The newly reimagined Turtle Bay Resort offers a tropical escape filled with luxurious amenities and opportunities for relaxation and adventure.
By Sharon Stello
Tucked away on Oahu’s North Shore, nestled on 1,300 pristine oceanfront acres, Turtle Bay Resort has enchanted visitors for more than 50 years. Established in 1972 and recently transformed in a top-to-bottom remodel, the resort is beloved for its secluded beaches, activities like horseback riding on the sand and kayaking with turtles, impressive dining options, golf course and more.
The secluded setting on 5 miles of coastline, paired with lush landscaping and endless ocean views, helps to immerse guests in this tropical retreat, allowing them to unwind and unplug. And, as the only full-service resort on the North Shore, luxury amenities abound to further elevate the experience.
Reinventing the Resort
While already stunning, Turtle Bay Resort took the opportunity to remodel and update every aspect of the property when it closed during the pandemic. Inspired by nature and seeking to preserve its sense of Hawaiian hospitality and authenticity, the resort turned to a visionary team including award-winning architect Robert Iopa, who was born and raised in Hawaii. With strong ties to the local community, he has been deeply involved in North Shore planning and conservation efforts.
Perhaps most striking are the changes in the lobby, with walls replaced by even more floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the space with natural light and panoramic ocean views in every direction. Iopa worked with LA-based interior designer Dianna Wong, both guided by deep gratitude and respect for the land, Hawaii’s natural beauty and the island’s aloha spirit. These ideals are displayed in many ways, including the lobby’s large-scale artwork by Maui-based Abigail Romanchak, who specializes in Native Hawaiian printmaking, and Nick Kuchar, known for his vintage travel- and surf-inspired designs.
Another eye-catching element can be found just beyond the lobby’s Off the Lip bar. Perfect for photos at sunset—thanks to its reflection of palm trees and those pink-and-purple hues—an infinity-style water feature draws your attention outside, where a terraced deck includes a new, adults-only pool with its own infinity edge, in-water lounge chairs, hot tub and luxe cabanas. The resort’s family-friendly pool was also redesigned. And the Sunset pool bar was added, offering tropical drinks, burgers, fish tacos, poke bowls, salads and more for guests who need a snack while lounging by the water.
In fact, the resort’s entire culinary program was reconceived to celebrate local culture and the island’s agricultural bounty. The main restaurant, Alaia, exudes an atmosphere of laid-back luxury and the menu incorporates sustainable produce grown on the North Shore, including items from the resort’s on-site Kuilima Farm. Try the Kona kampachi sashimi; manila clam steamers; ahi crusted with kakimochi (a Japanese rice cracker snack mix) served with spicy local mango puree; Keahole lobster curry; or Kuilima Farm spice-roasted heirloom carrots. And make sure to try a cocktail for two called Don’t Touch the Turtles, a refreshing mix of vodka, “lilikoi” (passion fruit), mint and cane sugar in a large copper vessel fashioned after a turtle.
Meanwhile, new lobby cafe Hoolana serves locally sourced gourmet coffee and light bites. And the Ocean Club Lounge—access automatically comes with the Alii Suite and Ocean Club rooms, but can be added to any room type—is new for guests to relax indoors or out with views of the nearby surf while enjoying breakfast, dinner or evening appetizers and drinks as well as upgraded amenities and concierge services. Other dining options are Lei Lei’s by the Fazio golf course, with prime rib, baby back ribs, steak and seafood, and Beach House by Roy Yamaguchi (reservations are recommended for dinner) with sashimi; a Banzai roll with lobster tempura, filet mignon and Truffleyaki; Misoyaki Deepwater Black Cod with forbidden rice; cabernet beef short ribs; and surf and turf, featuring jumbo shrimp, a lobster tail, filet mignon and truffle crab mash.
And on Wednesday nights, experience the Paniolo, a Hawaiian cowboy luau at the resort stables. Paying tribute to Hawaii’s ranching and cowboy heritage, these weekly dinners include a buffet with roasted pig and vegetarian options, hula lessons, lei making, a pony meet-and-greet for kids, a Paniolo hula show and storytelling, a fire and knife dance and drumming performance, s’mores by the fire pit and more.
A Relaxing Retreat
When it comes to wellness, the Nalu Spa has been renovated with natural materials and minimalist design. Treatments from hot stone massage to skin therapies incorporate natural ingredients from the surrounding area plus some of the latest technology to restore and rejuvenate. A prenatal massage includes coconut-argan oil while a sugar body polish combines Hawaiian sandalwood, rose, hibiscus and jasmine.
Guests may choose the recently transformed indoor treatment rooms or oceanside options such as new cabanas or the Nalu Seaside Hale, a private hut on the water’s edge to listen to the calming sound of the waves. Upon arrival, sip on mamaki herbal tea, which is grown at the resort’s farm; this native remedy is believed to promote a healthy immune system, release stress and clear out toxins.
Of course, there’s plenty of time for relaxing in your room, too. The main building includes 408 updated guestrooms and suites, all with unobstructed ocean views. Whales can often be spotted during the peak winter months of January to March as the resort is within the 1,218-square nautical mile Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Spend time on your balcony or lanai gazing out at the ocean or soak in the deep tub in Premium Ocean Front King rooms. Light wood tones paired with neutral and sea-inspired colors make for a tranquil space.
The resort also offers 42 oceanfront bungalows, which were enhanced during the renovation, creating an oasis that’s a short distance away from the main hotel.
For those who want to get outside, the expansive property offers plenty of opportunities to explore. Whether you’re an avid equestrian—the resort has its own stables to set up horseback riders of all levels for a memorable experience—or a golfer—the resort has two, 18-hole championship courses with breathtaking views (although one is temporarily closed for renovations)—there’s something for everyone here. Notably, the resort recently opened a three-hole Pitch n’ Putt experience for beginners and aficionados alike: The fun, family-friendly experience allows players to kick off their shoes and putt with drink in hand.
Another favorite is the electric bike tour, which takes groups along scenic trails past points of interest including a huge banyan tree known for its otherworldly appearance with intertwining branches and above-ground prop roots, as the guide shares Hawaiian history and cultural insight while also pointing out notable flora and fauna. At the right time of year, nesting albatross birds may be viewed from a respectful distance so as not to disturb the birds. A different tour, focused on local birds, uses electric open-air safari shuttles to tour the property while looking for more than 20 avian species. Keep your eyes peeled—and make sure to use the provided binoculars—as the resort’s lands are home to five kinds of endangered birds. In fact, half of the resort’s acreage is permanently allocated conservation space.
Of course, much of the local wildlife is found not on land but in the ocean. Join Shaka Kayaks on a guided tour of Kawela Bay to spot green sea turtles that frequent this area. Paddle in a one- or two-seat kayak for up-close views of these ancient-looking creatures as they glide through the water, come up to the surface for air or wait at the “cleaning station” for little fish to eat the algae off their shells. The awe-inspiring experience takes place in a bay once reserved for the “alii,” or Hawaiian royalty. In modern times, it was also used as the setting in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” movie.
Activities are seemingly endless at Turtle Bay, including surf lessons where a dog accompanies riders on their board. Or, for the ultimate excursion, climb into a helicopter for an island-hopping trip to soar above hidden waterfalls and volcanic parks with stops along the way including a cliffside Champagne toast and a scenic picnic before returning to paradise at Turtle Bay.
Photos by Turtle Bay Resort