Turtle Bay Resort Rating: 4.0 Pearls
North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii

Oyster Review Summary

Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators

Pros

Cons

  • Resort fee
  • No daily kids' program during the winter
  • One hour drive from Waikiki and the Honolulu Airport
  • Cheapest standard rooms don't have a balcony

Bottom Line

A 448-unit resort on the scenic, isolated North Shore with an unbeatable array of amenities -- two 18-hole golf courses, a stable, helicopter rides -- plus five miles of shoreline and great restaurants. A major renovation in 2013 included updates to rooms and common areas.

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 Scene

Honeymooners and families enjoy activities aplenty, and major renovations have helped it maintain its status as a luxury property

The 2008 film Forgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed at Turtle Bay, and in the movie, the characters stay in luxurious beach bungalows. Before the massive 2013 renovation, visitors coming with expectations for luxury may have been disappointed, but now the resort has received much needed upgrades.

This amenity-packed, right-on-the-beach resort on the quiet, scenic North Shore attracts a mellow mix of honeymooners, wedding parties, families, and locals. The resort has 42 beach cottages and villas, though most guests stay in one of 375 rooms in the three-wing main building, which are large at 478 square feet. The renovation, ending in early 2014, included a facelift not only for the rooms -- which now have beach-chic style -- but also the spa (which doubled in size), the fitness center (which moved to a location with ocean views and received new equipment), and the restaurants.

Built in 1972, and later run by Hilton and Hyatt, today Turtle Bay is independently owned. As the only resort on the North Shore and one of the few outside of crowded Waikiki, Turtle Bay gives guests a taste of a less developed Oahu. Just down the road, you'll see fruit stands selling pineapple and the island's famous shrimp trucks.

For those seeking a large resort on Oahu outside of Waikiki, Turtle Bay is a gret option. It's typically cheaper than resorts in Ko Olina, like Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club and the JW Marriott Ihilani, has greater natural beauty, and an ideal location for those who want to surf the North Shore or just soak up the island's surf culture. And, with two 18-hole golf courses, helicopter rides, and its own stable on-site, Turtle Bay offers an unbeatable array of amenities, and there's not another hotel in sight (not the case in Waikiki or even Ko Olina).

 Location

On the beautiful but isolated North Shore, home to world-class surfing; an hour from Waikiki and Honolulu

Turtle Bay is on Oahu's famed North Shore, an area known for world-class surfing that's about an hour's drive from Honolulu and Waikiki. Compared to that hotel-packed part of the island, the relatively undeveloped North Shore has few places to stay. So it feels less touristy and far quainter.

The main building sits on Kulima Point, a picturesque spit of land with a swimming beach on one side and a longer, rockier beach on the other. The 880-acre resort includes five miles of beachfront and a dozen miles of hiking and bike trails. Much of the land is undeveloped, and the main resort area -- the pools, swimming beach, restaurants, and spa -- is fairly compact.

  • The North Shore's most famous surfing beaches, including the Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach, and Waimea Bay, are all within a few miles -- a 10-minute drive from the hotel.
  • Shark's Cove, one of the best snorkeling sites on the island, is a 10- to 15-minute drive.
  • The Polynesian Cultural Center, home to one of the island's best luaus, is a 12-minute drive.
  • One-hour drive from the Honolulu Airport

 Beach

Guests can surf, snorkel, or swim at the beach right outside the door.

Turtle Bay's mellow Kulima Cove beach
Turtle Bay's mellow Kulima Cove beach

The resort includes five miles of beach, but the main beach used by hotel guests is Kulima Cove, just outside the main building. Like all beaches on Oahu, Turtle Bay's beaches are open to the public. But Kulima Cove strikes a nice balance between feeling tucked away, like the secluded coves of Ko Olina, and open to all, like Waikiki's packed beaches. Lounge chairs are set up for hotel guests, but you won't see tons of signs shooing away the public. The vibe is nothing if not mellow.

  • Protective coral reef keeps the water fairly calm and clear, though visibility suffers when it's windy.
  • A roped-off portion with a sandy bottom is good for swimming.
  • Good (but not great) snorkeling; the resort fee covers one hour of snorkel equipment use each day.
  • Towels and snorkel gear available at the water activities shack, where beach toys and sunscreen are also sold
  • Home to Ola, one of the only restaurants on the island where you can dine with your feet in the sand or grab a drink in your Speedo.

 Rooms

Large beach-chic rooms were renovated in 2013

Turtle Bay's beach-chic rooms start at 478 square feet, and all have ocean views.

  • The rooms, all the same size, are furnished with either two queens or one king-size bed.
  • All have ocean views thanks to the building's pinwheel shape.
  • The cheapest "ocean view" rooms have no balconies. Guests can upgrade to one of the ocean front room options for balconies and better views. The higher the floor, the better the view.
  • Sharper Image alarm clocks that connect to MP3 players
  • Quality toiletries
  • Bathrooms has walk-in stone showers; most also have soaking tubs with a peek-a-boo window to the bedroom.
  • Individual digital thermostats, but I couldn't cool my room down to the bracing chill that some prefer.

 Features

Two pools, two 18-hole golf courses, a spa, tennis, horses, helicopter rides, surfing, and snorkeling -- all on-site

Turtle Bay's stable offers daily trail rides.
Turtle Bay's stable offers daily trail rides.

Turtle Bay's roster of activities is hard to beat. Only the resorts in the Ko Olina complex come close. The hotel's two spacious pools, both built in 2004, overlook the ocean. A lovely outdoor treatment area at Spa Luana has ocean views too, and massages are available in an oceanfront hut that puts the typical "massage-by-sea" cabana to shame.

  • Resort fee covers more than usual, including parking for one vehicle and use of the fitness center.
  • For a daily fee, guests have access to the Spa Luana facilities; the spa doubled in size during the 2013 renovation.
  • The fitness center received new equipment in 2013 and has ocean views.
  • Kids' pool has waterslide, turtle mosaics underwater, and boulders
  • Main pool offers drink service.
  • The tennis center features just five Plexipave courts, but they're in lovely condition -- four were resurfaced in July 2009. (Sadly, a handul of adjacent courts are dilapidated and not used.)
  • Resort fee includes one hour of tennis court time per room per day; after that, there is a fee per person per hour.
  • Daily clinics available to buy; a matching service pairs guests for games; private lessons available
  • Stable offers daily trail rides on the beach and through the ironwood forest, including a sunset ride and a ride for kids ages two to seven. Private rides are also available.
  • Helicopter rides, scooter rentals, surf lessons, and kayak tours on-site from outside vendors (all can be charged to room). The [www.hhsurf.com Hans Hedemann Surf School] is one of the most respected on the island.
  • The hotel holds a small luau weekly.

 Golf

Two notable 18-hole golf courses, one with ocean views

The Fazio course, the easier of Turtle Bay's courses
The Fazio course, the easier of Turtle Bay's courses

The resort often makes, but doesn't top, lists of the best golf in Hawaii. The more notable of its two 18-hole golf courses is the Arnold Palmer course, designed by Ed Seay and Arnold himself. With narrow fairways and sneaky bunkers, it's a challenging course. It's also a beautiful one, surrounded by jungle and a wetland bird sanctuary. The course's signature hole, the 17th, offers stunning ocean views from a plateau 100 feet above the sea, but the course lacks the oceanfront yardage of Kauai's top courses. The second and older Fazio course by respected designer Tom Fazio is easier both on the player and the pocketbook.

  • Palmer charges resort guests a reduced fee to tee off in the morning; so does Fabio.
  • Prices include carts. They are not GPS-equipped, but a GPS can be rented, as can clubs and shoes.
  • Clubhouse restaurant, Lei Lei's, is popular with locals. It was the best food I had at the resort.
  • Daily clinics, private lessons, and full and half-day schools. Resort guests receive a free 10-minute range lesson with a pro.

 Family

Kids' menus and activities galore, but sleeping arrangements are costly

The waterslide at the kids pool
The waterslide at the kids pool

Turtle Bay strikes a balance between being a family-friendly resort and one that caters to mellow singles and honeymooners -- there's a kids' pool, but also plenty of boozing at the poolside bar.

  • Most restaurants have a children's menu, as does room service
  • Kids' pool has a waterslide
  • Keiki Club for children ages five to 12, but only during the summer
  • During the winter, all that is offered is a Saturday evening program
  • Children as young as two can go horseback riding, provided they can hold themselves up in the saddle without assistance
  • Tennis center offers junior clinics and a tiny tots clinic for kids ages five to eight
  • Adjoining rooms availabe, but guests must pay an extra fee to guarantee them. Families can connect a standard room with one king-size bed to one with two queens
  • Rollway beds are available but costly; cribs are free
  • One bedroom suites have sleeper sofas

 Food

Six restaurants, ranging from formal to casual poolside fare, all with great views

Turtle Bay's Ola is a true beach restaurant.
Turtle Bay's Ola is a true beach restaurant.

The resort's four restaurants range from fine dining at Pa'akai to casual poolside fare at the Hang Ten Bar & Grill, and the food is better than your average resort fare (far better than the restaurants at Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club). The hotel also holds a small luau weekly. The food is far better than your average luau (the fish tastes fresh and isn't overcooked), but the entertainment is modest and there are no activities like palm-weaving beforehand (a kid favorite). The Polynesian Cultural Center, home to one of the island's best luaus, is a 12-minute drive.

  • Popular beachfront Ola has one of the best locations on the island -- you can eat with your feet in the sand, a rarity on Oahu. Cuisine is contemporary Hawaiian; dinner entrees typically in the mid- to high-$20s
  • Locals often prefer the golf clubhouse restaurant, Lei Lei's. Prices are slightly lower than at Ola's
  • Room service available 24 hours a day
  • Ocean Villas have full kitchens.
  • Great local restaurants, in all price ranges, in Haleiwa, a 20-minute drive. Try Kua Aina Sandwich Shop, Haleiwa Joe's, and Grass Skirt Grill.
  • The island's best-known shave ice joint, Matsumoto Shave Ice, is in Haleiwa (though I think its lesser-known competitor next door, Aoki's, is better!).

 Destination Weddings

A gorgeous location, great food, and ample variety -- a great choice for weddings of more than 30 people

A private beach by the horse stables, just one of several ceremony locations
A private beach by the horse stables, just one of several ceremony locations
  • Wedding Size: Up to 500 people; up to six weddings per day (typically two)
  • Extra Fees and Restrictions: All receptions include a site fee, though this site fee only includes 50 chairs and outdoor receptions might also include an additional set-up fee and the cost of renting a tent. In addition, most menus require at least 30 guests.
  • Wedding Packages: While you can piece together your own wedding, the Complete Wedding Package covers all essential ceremony costs (site fees, flowers, a guitarist, an officiant, two hours of photography), and, just for the bride and groom, a four-night stay in the Beach Cottage, dinner for two at 21 Degrees North, breakfast in bed, and an elaborate spa regimen.
  • Ceremony Locations: The Pavilion chapel overlooking the ocean, the Kahuku Terrace on an ocean-facing lawn, the grassy Kuilima Point lawn, the Bay View Beach Lawn near the public beach, on a private beach near the horse stables, or the most private location, the beach at the 18th green of the Palmer Course
  • Reception Locations: While all reception locations include a steep site fee, this fee can be waived if the average food cost per person exceeds a certain amount, and it drops down to half if you pay a slightly less amount for each person's food (not drinks). Indoor locations include: the Kuilima Ballroom (300 to 450 guests), the Kuilima Ballrooms I, II, and III (for an extra 100 to 120 guests), the Sunset Room (100 to 120 guests), the Hawaii Room ( 40 to 80 guests), and the Oahu Room (30 to 50 guests). Outdoor locations include: the Pavilion (30 to 40 guests), the Kahuku Terrace (50 to 120 guests), the Bay View Beach Lawn (50 to 400 guests), Kuilima Point (50 to 200 guests), and the 18th green (50 to 400 guests). Also, note that if you host your reception outdoors, you can only get a buffet and the party has to end by 9 p.m. (if you're indoors, the party ends at 11 p.m.).
  • Photographers and Videographers: Turtle Bay regularly works with a number of independent artists, whose rates can vary. There is no extra fee to bring your own outside photographer or videographer.
  • Music: You'll have to find your own musician or DJ (no extra fees associated).
  • Food: The dinner buffets (the only option in an outdoor reception) have a wide variety of options (BBQ, Italian, and traditional Hawaiian, among others). You can also add on any number of "action stations" to the buffet, such as a whole opakapaka (snapper) that serves 16 people or a tempura station. Three-course plated dinners start are also available. Also, for the next day, you can set up pastry and coffee breakfasts ( or full buffets). The hotel's executive chef will cater to any dietary restrictions, such as kosher, vegan, or gluten allergies.
  • Drinks: An open bar is available from two to four hours, and rates range depending on liquor choice: cheapest "premium" liquor (Seagram's, Cutty Sark, Jim Beam, among other brands) or top-shelf liquor, such as Grey Goose, Courvoisier VS, and Maker's Mark. In addition, you can order a "specialty bar" that, in addition to beer, wine, and soda for two hours, also includes cocktails such as a cosmo bar or mojitos, blended drinks, and mai tais.
  • Cocktail Hour: Hors d'oeuvres priced per selection (each item comes in groups of 100 pieces); cheese and fruit displays serves 30 people.
  • Cakes: All cakes are made on-site, and prices are reasonable, considering that the cost of a cake at other hotels is often higher, though there's an extra fee for a custom designed cake. There are nine flavors to choose from, including guava, almond, and devil's food cake, and the 12 different fillings range from coconut cream, to strawberry mousse, to guava with pastry cream.
  • Flowers and Decorations: The hotel does have an on-site florist, though you're welcome to shop around for flowers elsewhere. As for decorations, the cost varies depending on what you want
  • Spa Treatments: Full menu of services, including hair and makeup
  • Freebies: All wedding guests get 10 percent off the standard room rate.
  • Honeymoon Suite: Select packages include a four-night stay in one of the Beach Cottages.
  • Airport Transportation: The Complete Wedding Package includes a limo from the airport for the bride and groom, but all other guests will need to take a one-hour taxi from Honolulu.

 Bottom Line

A 448-unit resort on the scenic, isolated North Shore with an unbeatable array of amenities -- two 18-hole golf courses, a stable, helicopter rides -- plus five miles of shoreline and great restaurants. A major renovation in 2013 included updates to rooms and common areas.

Things You Should Know About Turtle Bay Resort

Address

  • 57-091 Kamehameha Hwy., Kahuku, HI 96731

Hotel Is Also Known As...

  • Turtle Bay
  • Turtle Bay Hotel
  • Turtle Bay Kahuku
  • Turtle Bay Oahu
  • Turtle Bay Resort Hawaii
  • Turtle Bay Resort Oahu

Room Types

  • Ali'i Presidential Suite
  • Beach Cottage
  • Deluxe Ocean Front Guest Room
  • Four Bedroom Villa
  • Ilima Two Bedroom Suite with Parlor
  • Maile One Bedroom Suite
  • Ocean Front Guestroom
  • Ocean View Guestroom
  • Pikake Junior Suite
  • Premium Ocean Front Guest Room
  • Three Bedroom Villa
  • Villa Studio

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 443
Pool: Yes
Fitness Center: Yes
Spa: Yes
Internet Access: Yes
Cribs: Yes
Kids Club: Yes
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Hotel Information

Location: North Shore, Oahu
Address: 57-091 Kamehameha Hwy., Kahuku, HI 96731
(See Map)
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