Magical sunsets, lush landscapes, good vibes, and great waves make the North Shore a bucket list vacation for your family! With Turtle Bay Resort providing a stunning backdrop and plenty of activities for the whole family, this Hawaiian haven will leave you doing the happy hula for months afterwards!
Getting there can be easy too! We loved flying Hawaiian Airlines, and opted to upgrade seats so we could have a front center row all to ourselves with lots of leg room. From LAX it's about 6 hours, so definitely come prepared with snacks and activities for the kids. Hawaiian Airlines provides personal TV sets loaded with movies and shows, as well as a decent meal so that helps! We were excited to land and start celebrating my father's 70th birthday for the week! We chose to travel early January (right after the holiday season, where prices are much more reasonable). From Honolulu Airport to Turtle Bay Resort (the top of Oahu) it's a good hour drive so plan to rent a car (you will want one anyway for exploring the island).
Turtle Bay has breathtaking views, and the entrance is nicely expansive with ocean breezes flowing through. The resort has been updated, and the rooms are pretty resort standard. After a long day of travel, we arrived just in time to throw on our swimsuits and hit the pool. Our son loved the fun water slide, and we loved to great view of the ocean waves! We caught a great sunset and casual dinner by the pool.
After a great nights rest, we joined my parents for a buffet breakfast at the resort. The setup is a little odd; our room came with free "cold buffet" but then you could choose to upgrade to include "hot item" like omelettes, bacon, and pancakes. This was my only bother about Turtle Bay. I would have rather paid a little more per night to just have full run of the buffet without the logistics of what type of buffet we were ordering to our waitress trying to explain it to us. Otherwise, it was a pretty decent meal. As far as prices go for food, they are pretty high, but that is to be expected from Hawaii and a nice resort.
For the day, we hit the pool and explored the beaches and ocean surrounding the resort. We also rented bikes from the resort and found some great trails! My husband had a mountain bike for harder trails, and I grabbed a cruiser with big wheels for some scenic views. Turtle Bay is really setup on the most gorgeous peak of the island, surrounded by full Ocean views for every room. We walked along the beach, watching surfers catch big waves and fisherman catching jumpy fish from long poles.
After plenty of sun, surf, and sand (and a seal sighting!) we decided on a late lunch at Roy's Beach House. This was one of my favorite meals of the trip. Really fresh fish, great service, and excellent drinks. They are right next door and an easy walk from the resort. Bring your ID though if you are drinking; as flattered as I was I had to haul back up to my room for my ID to be served.
That evening off of a recommendation from the resort, we headed to the Polynesian Cultural Center for a North Shore Explorers night tour. We got half off price on Groupon (make sure to purchase 48 hours in advance). Now this may be "touristy" but honestly we loved it, especially my son! You could choose a kayak or paddle board, both glow over the 90 minute tour. Make sure to wear swimwear underneath, as you can get wet! The tour was a really neat way to learn history, and is great for novice SUP, and little ones since there are no waves or sharks! We loved learning about the ancient legends, and our guard was informative and hilarious!
The next day, we ventured out to Waimea Valley Falls Park to the beautiful botanical garden, waterfall, and hiking trail. One of my favorite excursions of the week! Stunning flora and fauna, and a fun waterfall at the end of the leisurely hike (they provide life vests if you are inclined to jump in!) It was a super easy hike, and had some interesting ancient spots and information.
For dinner that evening, we met my father's longtime friends who live on the island for a celebratory birthday dinner! We went to one of the resort's restaurants, Kula Grill and had a great dinner, though I recommend reservations or getting there early, as the wait was pretty long. We grabbed a drink from the bar and let our son play outside on the golf course with the other families who were waiting.
Want great shopping and a yummy Acai Bowl? Head to Haleiwa, close to Turtle Bay Resort. There's cute vintage shops, typical surf inspired clothing spots, art galleries, all housed in plantation-era buildings. But be warned, traffic can get pretty tough on this one road highway, so I recommend heading mid-morning and avoiding the late afternoon rush.
The true highlight of our trip, was attending our first dinner with Outstanding In The Field. If you haven't heard of this incredible dining experience, you have to check it out! With planned dining events all around the world, this California based companies mission is to "re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it." This is a must for any foodie, and we were fortunate enough to be on Oahu during one of their events on the island. We met at Kualoa Ranch and were greeted with curated Cocktails and delicious appetizers from local farmers and chefs. Then we took a lovely tour of the Aquaculture Farm, where we learned about the fascinating work they are doing with freshwater fish and shellfish.
If Kualoa Ranch looks familiar, you may have seen this stunning backdrop in Jurassic Park. You can't get a better view for dinner!
Truly one of the best meals we have, from the intimacy and learning the love and passion behind the local chefs and farmers, to the well thought out wine pairings with each course, this is an incredible dining experience. Plus, the views are incredibly stunning, as well as the family history behind Kualoa Ranch.
After a week filled with adventures, and more hours swimming than we can count, it was time to head to the airport. We chose a late flight, so we could take our time getting to the airport, and stop at Pearl Harbor. This is a very busy spot for tourists, so plan accordingly and know there are different ships to see that require purchasing tickets and start at specific times. We chose to just walk the grounds, and recommend Pearl Harbor for older children and families that have more time to spend! We left and headed to one last place for lunch, the cutest little boathouse restaurant! I felt transported to the 70's by the harbor! The Lanai at Mamala Bay had excellent service and the food was great, and a nostalgic little stop before we had to say our goodbyes to Oahu and head back to California!
I highly recommend Turtle Bay Resort and Oahu for a family vacation! Definitely an easy start to your adventures in Hawaii! Here are some additional excursions and restaurants we recommend:
*Pa'akai Restaurant (at Turtle Bay Resort). Great fine dining option for parents date night!
*Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. Stunning views and amazing snorkeling. Very family friendly!
*Doris Day and Honolulu Museum partner to tour her Shangri La. Amazing art and history!
*Kahuku Grill. Best Burgers on the North Shore!
*Haleiwa Bowls. Delicious Acai bowl and next to great shopping!
But the best of them all? Every sunset on the North Shore!