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Afternoon Tea at Moana Surfrider (Oahu)

Moana Surfrider is an ideal venue to experience a proper Hawaii afternoon tea. From the oceanfront Waikiki beach location, to the excellent service, and lilikoi curd and scones, afternoon tea here is a must.

Afternoon tea for two at Moana Surfrider

Afternoon Tea in Hawaii

Afternoon tea is one of my favorite Hawaii pastimes and is a definite must-do when in Hawaii. There are many things that make afternoon tea in Hawaii special:

  • Locations: usually beachfront (or at least an ocean view!) and on a veranda (so you get that whole indoor/outdoor setting).
  • Local influences on the food. The backbone of Hawaii afternoon tea is European, but you can see local/Asian influences throughout (eg. types of tea offered, lots of local flavors like haupia, lilikoi, and POG featured in the sweets).
  • Always service with a smile. I’ve had afternoon tea in many places, and the hospitality and graciousness offered at the Hawaii venues can’t be beat. 

Afternoon tea set

For a full post covering all the afternoon tea venues in Honolulu (including Halekulani Hotel and The Kahala Hotel), click here.

Afternoon tea with grandma

Afternoon Tea at Moana Surfrider

Out of all the afternoon tea spots in Honolulu, Moana Surfrider is the one I visit most often. Why?

  • The venue itself is absolutely beautiful. Tea is served on the open air veranda (I like to ask for one of the two tables fronting the beach). Moana Surfrider is one of the oldest hotels in Hawaii, and the architecture is well maintained. I love that vibe that mixes new/modern Hawaii with old/classic Hawaii. 
  • The food is great. Afternoon tea food in general can be a hit or miss (many restaurants treat afternoon tea as an afterthought), but Moana Surfrider makes it a priority. They also do many themed and seasonal afternoon tea events (like the keiki afternoon tea and the timeless afternoon tea).
  • Good energy. You don’t want an afternoon tea that’s too crowded or too empty. Moana Surfrider always seems to hit that sweet spot where you feel the good bustling energy without feeling crowded/noisy (unless you go prime time on a weekend).
  • Tea is served during normal lunch hours! They offer afternoon tea 11:30am-2:30pm daily which means that you can have afternoon tea for lunch (that’s what I like to do). At other places, you need to wait till actual afternoon (around 3 or 4pm) to order the afternoon tea service.

Entrance to afternoon tea

How Afternoon Tea Works

Did you make your reservation in advance? Good! (They take walk-ins but reservations are highly recommended.) Valet your car at the Moana Surfrider (tell them that you’re here for afternoon tea and make sure to get a parking ticket). Check in at the front of the restaurant. If you arrive early, enjoy one of the many rocking chairs located throughout the hotel. 

Once you get seated at the table, the server will ask which afternoon tea set you would like. The classic afternoon tea set is $46 a person (this includes all the food and choice of tea). Upgrade options include:

  • Fresh berries and crème fraîche ($7)
  • Sparkling rosé ($15)
  • Fresh berries and crème fraîche, sparkling rose, and a souvenir fan ($20)

Afternoon tea for two

After deciding on your afternoon tea set, the server will bring out the tea box (more on this below), so that you can decide which tea you’d like to drink. 

Then all the food is presented on a three tiered set. Enjoy them in this order:

  • First: savories / tea sandwich
  • Second: scones
  • Third: sweets / desserts
  • Palate cleaner comes out at the very end

Tea selection at afternoon tea

Tea Selection

Moana Surfrider offers six tea options for afternoon tea. The server will bring out this wooden box with tea samples and descriptions. Feel free to sniff them all and read the descriptions. Featured teas, clockwise from top-left:

  • Hawaiian Coconut (Ceylon black with coconut nibs)
  • Rooibos
  • White Tea Serenade (Chinese white tea)
  • Jasmine Pearls
  • Mangoes at the Moana (black tea scented with mango and pineapple)
  • Moana Sunset (black tea scented with passion-orange-guava…also known as POG!)

I usually go with the Jasmine Pearls or the Moana Sunset. If you’re coming with a friend, get two different teas and share them ^_^

Afternoon tea savories / tea sandwiches

Savories / Tea Sandwiches

Once you’ve selected your tea and are all settled in…it is time to eat! Eat the savories/tea sandwiches first. You’ll receive five different savory items. They’re pretty nice about substitutions at Moana Surfrider. My grandma is vegetarian so they made her five vegetarian savories. 

  • Smoked Salmon Mousse Encroute
  • Surfing Goat Chevre and Fig Tart
  • Lobster Salad Croissant
  • Basil Pesto Almond Chicken Salad
  • Truffle Egg Sandwich

Afternoon tea scones, cream, and curd

Scones

After you finish the savories/tea sandwiches, it is time for the scones! You get two scones per person. I love the Moana Surfrider scones. They’re they ideal size and baked so that it’s easy to cut in half horizontally without crumbs flying everywhere.

How to eat a scone? Put a spoonful each of the Devonshire Cream and Lilikoi (Passion Fruit) Curd on your plate. Cut the Lemon-Blueberry Scone in half horizontally. Take the bottom half and use your knife to apply a little (or in my case, a lot) of Devonshire Cream. And then apply the Lilikoi Curd over the cream. Eat that bottom half first, before repeating the same step for the top half of the scone. 

Afternoon tea sweets

Sweets, Round 1

The servers should be going around to keep your teapot constantly filled, but if not, at this point I usually ask for more hot water in the teapot. (You can asked for a refreshed pot with a new set of tea leaves but they will charge you for a new pot.)

Ready for the sweets? The current menu offers the following sweets (clockwise from top):

  • Strawberry-Guava-Yuzu Panna Cotta
  • Coconut Haupia Cream Puff
  • Black Sesame Macaron
  • Green Tea Opera Cake
  • Pistachio Apricot Tart

I usually end up eating half the sweets and taking the other half home. Why? Because more sweets are coming after this ^_^

Lemongrass Sorbet palate cleanser

Sweets, Round 2

After they clear your table settings and the three tier set, you might think that afternoon tea is over. But wait! There’s one more treat coming…the famous Lemongrass Sorbet. This housemade sorbet has been on the menu for as long as I can remember (at least 20 years!) and it’s one of my favorite parts about afternoon tea at Moana Surfrider.

The sorbet is meant to serve as a palate cleaner, a little refresher at the end of the mean. The lemongrass flavor is so clear and bright, it always puts me in a happy mood.

If you happen to be celebrating a birthday, they might also bring out…

Bonus treat for birthdays

…this excellent carrot cake (love how there’s a ton of grated carrots and walnuts!) and vanilla ice cream. I took my grandma out for her birthday on this occasion ^_^

View from one of those two beachfront tables

Afternoon Tea at Moana Surfrider: Insider Tips

  • Finding parking in Waikiki is usually a hassle and expensive. But if you come for afternoon tea, you’ll receive four hours free valet parking. I like to use up all four hours (parking time in Waikiki is precious) and walk around Waikiki after finishing afternoon tea.
  • Can’t finish all the sweets? They give many sweets so don’t be shy about asking for a box to pack everything to take home. Afternoon tea sweets are wonderful the next morning. 
  • Celebrating a special occasion? Let the restaurant know when you make the reservation. For birthdays, they typically give the birthday guest a fresh flower lei and a small cake and ice cream treat. Plus, you might get lucky and be offered one of the two tables fronting the beach. 

Afternoon tea menu

Afternoon Tea at Moana Surfrider: Info

  • Afternoon tea is served at Veranda at the Beachhouse at Moana Surfrider Hotel | 2365 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, Hawaii 96815 | (808) 921-4600
  • Price: Afternoon tea starts at $46 per person
  • Hours: Monday-Sunday 11:30am-2:30pm (reservations recommended) 

P.S. Looking for more afternoon tea? Check out afternoon tea at The Kahala Hotel and Halekulani Hotel

Jeanne

Thursday 13th of February 2020

I'm sure you probably wonder how your readers find you. I follow Alice Gao's photography on Instagram and she linked a tea gathering with you and Jee. Gosh almost THREE YEARS ago! Time flies. Since then, I read your tea blog regularly but I'm not sure I ever commented. Anyway, your afternoon tea reviews were my favorite posts. They were so thorough and mouth-wateringly descriptive, as are your Onolicious posts. The Moana Surfrider's Tea Service looks amazing. And I love how they serve enough food so one isn't left hungry. That bugs me when they don't.

PS: Not sure we can ever be friends because I am a "jam then cream" girl myself. Jk :)

Kathy Chan

Friday 14th of February 2020

Hi Jeanne! Oh woooow, what a small world! I was literally just chatting with Jee :) I loved doing those tea gatherings in NYC...it feels not so long AND ages ago at the same time. I had no idea you found Onolicious via Alice and then my tea blog (which I need to update with more recent tea posts!), so happy you told me. Thank you for letting me know!

P.S. Jam and cream difference aside, we can definitely be friends hahah.

- Kathy