Best Marriott In Waikiki: Royal Hawaiian Vs. Westin Moana Surfrider


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In this review, we ask, which is the best Marriott Bonvoy hotel in Waikiki? Royal Hawaiian Vs. Westin Moana Surfrider Vs. Sheraton Vs. Marriott. If you fly into Honolulu (HNL), you will probably head straight to the resort of Waikiki for your stay in Hawaii. If you collect Marriott or Sheraton Starwood (SPG), now Bonvoy points, then it’s worth knowing where you can spend them and earn them and which hotels are in the Bonvoy portfolio on Oahu and, in fact, across the Hawaiian islands.

1. The Ritz-Carlton Residences Waikiki Beach

If you’re looking for the best luxury hotel in Waikiki, look no further than The Ritz-Carlton Residences Waikiki Beach. This is a fantastic property, but it’s worth mentioning from the outset that the hotel itself is not based on the waterfront. There’s no beach in front of the property; instead, it’s a 10-minute walk away.

The views that you can enjoy from the rooms at the Ritz-Carlton Residences are breathtaking, as the hotel itself is a high-rise. Oh, there are also fantastic views from the adults-only infinity pool, which is the highest infinity pool in Waikiki. This infinity pool is a great spot to enjoy a cocktail in peace, and if you splash out on the private cabanas, you can enjoy a TV and minibar by the pool.

The hotel has a number of restaurants, including Sushi Sho as well as French and Italian eateries. In this part of Waikiki, you are spoiled for choices in places to eat. Whip up dinner in a gourmet kitchen with Miele appliances, or savor chef Keiji Nakazawa’s omakase-style cooking at Sushi Sho.

2. Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, Waikiki

For any avid Bonvoy points collectors or spenders, this hotel, which is also part of the Marriott and Sheraton SPG group, is undoubtedly a fantastic choice if you want to stay in Waikiki! This hotel is one of the three best Marriott hotels in Waikiki. If you are looking for chain hotels, there is also a well-located Hyatt Regency with a club lounge in Waikiki.

The Royal Hawaiian opened in 1927. This “Pink Palace of the Pacific” is located slap band in the center of the famed Waikiki Beach. With 528 rooms and suites, The Royal Hawaiian features modern comfort, indigenous accents, and refined luxury. Each room in the Royal Beach Tower provides an intimate lanai for a private vantage point of the sparkling Pacific Ocean. In the Historic Building, fresh and elegant guest rooms. The resort’s signature restaurant, Azure Restaurant, is perched along the Waikiki beachfront and serves some of the best seafood in Waikiki and Honolulu.

3. Moana Surfrider Hotel, A Westin Resort

The historical setting and the old-fashioned architecture make the Moana Surfrider such a special choice in Waikiki. The hotel was actually built in 1901, and the perfectly restored lobby is in the original colonial building. You enter, bypassing the decked front porch lined with white wooden rocking chairs. Enormous tropical flower displays scent the lobby, and guests are greeted with a lei and a glass of fruit juice. Rooms are, unfortunately, less noteworthy.

The historic and diamond rooms lack a balcony, and although pleasant, they don’t enable you to sit out and enjoy the views. The best rooms here are the more modern Tower Ocean Front and Ocean View Rooms with incredible vistas. If you are not bothered about a balcony, the Historic Banyan Ocean rooms are also cute. Of note, the Royal Hawaiian does not have rooms overlooking the beach like the Halekulani, but for a cheaper option, the Surfrider also has rooms overlooking or even hanging over the beach.

The base rooms here are small. You really need to upgrade to a room with a balcony and views for a luxury experience. Many city-view rooms overlook the International Marketplace to the right of the hotel from the back. The view is great, but the music can be loud and can continue well past midnight.

The location, right in the center of Waikiki Beach with direct beach access, means that you couldn’t be more central. The pool is small, but the location and overall upkeep of the hotel are superb, making it a great hotel choice in Waikiki. The private beach at the Moana Surfrider is a thin strip of over-crowded beach with a small area closest to the hotel property cordoned off by a rope, where you can use hotel beach chairs. But then there isn’t a Starwood or Bonvoy option in Waikiki on Oahu with anything close to a secluded, private beach feel.

Access to the beach club lounge may actually save you cash even though there is a steep price tag of around $100 USD/room. This lounge is one of the best club lounges in Waikiki and does actually feel a bit like a beach club. The lounge is on the ground floor and has an outdoor seating area which is great for breakfast and alfresco or drinks in the evening. You are just a few feet above the beach! The Moana has a popular popcorn machine. There tend to be fewer children at this hotel than at the Sheraton Waikiki up the beach, so usually, this lounge is the more peaceful lounge of the two if your loyalty sits with the Marriott brand and you collect Bonvoy points.

There is a great selection at breakfast; scrambled eggs, fruit, cheese, and porridge, a nice variety along with coffee, espresso, and bottled water (Bottled water is not available at the equivalent club lounge at the Hyatt across the road, so the Moana beach club lounge offers a much better choice is the hotel lounge is a deal-breaker at your hotel). There are also soft drinks available throughout the day.

In the evening, they serve you free wine/beer, but your glass will never be empty. There is also a decent spread of food and excellent service.
All three hotels are beachfront, and the Royal Hawaiian and Moana Surfrider both have incredible histories and stunning lobbies and grounds. Both have modern wings where you can enjoy rooms with balconies whilst still enjoying the historic main buildings and grounds. The Sheraton Waikiki is all modern and massively high rise, a truly enormous hotel.

For a club lounge, you have to choose between the Sheraton Waikiki and the Moana Surfrider, we prefer the latter, and we have reviewed Waikiki hotels with the best club or executive lounges.

4. Sheraton Waikiki

This hotel is right on the beach with a fantastic pool, beachfront with super beach, and a great if slightly soul-less club lounge (if you are after a character beach club-style club lounge, head over to the Moana Surfrider for a more child-free experience with outdoor seating).

The downside of this hotel is that it is huge, so don’t expect the personal touch. It’s too big for that! But with huge and enormously high blocks comes incredible views! The view from the Club Lounge is also excellent, although it is just a crowded room (often full of kids) with a decent breakfast and light dinner with snacks and free-flowing self-serve wine and beer in the evening. A great spread but lacking in much of a Hawaiian feel.

If you come here to enjoy the pools and beach right on your doorstep and a location right in the center of the action, this hotel is a great choice!

5. Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa

I have to admit this is one of my least favorite Marriott Bonvoy-related hotels on Waikiki beach. I stayed here a few years ago and found that although the resort offers a friendly staff and great views, the location is across the road from the beach rather than on the beach is a problem (no direct beach access), and I found the pools to be on the concrete side and crowded. Add to this that, because of the size of the surrounding buildings, the sun doesn’t get on the main pool till about lunchtime.

The rooms offer spectacular views can make up for this. With 1,310 refurbished guest rooms and suites, all with private lanai, you can’t go wrong if you want to be near the beach, but please note that although this hotel is described as a resort, it is really a hotel across the road from Waikiki beach.

Amenities include Kuhio Beach Grill, featuring the best in Pacific Rim cuisine; Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar and d.k Steak House; Arancino di Mare Italian Restaurant; newly redesigned Moana Terrace, offering live Hawaiian entertainment nightly; two Starbucks; Royal Kaila Spa AVEDA; a surf school; two freshwaters, heated swimming pools (concrete-y); 10-person whirlpool; 3,000 ft² 24-hour fitness center; business center with 24-hour Internet access; high-speed and wireless Internet access throughout the resort’s guest rooms and public spaces; shops and boutiques; and Hawaiian cultural activities.

Best Rooms

Base rooms at the Royal Hawaiian, the Sheraton, and the Moana Surfrider, for that matter, can be musty, small, and dated. We would always recommend booking at least one room up from the base room to avoid risking a poor stay. Conversley the rooms at the Ritz-Carlton Waikiki are all large, modern and offer great views.

At The Royal Hawaiian, we recommend the Mailani Tower Ocean guestrooms which were renovated in 2015 and offer exceptional accommodations with a contemporary nod to “Hawaiian elegance.” Each guestroom provides a portal to the destination with rooms facing the pristine beach and interior design motifs drawing inspiration from Waikiki Beach and Helumoa – the land on which The Royal Hawaiian sits. Mailani Tower’s guestrooms also feature private balconies and are furnished with chaise lounges and outdoor tables and chairs – perfect for relaxing with a coffee in the morning or dining under the stars.

The Surfrider also has rooms overlooking or even hanging directly over the beach. This hotel offers a great way of scoring an oceanfront room where you can fall asleep to the sound of the waves!

Best For Room Upgrades

The Moana tends to offer the best opportunity to score a good upgrade, whereas the Sheraton Waikiki Marriott and the Princess Kaiulani, which are massive highrises with an old and dated design, hold the risk of getting a bad room if you don’t get an upgrade.

Best Beaches

The private beach at the Moana Surfrider is a thin strip of overcrowded beach with a small “private” area cordoned off by a rope, where you can use hotel beach chairs. This part of the beach isn’t great, but then there isn’t a Starwood or Bonvoy option in Waikiki on Oahu with anything close to a secluded, private beach feel. The Royal Hawaiian has a larger stretch of beach with its iconic pink umbrellas, so it is a better choice, but don’t go to Waikiki for seclusion!

The Sheraton Waikiki also has a nice stretch of beach and is a good choice for families, but it is worth knowing that the Marriott does not have direct beach access and is instead across the road from the beach, so not such a great choice.

The Ritz-Carlton is not on the beach and offers an elevanted pool instead.

Best Pool

The pools are best at the Ritz-Carltn, Royal Hawaiian and the Sheraton Waikiki. The Moana Surfrider pool is rather small. In fact, for the pool alone, the Ritz-Carlton elevated pool is probably best for couples and the Sheraton Waikiki is better for families. The Marriott pool is concrete and on a roof. We didn’t like this pool when we stayed here.

Best Club Lounges

The Moana Surfrider and the Sheraton both have club lounges. There are great views from the Sheraton, but the lounge is enclosed on a very high floor. The lounge at the Moana has an open-air section right by the beach, so it is the better choice. Find out the best club lounges in Waikiki.

Resort Fee

All the hotels we have focused on in this article charge a resort fee.

Best Location

All these hotels are within walking distance of each other, with only the Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton not being directly on the beach.

Image courtesy of EarthScape.

Note: Benefits & upgrades subject to availability. Benefits offered correct at the time of writing. Terms & conditions apply. Enquire for more information. Posts may be sponsored by the proprietor or brand being appraised. All opinions remain our own & are in no way influenced.