Just a few steps from Waikiki Beach is one of Honolulu’s most timeless resorts, Moana Surfrider. Built in 1901, this classically Victorian hotel is the oldest in Honolulu, officially registered as one of the Historic Hotels of America. This getaway spot is affectionately known as The First Lady of Waikiki, a place where old and new Hawaii can be found in the same place.Traditions run deep in this establishment, and afternoon tea is no exception. Just off of the hotel’s main lobby you’ll find tea being taken on a shaded beachfront veranda in front of the ocean. There’s a feeling of grandeur here, one that’s quickly being lost in a place as commercial and ever-changing as Honolulu. Tea time at The Veranda is a luxurious treat, one that requires you to slow down and relax on Hawaiian time. If you’re lucky, you’ll come around when there’s live Hawaiian music being played by the gigantic banyan tree in the main courtyard. Soft music, warm breezes, and good tea…it’s a combination made in heaven.
Knowing that my mom would be coming along and that she doesn’t like to wait, I made sure to book a reservation. And it’s a good thing I did, because we ended up at one of the best tables in the restaurant, one that made us feel like vacation had truly begun.The Moana Surfrider boasts several signature tea blends including Moana Sunset and Moana Royale, both with tropical flavors. My mom chose one while I chose the other. Both were brisk and fruity, best appreciated without the addition of milk. My choice, Moana Sunset, had ‘Ōhelo berry blended in it. Like cranberries, these berries are red and tart, with a tangy taste. These fruits are endemic to the Hawaiian islands, and grow at high elevations in places like Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
If presentation is key when it comes to afternoon tea, then the Moana Surfrider has this down. The tea treats are teeny tiny, but all artfully crafted and tasty. My main gripe would probably be that there weren’t more savories to balance out all the sweet bites. There are so many yummy things to eat in Hawaii, so this afternoon tea does exactly what it should do, simply carry you through the long stretch between lunch and dinner. The scones were light, tender, and not too sweet or crumbly. Even after they cooled, they retained their fluffy texture and delicate taste. Although few in number, the sandwiches were quite delicious. My favorite was the Bacon, Egg, and Shallot Tart, and my next favorite was the Pesto Chicken on Baguette. The Smoked Salmon Wrap was also good, but rather ordinary.
I ended up taking a few of these elegant deserts back to my hotel to enjoy later in the evening. The Passion Fruit and Macadamia Nut Tart was my favorite of the plate. The meal ended with a refreshing a scoop of Kaffir Lime and Lemongrass Sorbet, infused with Japanese green tea. After tea and if you have time, it’s a great idea to take a stroll up to the Moana Museum, located on the second floor. This small museum holds several memoirs that allow you to get a glimpse of the hotel’s rich history, including vintage photos of ladies taking tea and old menus (Gooseberry pie, anyone?).
My mom is a lady with high standards, so I’m pleased to report that she really enjoyed afternoon tea here. If you are limited on time when visiting the islands and wanting to have tea, I can highly recommend Moana Surfrider. This is an ideal spot to enjoy an unhurried pace of Hawaii, a place where tea is treasured as an art form.
The Veranda @ Moana Surfrider in Waikiki
2365 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815