The oldest hotel in Waikiki, the Moana opened at a time when most visitors to Honolulu occupied rooms in the downtown area. A part of the exhilaration following the United States' annexation of Hawaii, the hotel, with its impressive two-story-high, Ionic-columned porte-cochere, presented the citizens of the new territory with another manifestation of the City Beautiful movement. Adapting what Traphagan called America's “Colonial style” to meet Hawaii's climatic needs via large openings and broad lanai, he declared the hotel was “designed for Honolulu alone. It was difficult to adhere to any strict method of architecture for such a climate and there is no hotel on the face of the earth which is similar in outline.”
The capacity of the seventy-five-room hotel was greatly expanded in 1918, when concrete wings were added to the wood-framed center section. These wings more than doubled the size of the hotel and created the banyan court, from which the radio program Hawaii Calls was broadcast for many years. In 1989, Otani Hotels undertook a fifty-million-dollar renovation of the premises, under the direction of preservation architect Murison. The Ioniccolumned porte-cochere was reconstructed at this time, the lobby rehabilitated, and the intricate exterior woodwork restored, including the front lanai's round-arched openings and fleur-de-lis ornament. The fourth floor's observatory lanai also was restored, making a magnificent public space with its round-arched arcade and balustrade.
Over the years, guests have included the Duke of Windsor, Amelia Earhart, Joe DiMaggio, Walter Chrysler, Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Boris Karloff, and Loretta Young.