Just forty miles north of Waikiki and HNL airport, Oahu’s North Shore feels like a world away—yet this slice of paradise offers an incredible assortment of culture and adventure. From the fabulous food trucks around Waimea Bay Beach Park, to the surf culture of historic Haleiwa Town, the North Shore is an exciting destination for couples and families. For a few nights during my recent getaway, I had the pleasure of calling Turtle Bay Resort my beachfront home.
With more than 800 acres of lush, tropical landscape that kisses the ocean, Turtle Bay Resort has a world of options for on-site dining, entertainment, and adventure. The resort itself is a welcoming venue with a vibrant lobby overlooking the beach. Accommodations range from beach cottages and ocean villas to modern rooms and suites with private lanais and panoramic ocean views. My king room had a large lanai overlooking the ocean, and I loved starting my days out there with a fresh cup of coffee. Inside, my room was tastefully decorated with soothing ocean colors and packed full of amenities. I appreciated the mini fridge and bar, Keurig coffee maker, and Nalu Kinetic Spa toiletries offering a hint of the sensory experience found at the on-site spa and wellness center.
Food enthusiasts will enjoy the great variety of dining options at Turtle Bay Resort. From the open-air bar and grill of Lei Lei’s to the casual vibe at Roy’s Beach House, all-day dining options abound. You’ll find fabulous sunsets and live entertainment poolside at The Point, and karaoke and dancing at Surfer, The Bar. For an intimate dinner, I suggest a table at Pa‘akai, which offers beautiful oceanfront views day and night. The focus here is fresh local fish in a sleek fine dining atmosphere. I loved the poached pesto shrimp salad app for its liliko’i dressing and hearts of palm, while the pan seared Hawaiian catch of the day was absolutely tender and vibrant with coconut Thai curry and bamboo rice. For dessert, I recommend sharing grandma’s apple pineapple pie served with macadamia nut ice cream.
With such a magnificent and sprawling property, there’s so much to occupy your time during an oceanfront getaway. The beach is right there, along with snorkel gear and lounge chairs, though the pool is also a must visit attraction for a refreshing dip. Plus, kids (and kids at heart) will enjoy the waterslide. On-site activities also include kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, cycling, horseback riding, and so much more. Visit the Guidepost, Turtle Bay’s experience center located in the lobby, to schedule as much adventure as you like. This is where you’ll also find information about the variety of cultural enrichment activities available on the property, so you just might find yourself signing up for ukulele and hula lessons. Be sure to also wander through The Kawela Art Gallery for a showcase of local artists. The gallery rotates exhibits each quarter, and during my visit I had the pleasure of viewing surf-inspired art by North Shore local Welzie. Exploring his whimsical and playful creations were a wonderful accent to my experience at Turtle Bay Resort.
If you’ve always dreamt of surfing Oahu’s big waves, visit Turtle Bay’s Hans Hedemann Surf School. You’ll learn all the basics from surf pros, so you can catch your first waves right there at Turtle Bay. Once you feel confident to rent a board and explore more on your own, definitely head along the shore to Waimea Bay. The North Shore is famous for its world class surf spots, but always check the surf and weather reports before heading out. Some of those waves are best reserved for pro competitors, but it’s also super fun to watch competitions if you happen to visit during Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
For a different kind of aquatic adventure, consider a snorkel dive with sharks! I know. This may sound a little freaky and nerve-wracking, but it’s a magical—and safe—experience. I was admittedly a bit anxious before setting sail with North Shore Shark Adventures, but once I was in the water I was in totally in love with the experience. You’re in good hands with the tour guides, and the dive itself is pretty easy considering you’ll simply tread water with a snorkel mask on. Inside the security of a large floating cage, you’ll tread in warm waters and once you dip your head down into the water… well, that’s where the magic happens. I was positively mesmerized as beautiful, curious Galapagos sharks swam around the cage. There’s plenty of distance between you and the sharks, and you’re snorkeling securely within a cage, so the only thing to do is take in this breathtaking adventure. I honestly can’t wait to do this again.
While visiting the North Shore, I was also delighted to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center. Here you’ll find a delightful Polynesian luau with a bountiful buffet, yet this park has so much to offer you’ll want to spend a day exploring the 42 acres of tropical gardens, hands-on cultural activities, and capping off the evening with Hā: Breath of Life. This family-friendly show features more than one hundred Polynesian performers, special effects, and stunning fireknife acts. Save your memories with a few handcrafted souvenirs from the on-site Hukilau Marketplace.
Finally, as you continue to explore the shores of Oahu, be sure to pay a visit to Jurassic Valley. At Kualoa Ranch Private Nature Reserve, immerse yourself in Oahu’s cinematic landscapes with an ATV or horseback tour, or enjoy the thrill of a zipline adventure. You’ll find plenty of themed souvenirs in their gift shop, too. Kualoa Ranch is just 19 miles from Turtle Bay Resort, so this is a great day trip to make—and you’ll enjoy beautiful scenery along the way there and back. Don’t forget to stop for your fill of Kahuku Shrimp along the way. My personal favorite is Fumis food truck, though you’ll see plenty of tempting options along the North Shore.
Lori A. May is a Seattle-based travel writer. Follow her on Twitter at @loriamay.
Photos by CT Shier.