Turtle Bay's $60M renovation lures island locals


KAHUKU -- Turtle Bay, on Oahu's North Shore, may be a well-kept secret with visitors, but the secret is out among Hawaii residents.

Like others who live on this island, my family and I were lured to Turtle Bay on a recent weekend by the notion of sampling both the untamed beauty of the country and the only full-service luxury resort in the area.

I particularly wanted to see Turtle Bay Resort because it had recently completed a $60 million renovation that gave it a new spa, spruced up the restaurants, updated the technology and repositioned the hotel in the marketplace.

Though content with our spacious oceanview room in the 403-unit main building, we couldn't help feeling envious of the guests we saw romping on the oceanfront lawn in front of their beach cottages.

The cottages, elegantly decorated with king poster beds and teak chairs, are located steps from the sand. The 42 cottages are considered the crown jewels of the resort; each received $150,000 worth of attention during the upgrade.

"We are going after a more discerning traveler, people looking for a neighbor-island experience without having to fly on another plane," said Abid Butt, managing director of the Turtle Bay Resort.

The benefit of Oahu's North Shore is that it's removed from the city yet only 45 minutes from a thriving nightlife.

"We almost use Waikiki as an amenity to the hotel," Butt said.

Another amenity is nearby Haleiwa town, a surfer's paradise filled with boutiques and cafes.

The completion of a new ballroom in the next few months will provide 28,000 square feet of meetings space with accommodations for up to 800 attendees. Wireless connectivity is available throughout the resort, and all guest rooms have a data port separate from the phone line.

But to my family, meetings space was less important than our outdoor surroundings.

Riding a horse along a deserted white-sand beach, I held onto my floppy hat as a salty breeze threatened to steal it. Gentle waves lapped against the horse's hooves as my husband and I rode from the beach toward the 12 miles of trails that weave through the 880-acre property.

We hiked the trails and swam in the bay, spotting several curious sea turtles during our excursion.

Summertime means minimal surf on the North Shore. As a result, our surf lesson through the new Hans Hedemann Surf School (www.hhsurf.com) on- property was canceled. But we checked out a couple of boards anyway and actually caught several waves.

My son and I are experienced surfers, but my 9-year-old daughter is not. So I rented a 12-foot soft board and paddled into diminutive waves while she stood up in front of me. Her successful rides left her beaming for the rest of the day.

Two of Oahu's best golf courses are located at Turtle Bay. Preferred rates and tee times are available to guests.

Golf was already well-established here, but the property was not complete without a spa. In the early stages of the renovation, the resort opened an 8,000-square-foot spa about 40 feet from the ocean. Two elite product lines are used in the facility, including the June Jacobs Spa Collection, also available at the well-known spa, Canyon Ranch.

Later, the property added 22 luxury spa guest rooms. These offer direct access to the spa from the resort's second floor, spa packages, take-home amenity products and spa cuisine menus.

The only way to understand Turtle Bay is to visit, Butt said. Reading about it, he added, "doesn't do it justice."

Room key: Turtle Bay Resort
57-091 Kamehameha Highway, Kahuku, Hawaii 96731
Phone: (800) 203-3650
Rates: Standard rooms start at $295 per night; beach cottages range from $550 to $700. Inquire about golf, tennis, spa and romance packages.
Noteworthy: Paying a nightly resort fee of $12 per room gives guests the following perks: unlimited local and toll-free calls; in-room coffee; newspaper delivery; access to the fitness club; one hour of free tennis court time per day; Internet access; one hour's use of snorkel equipment; parking.
Not worthy: Weekends are popular with Oahu residents, so the resort can get crowded.

To contact reporter Katherine Nichols, send e-mail to [email protected].

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