Star-gazing at Oahu's top Hollywood hot spots


HAW-1IHILANIWith Hollywood just a five-hour flight away, it makes perfect sense that Hawaii has long been a favorite getaway for celebrities of both the big and small screens. While many stars seek a quiet, somewhat remote escape such as Maui, where the Four Seasons Resort at Wailea is "star central," and Kauai (the Princeville Resort in Hanalei is popular), some celebs want a mix of tropical paradise and thriving metropolis.

Bingo! The city and county of Honolulu, which includes the entire island of Oahu, fits the bill. It's home to several world-class, often star-studded, resorts at the four corners of the island: the Kahala Hotel & Resort, near Waikiki; the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki; the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa at Ko Olina, in west Oahu; and Turtle Bay Resort, on the North Shore.

In fact, studios often refer to Hawaii as "Hollywood's favorite back lot." Travelers hoping to add some celebrity spotting to their Hawaii itineraries, or to simply vacation like a star, would do well to spend time at any of the following hot spots.

Pacific back lot

When actor Cameron Diaz and pop star Justin Timberlake were an item, they frequented the Kahala. The hotel is a home away from home for Adam Sandler and Kevin James; it's also a popular redoubt for Drew Barrymore, Reese Witherspoon, Samuel Jackson, Will Smith, the Osbournes, Noah Wyle and guest stars appearing on the ABC-TV series "Lost."

Celebrities usually don't spend much time lounging around the Kahala pool, preferring to rent chaise lounges on the hotel's white-sand beach. (In Hawaii, all beaches are public, so hoi polloi can stroll by without being accused of trespassing.)

If a beach star search comes up dry, clients can head into the surf or the skies. Some stars, such as Barrymore, Diaz and Timberlake, count former pro surfer Hans Hedemann as a mentor. The Hans Hedemann Surf School has seven locations on Oahu, the most popular being in the gentle waves of Waikiki or at Turtle Bay.

Island Seaplane, with a floating office at Keehi Lagoon near Honolulu Airport, offers seaplane tours that have given Sandler and Barrymore bird's-eye views of Oahu's most famous landmarks.

The JW Marriott Ihilani boasts its own manmade lagoon, open to the public. Major Hollywood press junkets have taken place there, such as that of "Nim's Island," starring Jodie Foster. Sports fans can partake in celeb-spotting at the resort, too. Each January, the National Football League's Pro Bowl has its base here for all its players, known to cordially sign hundreds of autographs.

Turtle Bay attracts A-list celebs such as Robin Williams and is the most production-friendly resort on Oahu. It's been the setting for dozens of films and TV shows, including "Knight Rider, "Baywatch Hawaii," "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Along Came Polly." Hotel guests have even been asked to appear as extras.

If clients are outdoors and star-spotting types, Twogood Kayaks and Canoes in Kailua offers kayak rentals. Comedian David Spade has enjoyed kayaking with them.

For real thrills, point clients to Hawaii Shark Encounters in Haleiwa. American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson came face-to-face with as many as 30 sharks inside one of the firm's underwater shark cages.

It's harder to pin down where celebrities like to dine but Waikiki hotel restaurants are popular. Stars like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Clay Aiken enjoy Waikiki's only beachfront luau at the Royal Hawaiian, while Heather Locklear and boyfriend Jack Wagner eat at the hotel's Mai Tai Bar. Jimmy Buffett always stays at the Royal Hawaiian and surfs right offshore at a spot called Pops. And Waikiki's biggest resort, the Hilton Hawaiian Village -- not surprisingly, perhaps -- is said to be Paris Hilton's favorite hotel.

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