Turtle Bay Resort

Lynnette, a librarian, and her just-retired husband, Mario, traveled from Melbourne, Australia, to celebrate Mario’s 60th birthday in Hawaii. We met in the elevator on our first day at Turtle Bay Resort in Kuhiku and she was pleased to know there were laundry facilities on the third floor. The couple booked five nights at the Oahu resort located on the world-famous North Shore of Oahu, and they brought “the kids” along—their two young adult children, Rebecca and Michael. 

This is not unusual: As I explored the grounds upon arrival, a nursing mother sat by the resort’s casual pool overlooking a favorite local surf spot and a pod of youngsters happily played in the sand at another one of Turtle Bay’s many kid-friendly areas. In fact, the resort closed its child care center for lack of interest: Everyone wants to hang out together and indulge in the multitude of activities offered. 

From a gentle protected beach for swimming to horse stables and trail rides along the sea to two 18-hole championship golf courses and 12 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, there is something for everyone. There’s hula, surf and stand-up paddleboarding with a dog, tennis and even ukulele lessons. All ages will find plenty to do (or not do) at this super family-friendly retreat that also appeals to couples.

The property encompasses nearly 1,300 acres on the island of Oahu’s North Shore—providing plenty of room for one and all to spread out and enjoy.

Mario and his son planned to play golf together the next day (on his American time birthday); the night before the family splurged on dinner at the most upscale of the resort’s restaurants that include Pa‘akai (North Shore farm- and sea-to-table cuisine); Lei’s Lei’s at the golf course (we heard rave reviews from other guests) and Roy’s Beach House for lunch/dinner. The Lobby Lounge has pastries and fruit in the a.m. and cocktails at night, with an ocean view. There’s even a nightclub with live music on site that’s popular with locals simply called Surfer, The Bar.

With a lovely view of the sea, from our fifth-floor hotel room in one of the 410 ocean view guest rooms, my sweetie Phil and I planned a full day ahead of our short two-night stay: He went off to explore hiking trails and practice gi qong; I decided to check out the hula class. We agreed to meet up for ukulele lessons at 8:45 a.m. From there we were off and running.

Joining our a small group for free ukulele lessons was a couple from Minnesota celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, a young permaculture farming family from New Zealand: 9-year-old daughter Lacey and her mum, Lynore Oakley, engaged in the class, while dad looked after their curly redheaded youngest family member, 4-year-old River. A mom from Berkeley with Erica, the Colombian nanny to her to daughters, strummed along as well, while the two daughters were elsewhere with their other mom. Another family with adorable 7-year-old, culture-sharing cousins Emily, from Long Island, and her cousin Ina, who lives in North Korea, were meeting in Hawaii for a family vacation with their Korean grandparents. Ina was a natural and, as it turns out, has a ukulele at home.

The ukulele, originally brought to the Hawaiian Islands from Portugal, our teacher Alii Pukahi told us, means “jumping” and “flea” because the immigrant Portuguese played the instrument so fast that their hands resembled jumping fleas.

In less than an hour, we all learned to strum and sing along two songs: “You Are My Sunshine” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

Turtle Bay is also a fine place for romance. I came with my ocean-loving partner, and we discovered plenty of quiet places to stroll and enjoy the mesmerizing aqua-colored waves with repeating sets of hypnotic, foamy, white waves breaking. 

We enjoyed a casual lunch at The Point poolside bar with great, albeit windy, Pacific views—tasty kalua pork tacos for me, Ahi salad for him. Our friendly, local bartender offered up great off-property island tips, including the huli huli chicken, shaved ice and mochi balls in the historic town of Haleiwa (we stopped at Ray’s on our way back to the airport for chicken to go).

The resort also gets a lot of repeat business, like the “Star Trek” TV producer who was visiting for the umpteenth time with his wife. He ordered something at the bar called a “Monkey’s Lunch,” a blended drink with bananas, Kahlua and Bailey’s Irish Cream that probably rings in at about a million calories. 

“I drank 10 in a row once,” he bragged, but then lamented, “That was a long time ago, and I gained 15 pounds!”

I doubt it contained more calories than the Lava Flow my local friend Lori insisted I try: a pina colada made with half and half with strawberry syrup swirled throughout the refreshing mix that mimicked Madame Pele trapped in a cocktail.

I was excited and curious to try the latest spa specialty—the HydraFacial, administered by the delightful and engaging Maygen, a local mother of three. I showered, took a sauna and went to the outdoor rest area with ocean views to wait for Maygen and was offered a complimentary glass of sparkling wine. “It’s happy hour,” I was told (noon to 5 p.m. weekdays). 

Maygen went to work on my face with a sort of mini vacuum that, instead of being pinched and squeezed, was a painless and effective deep-cleaning treatment. I didn’t notice a huge change (Phil told me my face looked “plumper”), but I did love the treatment and would do it again in a Hawaiian heartbeat.

Our last activity was a fantastic Tahitian Fitness dance class, created by Penny Toilolo from Laie, known as the mama of Tahitian dance. Her student Siona taught our class. For an hour, we swayed and swiveled our hips, gently moved our arms and built up to a frantic, sweat-inducing pace, complete with yelps!

We now have plenty of reasons to join other repeat visitors—to hop atop a horse, try a surfing lesson with Rocky Canon (with a dog on board) and improve our ukulele and Tahitian dance skills.

A “hui hou”—until we meet again, Oahu! For now, we will just have to practice what we learned at home and embrace the sweet aloha spirit in our hearts and souls with memories of Oahu’s awesome North Shore.

Go local

One nice thing about the super-friendly hotel staff at Turtle Bay is their tips on off-property things to do. Here are a few:

We stopped at the farmers market at Waimea Falls on the way to the resort and enjoyed tasting and trying samples of everything from gluten-free banana bread to falafel waffles and potions made from native plants said to alleviate pain from arthritis and other ailments. Waimea Valley Farmers Market at Waimea Falls; Thursdays 3 to 7 p.m.; 59-864 Kamehameha Highway, Hale’iwa, Hawaii.

Huli huli chicken: Only open on the weekends, Ray’s Kiawe Broiled Chicken offers rotisserie plates to go. Locals like Turtle Bay bartender Allen order both the “chopped and the whole, so I can nibble on the chopped on the way home,” he says. Ray’s Kiawe Broiled Chicken, 66-160 Kamehameha Highway, Hale’iwa, Hawaii (Saturday and Sundays only).

Best food trucks: Tourists stop at food trucks at famous Sunset Beach, but locals know the best food trucks are in Kahuku, a bit farther down the highway.

Crystal healing treatment: Local Shawna Renee offers hour-long treatments ($60) incorporating specially blended oils to balance the chakras. A keepsake vial of moon water and crystal to “anchor one’s intentions” rounds out the experience. To book an appointment, visit magikalenergy.as.me.