Rediscovering Oahu's North Shore

A newly renovated hotel and plenty of waves 🏄🏽

July 30, 2022

📸: Turtle Bay Resort

While Hawaii’s most visited island can feel very commercial in some spots—for example, at America’s largest outdoor mall, the Ala Moana Center—for those in search of a beachy vacation with a healthy side of culture, the less populated North Shore of O’ahu could be the right mix for a break from the PNW.

The hotel 🏨

view from bungalow at turtle bay resort
Newly renovated bungalows
📷: Turtle Bay Resort

Just 40 miles away from Honolulu O’ahu’s surfer-centric North Shore’s best address—Turtle Bay Resort (from $679)—recently underwent a much-needed makeover during the pandemic, adding native Hawaiian artwork to its public spaces, more locally sourced produce to its menus, and an adults-only pool. The resort also introduced a new room category called Ocean Bungalows, 42 expansive accommodations located just steps from the waves (see above). Remarkably—because of the peninsula the hotel is perched atop—each of the 410 guest rooms have Pacific Ocean views, but it’s the 1,300 oceanfront acres, featuring scenic rainforests and five miles of pristine beaches, that make this an unforgettable spot for surfers, couples, or families. And if you think you’ve done everything you can on a surfboard, Turtle Bay’s got a Surf with a Pup program (see top photo) with one of the resort’s two surf-trained dogs, which could make a day out on the waves even more fun.


Shopping and eating 🍤

📷: Kōkua Hawai‘i Foundation

Away from the resort, there are a clutch of new places to surf, shop and hang. For surfing… if you don’t already know this for some reason, the North Shore has some of the most iconic surf spots in the world. Head to Ehukai Beach Park’s Banzai Pipeline to see some breathtaking surfing. Needless to say, it’s probably best to not get in unless you know what you’re doing. There are some more chill spots for beginners (one is quite close to Turtle Bay). If you’ve arrived and feel like you need to upgrade you look, you can get stylish locally made gear for some hardcore lounging/swimming (or surfing) at Number 808, Guava Shop and Kim & Jack Johnson’s new  Kōkua Hawai‘i Foundation shop that opened this year. For food, hit the trucks like the newer No. 7 Japanese or the legendary Giovanni’s which is celebrating its 30th anniversary on the North Shore this year.

Most importantly, do not think you can go for a day from Honolulu, North Shore is best explored and enjoyed at a very slow pace. And you should never assume you can make the drive in less than a half of a day, unless you’re doing it in the middle of the night!

If you go 🛫

Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines both fly daily nonstops to Honolulu from Seattle. 

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Charles Runnette is the Creative Director of the ST Content Studio and a freelance travel writer. His work can be found in Bloomberg Businessweek, Condé Nast Traveler, The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic, The New York Times among other publications.

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