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. Here are all the details to know before you go.
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 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 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).
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).
Served during lunch hours.
Tea is served during normal lunch hours! They offer afternoon tea between 11:30am-2:30pm on Saturday and Sundays 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 have afternoon tea.
How Afternoon Tea Works
Did you make your reservation in advance? Good! Reservations are highly recommended (they might take walk-ins, but it's doubtful).
Valet your car at the Moana Surfrider - let the valet know 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. Here are your options:
The Moana Classic Tea ($60)
This is their standard/classic afternoon tea set. It includes all the three tiers of food (savories, scones, and sweets) and choice of tea.
First Lady Tea ($75)
This includes everything in the Moana Classic Tea, plus a glass of sparkling rose, berries and yogurt, and a souvenir fan. This is the afternoon tea option that we ordered.
Royal Tea ($120)
This includes everything in the Moana Classic Tea, plus a tea-infused mimosa flight, soup du jour or ½ salad, a souvenir fan, and a moana omiyagi gift bag.
After deciding on your afternoon tea set, the server ask which tea you'd like to drink (more on this below).
Then all the food is presented on a three tiered set. Enjoy them in this order:
- First: savories / tea sandwiches.
- Second: scones.
- Third: sweets / desserts.
- Palate cleaner comes out at the very end.
Moana Surfrider offers six tea options for afternoon tea. The teas are divide into two catagories:
Moana Classic (Blended Teas):
- Hawaiian Coconut (Ceylon black with coconut nibs)
- Sweet Peach (China white tea with sweet peach)
- Passion Orange Guava (Local black tea and POG)
- Mango Pineapple (Local black tea with mango and pineapple)
Traditional (Straight Teas):
- Earl Grey
- Emerald Jasmine Pearls
- Indian Darjeeling
- Herbal Rooibos
We went with the Emerald Jasmine Pearls or the Hawaiian Coconut. If you're coming with a friend, order one tea from each category and share them ^_^
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:
- BMT Sandwich - Salami, turkey, ham, cheddar cheese, lettuce, truffle aioli, and cornichon on rye bread.
- Cured Salmon Rillette - Cured salmon mousse, lemon, chives, and smoked trout roe.
- Curry Kabocha Sandwich with Almonds - Curry roasted kabocha with cucumbers and toasted almonds.
- Shrimp Remoulade Croissant - Bay shrimp, lemon tarragon aioli, frisee.
- Egg Salad Sandwich - Egg salad with truffles and truffle oil.
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 an 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.
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:
- Haupia Roll Cake
- Panna Cotta - With strawberry coulis and fresh fruit
- Mango Mousse Cake
- Salted Caramel Macaron
I usually end up eating half the sweets and taking the other half home. Why? Because more sweets are coming after this ^_^
Sweets, Round 2
After they clear the table settings and 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 afternoon tea. The lemongrass flavor is clear and bright, it always puts me in a happy mood.
If you happen to be celebrating a birthday (make sure to let them know when you make the reservation or when you are first seated), they might also bring a beautiful box of shortbread cookies for you to take home. So thoughtful ^_^
View from one of the 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.
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.
Let the restaurant know when you make the reservation. For birthdays, they typically give a beautiful box of shortbread cookies to take home. Plus, you might get lucky and be offered one of the two tables fronting the beach.
They've always been nice about substitutions at Moana Surfrider. I've had tea with a vegetarian friend on one occasion and with friend who was allergic nuts on another occasion. The Moana Surfrider was gracious about accommodating both.
Bring your ID card and ask for the kama'aina discount.
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 $60 per person
- Hours: Saturday-Sunday 11:30am-2:30pm (reservations high recommended)
Afternoon Tea at Moana Surfrider in 2020
Curious how afternoon tea at Moana Surfrider has evolved over the years? Here's what it looked like at the start of 2020:
Afternoon tea menu
Afternoon tea was priced a little less, starting at $46.
Entrance looked the same.
Seating was only on the elevated veranda deck area.
They offered six tea options presented in wooden box with tea samples and descriptions. You could sniff them all and read the descriptions. Featured teas, clockwise from top-left:
- Hawaiian Coconut (Ceylon black with coconut nibs)
- 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!)
Here are the savories. Aside from the egg salad, all the sandwiches were different:
- Smoked Salmon Mousse Encroute
- Surfing Goat Chevre and Fig Tart
- Lobster Salad Croissant
- Basil Pesto Almond Chicken Salad
- Truffle Egg Sandwich
Here are the scones.
All the sweets were different from the 2022 offerings. They had 6 sweets in in 2020. Clockwise from top:
- Strawberry-Guava-Yuzu Panna Cotta
- Coconut Haupia Cream Puff
- Black Sesame Macaron
- Green Tea Opera Cake
- Pistachio Apricot Tart
Lemongrass sorbet has always been on the menu.
Bonus treat for birthdays
The complimentary birthday treat was an excellent carrot cake and vanilla ice cream. I took my grandma out for her birthday on this occasion. They also gave grandma a fresh flower lei when we were first seated. ^_^
Here's a look at the full afternoon tea stand in early 2020.
It's evolved over the years, but always so beautiful and a happy experience. ^_^