Last weekend I went to Turtle Bay Resort for a gardening workshop, but ended up discovering much more than soil composition. Emerging from the conference room every day at 5 felt like walking into a five-star vacation. Due to public land laws, Turtle Bay Resort is the only resort on Oahu's North Shore. Unlike bustling Waikiki resorts, Turtle Bay reaches supreme seclusion and spaciousness.
When I called to book my room, I asked for a garden view thinking it would be the friendliest option for my pocketbook. The woman on the other end replied in a soothing radio voice, "We don't have garden views. All rooms have a view of the ocean, and we have a spring sale going on to get you the best rate." That was music to my ears. A 3-day workshop was soon to be work by day, vacation by night.
Turtle Bay is built on a peninsula so that half the rooms look onto the north shore, and the other half face the windward coast. My room, the least expensive of them all, had a small balcony, two double beds, a large bathroom, and a giant flat screen TV that sat in off-mode all weekend. From my window, the untamed windward coastline meandered carelessly on for miles without a high rise in sight. Below my balcony snorkelers drifted in the bay and coral reef poked through the clear water. An endangered Hawaiian monk seal beached itself on the golden sand for an afternoon siesta, and honeymooners held hands while idling down the beach. A huddle of cabanas shaded a sandy-bottomed restaurant from the hot equatorial sun. This two-minute snapshot was paradise framed.
After settling into my room, my first stop was the pool. It overlooks Turtle Bay (the actual bay) and the famed north shore. A water slide for the keiki drops into a separate pool, and two hot tubs dot the premises. Hang Ten Bar and Grill serves up burgers and mai tais. Here, you can sip an umbrella drink, read a book, and glance up occasionally at the surfers just off the cliff. While lying in the sun is always an integral part of my vacations, I also like to stretch my legs and move around. The resort has a long walking trail that winds through the golf course, along the coast, through the woods and past a giant banyan tree. It's an easy nature walk appropriate for all ages.
Tennis courts, world-class golf courses, surfing, snorkeling, swimming, and windsurfing can all be done from hotel grounds. All guests have access to free snorkel equipment and use of the tennis courts.
Whether playing sports or sunbathing all day, a nourishing spa treatment may be in order. While my workshop did not allow time for such indulgences, my mouth watered as I read the Luana Spa menu, which incorporates indigenous Hawaiian fruits and plants: coconut body scrub, noni wrap, Hawaiian clay ti leaf ritual, and pineapple pedicure. Massages are available in bamboo huts overlooking the water.
The last ingredient to a perfect vacation must always be top-notch cuisine. With 6 restaurants to choose from, it's hard to bore your palate. My favorite was Ola, the restaurant/bar on the beach. This is the only Oahu restaurant I've ever seen on the beach that's not in Waikiki. The menu here lists all of its locally grown ingredients in green, which comprises nearly half the menu! My waiter was gracious and attentive, and recommended the excellent Misoyaki Butterfish. It came with local baby bok choy, Hamakua mushrooms, and Jasmine rice. This rich and flaky white fish melted in my mouth and led me to leave a generous tip for the waiter.
When check out sneaked up on me, there was still a pile of activities I had yet to try. As with any vacation, it was too short. I grabbed the noni-papaya-pineapple bath products from the bathroom and took one last breath of fresh sea air from my balcony. A warm Aloha from the front desk, and I was headed home to my little walk-up apartment.