waikiki (once separated from the mainland).
Although, the high rise hotels are spoiling the picture by lining along the long Waikiki beach it was nice to swim at the beaches in front Kalakaua avenue, see the unexperienced surfers or just stroll along this avenue and enjoy the street artists, the free hula shows, some cocktails and Hawaiian songs of course :) You may even catch a movie right on the beach (ask for sunset on the Beach program at your hotel)! Another activity you will do here sooner or later is shopping, there so many stores from little shops to huge malls that we felt sick! The prices were much better than in California though.
There are some really huge hotels like the Hilton Hawaiian Village or the Sheraton Waikiki that dominate the area but also some famous hotels like the Moana Surfrider (pic 5) dating from the beginning of 20th century that has some free tours and a small museum with interesting facts about the period that only princes and other rich people were coming to Waikiki.
Just in case Pearl Harbor wasn’t enough for you take a visit to US Army Museum of Hawaii, we skipped that. If you have kids you may interested to visit the Waikiki Aquarium or the Honolulu Zoo.
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