While one wouldn’t normally equate “high tea” with Hawaii, on the island of Oahu in the popular tourist mecca of Waikiki there are actually multiple places where one can indulge in the culinary art that the British literally gave to the world. I ended up making reservations at the Westin Moana Surfrider, which was built in the late 19th century as the first hotel in Waikiki. (If you visit today you will know that there are dozens so to have that prestigious claim to fame is pretty cool.) It officially opened in 1901 and was known as the First Lady of Waikiki.
The hotel itself is gorgeous and a walk through its main lobby out to the beach area (it is actually located on the beach side of Kalakaua Avenue) feels like you are stepping back in time. There is nothing modern about it on the exterior, just a timeless elegance. Even if you neither stay nor dine there, I still recommend a visit to its public areas as they are just beautiful.
One of the most famous landmarks of the hotel is its banyan tree (they are plentiful in the Hawaiian islands) which stands in the middle of its courtyard. When planted in 1904 it stood at nearly seven feet tall but today reaches an astounding 75 feet high and spans 150 feet across the courtyard.
I had made reservations for 2 PM on the day we arrived in Waikiki. As our hotel room was not ready and I really didn’t want to stay indoors at the hotel when we couldn’t check in, I decided that we should head down to the restaurant hoping perhaps we could get seated early and at least make better use of our time. That, of course, was not to be. So while time was still being “wasted” sitting around, we at least had a better view this time.
When we were seated, we were given a table right near to the beach (high tea is served at its Verandah restaurant which overlooks the beach). This was lovely except my seat was literally a hot one, it was situated directly under the glaring Hawaiian sun. I wouldn’t have minded this except there were other tables that were empty when we were seated and completely in the shade. I had made my reservation enough in advance that I was slightly miffed at getting somewhat of a crappy (i.e. hot) seat.
Afternoon tea is served daily from 12 pm until 3 and diners have their choice of three tea services to choose from. The most expensive is the First Lady ($48) featuring the complete service along with a plate of fresh berries with creme fraiche and brown sugar and served with a glass of dry rose. You also receive a sandalwood fan. The next option is the Moana Classic which is $40. Along with the complete tea service diners also receive four finger sandwiches, pastries and a ginger biscotti followed by a mini pot de creme. The final option is the Verandah ($34). This includes your tea, three finger sandwiches, raisin scone, and a sampling of pastries and petit fours.
While diners could certainly split a tea service, you are limited to just one tea selection (a diner or a table receives their own pot, it’s not the tea bag variety). D and I both went with the Verandah Tea Service, as the idea of wine on a 90 degree day sitting outside did not tempt me in the least. The Moana Classic just seemed like too much for one person.
For my tea selection I ordered the Moana Royale, a tropical black tea blend with papaya, mango, banana, and coconut. D opted for the Verandah Breeze which featured black tea, Big Island vanilla, and caramel. We both enjoyed our selections immensely.
The food portion of the tea service was heavenly. Out of the three finger sandwiches, the salmon one was the weakest link but I am not a fan of cold salmon anything to begin with. The pastries were incredible and I definitely felt like a mild glutton eating so many sweets in one sitting. My hot seat made it crucial that they be eaten first as the chocolate on some of them was literally melting.
While expensive, experiencing afternoon tea is something I’ll never forget and will definitely want to do again sometime. And if you’re ever in Hawaii, specifically on the island of Oahu and looking for a unique experience, one that doesn’t involve those typically Hawaiian things, consider going to afternoon tea. You’ll have a lovely time and always remember it.
More in this series!
A letter to Honolulu, Hawaii
Tour Operator Review: Hawaii Nautical
Disney’s Aulani Character Breakfast
Restaurant Review: Hula Grill (Oahu)
Oahu Dining Recap-everything else
Hotel Review: Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa
Restaurant Review: Monkeypod